Some thoughts from the practice field at Valley Ranch:
No position on this squad has struggled more with injuries than the defensive ends. George Selvie, who has been the starter since training camp, has yet to pass the protocol test that will allow him to even practice after his concussion. Each missed practice makes him doubtful for the game against the Broncos. If that is the case, Kyle Wilber will make the start on the left side with Edgar Jones and Caesar Rayford as the backups. I have always believed that Wilber is better suited to play on the right side, but there really isn’t much of a choice because of the injury situation. An interesting prospect that I am hearing of potentially getting a call up from the practice squad is Jason Vega. If you remember last season, Ronald Leary and James Hanna were stars on the scout teams, and now are playing meaningful snaps. There have been a lot of positive thoughts about Vega and the type of juice that he shows off the edge. The longer Selvie takes, the more likely we could see a call up at week’s end.
Down The Field
Much has been said over the past several weeks about the conservative game plan in regard to throwing the ball down the field. I am clearly in the minority here, but I am not for throwing the ball down the field just for the sake of doing it. I have always believed that you run plays that give your offense the best chance to succeed. The “4” or in route to Dez Bryant is an outstanding call. The deep slant that he scored on against the Chargers was another good play. Jason Witten running the post corner over the years has been money. Given time, those are throws that Tony Romo can make all day, but there is also a time and situation for those calls. The Broncos have a very aggressive safety in Duke Ihenacho who will come forward on play action fakes. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie in the past has had his issues carrying receivers down the field, and Chris Harris on the other side is not the best athlete, so when the ball goes behind him, there have been some struggles. With all that being said, there will be opportunities for Romo and this offense to potentially have some good looks down the field on Sunday -- for the right reasons.
The cornerback currently playing at the highest level on this Cowboys squad is Orlando Scandrick. Where Scandrick helps you in this game is his ability to not only play well on the outside, but he gives you a chance to deny the ball to Wes Welker out of the slot. Where Scandrick will have an advantage in this game is that he has faced Welker before when the Cowboys plays New England. For the majority of that day, he pitched a shutout. There is something to be said for understanding how a player like Welker is going to try and work you off the line. You have heard me say this many times before: playing slot corner is no bargain because of the two-way go the receiver can use against you. Orlando Scandrick has always been a player that played with mental sharpness, even though there have been times where he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be with his technique. But he has put that behind him. Scandrick will have studied Welker to the point where he will have his own game plan for how to handle him, so now it’s about making that game plan work.
If this Cowboys offense is going to indeed make some attempts to throw the ball down the field, the front of the pocket is going to have to be clean for Romo to step forward and make those throws. The responsibility for that clean pocket is going to fall on the shoulders of Ronald Leary, Travis Frederick
and Brian Waters
. Where the Broncos are going to counter is with Kevin Vickerson and Terrance Knighton -- two massive defensive tackles who are more than just two dump trucks sitting inside and taking up space. Vickerson and Knighton will do more than just push the front of the pocket, they are active and there are snaps where Jack Del Rio will put them on the move allowing them to show some quickness getting up the field. Where the Cowboys match up well here is that both Leary and Waters tend to play with their own power when it comes to
taking on rushers that play with strength. Where Leary tends to get in trouble is with the quicker, smaller guys and that is the last things these two tackles are. During his time with the Cowboys, Waters has shown the ability to sit down on rushers and hold them in place. Where Frederick has also been good is helping across the pocket with his awareness when he has been uncovered. If Tony Romo and the offense are going to have success throwing the ball, keep an eye on how well their inside three play against these Broncos defensive tackles who can be a load to handle inside. It should be a good matchup.