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Scout's Notebook: Final Thoughts On Denver Matchup


Make Manning Move

I am not going to sit here and tell you that I have the answers for how to stop Peyton Manning from offensive success. What I will tell you is that when you play him, when he can sit in the pocket and read what you are doing, he can be almost impossible to stop. Where I have seen Manning have the most trouble is when he does have to hold the ball and move outside the pocket.

Teams that have been able to give Manning problems have gotten him to have to move off the spot and throw the ball on the move. Moving forward in the pocket is not the problem because last week against the Eagles, he went forward in the pocket and ripped a ball down the middle of the field for a huge gain to Eric Decker.

But when Manning has to move to his left or his right outside the pocket, he tends to struggle. His throws to the receivers are not as accurate or he will just throw the ball into the stands. Ideally, what Manning wants to do is take the snap and quickly get rid of the ball. There have been times on tape, where it looked like he just grabbed the ball without the laces and fired it to the receiver. If the Cowboys secondary can hold up on the outside, then allow their rush to get home or put Manning on the move, they will run a much better chance of getting some defensive stops.   

Good vs. Good

I have always believed the NFL was all about matchups. This game against the Broncos is no different in my view. How are Monte Kiffin and Bill Callahan going to get their best players on the Broncos best players -- or those ones that might struggle? The Broncos have three outstanding receivers, and how the Cowboys play them down after down will be the difference between winning and losing.

If I was still working in the pro personnel department in advanced scouting, I would make a point to the coaches of considering matching up our corners with these Broncos receivers. I would take my chances with Orlando Scandrick on Wes Welker for his quickness, Brandon Carr on Demaryrius Thomas for his size and Morris Claiborne on Eric Decker for his length. Wherever these Broncos receivers went on the field, I would try to carry them.

Kiffin is more likely to try and play these guys straight up and operate that way, but knowing what a smart coach he is, I would certainly try to convince him to consider my route.

Speed Kills

Being an alumnus of LSU, I am more than familiar with the skill of kick and punt returner Trindon Holliday. Where Holliday is so dangerous is the explosive quickness he plays with.

Against the Giants this year, I saw him field a punt bouncing on the ground, flat footed, pick up the ball and hit the crease for a touchdown. Holliday gives you no chance to catch your breath, he only takes it away. It doesn't matter where he is on the field -- there is a chance for a huge return. [embedded_ad]

Against the Eagles last week, he took a ball five yards deep in the end zone, made one man miss, and then was off to the races for another touchdown. With Holliday, it doesn't take much to make things happen -- he is that fast.

Dan Bailey has been outstanding in kicking the ball out of the end zone to prevent returns, and Chris Jones has been effective with his flip-flop punts, but where he has to be careful is not getting height on his punts, allowing Holliday to get a running start with the ball.

There will be a great deal of pressure on the Cowboys coverage unit to get off blocks, stay in their lanes and get tacklers around the ball quickly -- because if not, Holliday will be standing in their end zone in a very short time.     

Growing Up

With Miles Austin likely out for this game against the Broncos, Terrance Williams will get another opportunity to make his mark with the Cowboys offense.

It's hard to blame Williams for what happened in San Diego in the dying minutes of that game, because the kid was trying to make a play. He was physically trying to get the ball into the end zone, and he got blasted. Those things happen in this league, and hopefully he learned that next time he can cover up and live to fight another day.

What I would like to see from Williams in this game would be more of those explosive plays that we saw from him while at Baylor. There was no better receiver in the country when it came to taking a ball on the move and turning it into a huge gain.

In what I have seen from the Broncos, Williams and his teammates are going to see man coverage, and they are going to need to take advantage of that. Williams does have the vertical speed to get down the field against man to gain separation, but when he does this, Tony Romo needs to find a way to get him the ball, because it will result in a big play.

Williams is also capable of making those clutch catches along the sideline, dragging his toes. This kid has great sideline awareness and against this type of coverage, I expect to see a few more of those.

With Austin out, someone other than Dez Bryant is going to have to step up and make plays. Cole Beasley will have a chance but my money is on Williams to bounce back in a big way.  

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