The task Rod Marinelli was handed this offseason was daunting.

The 65-year-old coordinator was charged with rebuilding a defense on a weakened foundation — one that no longer has its best two pass rushers, DeMarcus Ware and Jason Hatcher — that ranked dead last in the NFL last season.

“It’s an everyday deal until we get it right,” Marinelli said.

And Marinelli knows there is plenty of work to be done, as Thursday night’s preseason opening 27-7 loss against San Diego clearly showed.

A defense missing five starters was gashed on San Diego’s opening drive directed by Chargers Pro Bowl quarterback Philip Rivers. Danny Woodhead, the tiny running back who terrorized the Cowboys last September while making two touchdown receptions in a game that counted, wreaked havoc again. He caught a pass in the flat and turned up field for a 25-yard gain as Dallas defenders chased him. Later in the possession, he carried the ball twice for 10 yards as San Diego quickly marched to the edge of the Cowboys’ end zone. That’s where linebacker Justin Durant made a last-ditch stop, popping the ball loose from running back Ryan Mathews’ hands. The Cowboys recovered the fumble in the end zone.

“They put a drive on us, but that's going to happen,” said defensive end Tyrone Crawford, who started Thursday. “I felt like we dealt with it great and came up with a turnover at the end."

It was a victory of sorts for a defense that had surrendered 82 yards in 11 plays, had trouble shedding blocks and was unable to generate pressure with a defensive line populated by a bunch of new faces.