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Dallas Cowboys @ Denver Broncos - What To Watch For

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Cowboys_icon_big_medium        @        Broncos_icon_big_medium

  Dallas Cowboys      @          Denver Broncos

August 16th, 2008 - 7:00pm MST
Invesco Field @ Mile High
Denver, CO

Bloggingtheboys_m_medium   To Follow The Week From The Cowboy's Perpective, Check Out Blogging The BoysBloggingtheboys_m_medium

The Broncos open the home portion of their pre-season schedule tonight against the Dallas Cowboys still looking to answer many of the questions we have been asking all reloading season.  Last week, many of my target areas were general as I focused on the play of the O-Line as a group, or the defensive line as a group.  As the pre-season continues, my focus grows more and more specific, tageting players.  That will start tonight.  Like last week, I have also included what the other contributors on MHR are looking for tonight as well.

1.  The Two Ryan's(Harris and Clady) -- I will be watching closely to how Clady progresses from last week to this week.  Nothing like being thrown right into the fire, with Clady going up against Mario Williams last week and Demarcus Ware this week.  If Clady can hold his own tonight, not only in pass protection, but in avoiding penalties and silly mistakes, I will feel good about where he is at this early in his rookie year.  I am also looking for Clady to become more of a physical presence in the running game.  Early on last week, the Broncos O-Line struggled in the run game, leaving Selvin Young gasping for breath in the backfield.

Much of the same goes for Harris, who struggled early but seemed to settle down as the game wore on.  We need to remember that Harris was a Left Tackle in college, and learning to play from the oppisite side is kind of like learning to write with your left hand if you are a right-handed person.  I am looking for Harris to also become more physical in the run game.  If Harris struggles again, it could open the door for Montrae Holland to re-emerge.  While Hollad's weight will always be an issue, there is little doubting his physicality.

2.  Is Andre Hall Really An Option --   While Selvin Young struggled a bit against the Texans, much of which was not his fault, Andre Hall showed flashes of being what we have thought he would be - a tough inside runner with a good burst.  Hall's compact, powerful frame bodes well in the Broncos run-scheme and with Ryan Torain out until at least October the Broncos are going to need that style to change up what Young does well, slash and dash.  Past history says Young will miss a couple of games this year and the Broncos need to establish someone that can come in a carry the load.  I would like that person to be Hall and against a sold defense like Dallas would be a good time to show it.

Not forgetting Michale Pittman, who I think is going to have an increased role as we get closer to the season.  Watching the Raiders struggle a bit last night against LenDale White, a bigger back, makes me thing the hard-running style of Pittman might be a good fit on opening Monday Night.  Obviously, the Broncos won't show that during the pre-season so it's something to keep in mind.

3.  DeWayne Robertson Sees His First Action - The Broncos defense looked solid last week without many of its starters.  Tonight we'll get to see at least one of them when Robertson is slated to play 10-15 snaps.  Robertson is going to be relied on to clog the middle keeping linemen off of Nate Webster/Niko Koutouvides.   The battle between the Broncos D-Line and the Cowboys O-Line was fierce during practice this week, with Robertson and Thomas giving the Cowboys some trouble.  I expect that to continue tonight and I will be watching with nervous anticipation to see if the new core of the defense can make an impact.  It all starts up front for the Broncos, and if we are going to have the type of season some of you believe we will those two players need to dominate.

4.  Jamie Winborn Gets His Shot -- With Boss Bailey and Louis Green out, Jamie Winborn will be pressed into action on the Strongside.  The SAM isn't Winborn's natural position, but he has the speed and athleticism to get the job done.  With Wesley Woodyard impressing everyone during camp, Winborn needs to have a strong game to keep a lock on one of the back-up linebacker positions.  His place on the team is secure due to his strong special teams play, but Winborn should be able to do more than that.

5.  Brandon Marshall V. Adam Jones -- For obvious reasons.  These two went at each other during practice all week.  Don't be surprised if the Broncos try and go deep on Jones early in this one.  Jones is susceptible to a double move and really has trouble with Marshall's size.

Here is what the other MHR Experts had to say --


 1. Nic Clemons, Steven Harris: Have they absorbed the system and learned the plays? Nic is a surprise competitor in camp (most guys probably had him written off) but can he be a surprise on gameday? Harris is an integral part of our depth and his development could do wonders to asuage our concerns at DT. I will scout them both according to standard DT scouting.

2. Royal again: what can I say, I love looking at his film! He looked good against Houston, presenting to the QB exceptionally well and showing great hands. What I really want to see is his technique at the ends of longer routes, including the ones where he isn't getting a look from the QB, but alas, that action happens off screen... Nothing special that I am watching for here, I am just excited to watch a young athlete of Eddie's caliber running for the Broncos. :)

3. Weigmann: I didn't like what I saw in Houston from Weigmann, but he was starting to settle in just before he was pulled. I am looking to see if he can keep that momentum going, and to see if he can hold up on the line in running plays. Dallas is a tough team to anchor against, and hopefully we see Weigmann releasing to the second level a little more, but that is the kind of challenge Weigmann needs right now. I am not counting Nalen out, and most fans probably won't really benefit fom spending time focusing on the center position with Nalen sitting, but for my own peace of mind going into the season I want 2-3 pages of notes on Weigmann.

4. Darrel Jackson, Colbert: Are these guys really the number one in Marshall's absence? Are they really behind Royal on the depth chart in Shanny's mind? I'm not looking to see if they are going to outperform Royal, I am watching for the same technique and attitude that Royal exhibited last week: good hands, great field presence, presenting well to the QB, aggressive against defenders. Both players need to be releasing cleanly and catching everything that comes close, or else I will buy what Shanny is selling with this "Royal is the starter" business....

5. Roy Williams: I know, he's a Cowboy, but I haven't had a chance to break down Williams or Dawkins in a long time, and here is my chance. I pretty much know what to expect, and the sample size will be pretty small and un-conventional, but I wouldn't be surprised if I learned something new. And if he lays a finger on Royal, I hope the Broncos' offensive line draws and quarters him....


1. Selvin Young. I want to see him recover from his poor outing against Houston(as far as running the ball is concerned)

2. I will be watching out run defense and making sure we are not gashed again this year but he Dallas rushing offense.

3. Lastly, I want to see starting and backup positions to begin to solidify. These guys need to start emerging now and I am mostly curious to see who starts and who is on the 2nd team.


1. How the OL will handle the Phillips 3-4 defense. It will be good practice for them as they prepare for Phyllis and his merry men next month. I want to see how the run blocking is handled and how well they protect Cutler in the passing game.

2. Cutler remaining sharp and uninjured. This is the only player that I want to see with a clean uniform the entire game.

3. How the defensive line plays against the run and pass. It will be interesting to see how they hold the rushing yardage and can they get some pressure or sacks instead of having to use blitzes. Can they force some turnovers tonight? Will the ends and OLB have the discipline to "stay home" when there is a bootleg or end round?

4. Will there be a reduction of mistakes? I want to see solid fundamentals in blocking and tackling. Not getting flags and turnovers on the offense is crucial for everyone.

5. The performance of the new guys. Can Woodyard keep up the intensity? Will Jackson and Colbert get some catches and emerge as a solid receiving threat? Who will stand out in order to keep their NFL dreams alive?

6. How many times Nate Webster's helmet will pop off. Will it be him or Niko that finally takes the starting nod at MLB.

7. Special teams play. Will Prater miss a kick from a short distance? Who will emerge as the top punter. If they kick to Pacman, can they properly cover and hold the returns for minimal gain?