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Lessons learned from Chargers' thumping of Cowboys

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Just about any coach or player will tell you that among the goals of the first NFL pre-season game is getting a quick look at your stars, then making sure everyone is healthy and accounted for.

In Thursday evening's match up between Dallas and San Diego in front of nearly 58,000 fans in America's Finest City, both teams did that for the most part, with the latter more than likely coming out farther ahead than its opponent in a 27-7 victory.

While it was a given that the Cowboys were going to sit starting QB Tony Romo (still recovering from back surgery), Charger fans may not have known just how many snaps team leader Philip Rivers would end up taking. The answer? Well - Rivers was done after one series (4-of-4 passing for 61 yards) - enter backup Kellen Clemens.

Clemens looks like reliable reliever

Obtained from the St. Louis Rams during the off-season, Clemens was a perfect 5-of-5 for 134 yards and a touchdown, hopefully giving Charger faithful confidence that he can do the job should the frightening scenario of a Rivers injury turn up during the season. Unlike former backup Charlie Whitehurst, the man who all but carried a clipboard all of last regular season, don't be surprised to see Clemens get some playing time this year if a game gets out of control.

Among some other Charger highlights:

* Branden Oliver - 7 carries for 64 yards and a TD;

* Danny Woodhead - Although he was pulled early in the game, this spark plug looks like he picked up right where he left off last season. Opposing defenses will once again have to account for this tough-nosed player;

* Dontrelle Inman - 3 catches for 110 yards and a 70-yard TD in the third quarter. The University of Virginia product could find his way onto the roster when all is said and done;

* Thomas Keiser - Another player like Woodhead who could pick up where he left off a season ago, Keiser had a pair of solo tackles, a sack, and forced a fumble on the night;

* Jahleel Addae and Reggie Walker - Four solo tackles each.

The start will be key

While Charger fans likely left the game excited, reality hopefully set in not too long after, noting that one pre-season victory is just that.

When you dissect the first month of the regular season, the Chargers have three tough games to welcome in September (at Arizona, home to Seattle, at Buffalo). How they come out of that span of games could go a long way in determining if this team can take things another step forward this season and reach the AFC title game or even better.

That said, Thursday's comfortable win over a Dallas team with many question marks is still not a bad start to what many hope is a memorable season ahead.

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