This is the first of what we hope will be many Tale of Tape editions coming off of a Cowboys’ victory this season. This week’s opponent is the Denver Broncos. The schedule makers have done Dallas no favors as they walk into a stadium where the Broncos have the best winning percentage over the past three decades in the entire NFL. They are especially dangerous early in the season. Some of this can rightly be attributed to the altitude. I lived there for three years right out of college and just trying to run a full-court, pick-up hoops game could have your lungs exploding. But that would be selling short the excellent franchise that Pat Bowlen built in the Mile High City. His success as an owner rivals anyone already in the Hall of Fame and any that are currently being discussed. Denver is simply a top notch organization. The current iteration of the Broncos is also a formidable opponent for the Cowboys this week.
Let’s take a look at how these teams compare by position. Today we will take a look at the Offensive units with a comparison of the defenses and special teams coming next.
Trevor Siemian is a young late-round QB that has continually beaten the odds and the doubters. He was on his way to establishing himself as dependable, consistent QB, when his progress was cut short by injury early last season, with injuries to his offensive teammates complicating his ascent once he returned to the lineup. He has won over two separate coaching staffs and beaten out first round draft pick Paxton Lynch for the job for the second straight year. He is constantly being labeled as “bus-driver” or “placeholder” but he has shown the potential to be much better than that. NFL talent evaluators have notoriously large egos and hate to admit that they were wrong, especially on a QB. Siemian battled late round perceptions and earned the opportunity to lead the Broncos this year. His week 1 was solid if unspectacular but he has gained the confidence of his coaches and teammates.
Dak Prescott was not the deadly model of consistency we have come to expect in the Cowboys’ opening night win over the Giants. He was uncharacteristically erratic to begin the game. In fact, he reminded me of a certain gun-slinging QB from the frozen tundra in the game’s opening stanza.
What was characteristic of Prescott was his ability to calm the noise around him and get himself settled into a rhythm as the game wore on. His ability to throw on the move is no longer a surprise but he showed excellent command of the offense pre-snap and his ability to change plays at the line showed the confidence his coaches have in his growth mentally. There isn’t a ton of NFL experience between these two but what we’ve seen makes this a clear…
Ezekiel Elliot slogged and churned out 104 yards on 24 carries last Sunday the Giants’ excellent defensive front. While Denver’s defense only allowed 64 yards to the Chargers, their run defense appears to be closer the one that gave up an average of 130 yards per game in 2016. The Cowboys surprised many observers by deactivating Darren McFadden last week in favor of Alfred Morris. Morris’ less than stellar performance (4 attempts for only 1 yard) opened the door for McFadden to get his chance as Zeke’s primary back up. Elliott is a dominant, special RB and team can choose from solid backs to spell him for a series or two. This gives Dallas one of the best RB rooms in the entire league
The Broncos took a flyer this offseason on former division rival Jamal Charles to help them establish a strong running game. He joins CJ Anderson in coming back from 2016 injury marred seasons. Both looked good in the opener against the Chargers and their efforts allowed the Broncos to keep Siemian under 30 attempts. Those long layoffs looked to affect both backs in their explosiveness and it will most likely take a couple of weeks to fully shake off the rust. That said, the Cowboys lead dog and quality depth stack up well against the Broncos group at this early juncture of the season…
The Broncos are flush with top-flight receiving options. Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders require the full attention of opposing defenses and 3rd year wide out Bennie Fowler III showed himself capable of making teams pay if they forget about him. Thomas is a classic outside WR with the ability to go up and get 50/50 balls and the size to carry his routes across the middle of the field. Sanders is one of the top slot pass catchers and he still has the quickness and technique to get open all over the field.
Dez Bryant had a tough matchup against Janoris Jenkins in week 1. He will see at least two corners that are better than Jenkins when he looks at film on this week’s opponent. Bryant won his share of battles last week even though Prescott’s early struggles kept that from showing up on the stat sheet. Cole Beasley is a matchup nightmare. He always brings the “sauce” and his catch in the Giants game has quickly gone viral as an early “catch of the year” candidate. More important than the catch was that it was a 3rd down conversion that allowed the team to burn precious time off the clock as they were working to preserve a lead. Terrance Williams and Brice Butler are both banged up this week with T-Will missing his first ever practice. Each of the major receivers for both teams are unique in their strengths but adding it all together this is a slight…
Jason Witten keeps adding records to his collection. He’s now the Cowboys’ all-time receiving yards leader and is steadily climbing up the BFL all-time receptions list (currently 6th). All of that is a great tribute to his toughness and longevity but those are not relevant in this comparison. What is relevant is that Witten proved again in Week 1 that his value as a safety valve in the passing game and a run blocker is indispensable. James Hanna had an excellent game as a run blocker, routinely handling the Giants’ well-respected DEs at the point of attack. Hanna and Geoff Swaim’s return to health has the Dallas rushing attack primed for maximum effectiveness.
Virgil Green has emerged as a decent option at the TE position after sitting behind other pass catchers in his initial seasons with the team but he has never had a season with more than 22 receptions. The rest of the Broncos’ TEs are even less distinguished. The team appears to see talent in the group but this isn’t close at all…
Ron Leary finally got the money he deserved this offseason. To the chagrin of Cowboys fans, his well-earned payday came with the Denver Broncos. The Broncos moved him from LG to RG and immediately installed him as a leader in their o-line room. Unfortunately, Leary is currently in the concussion protocol and may not get the chance to show Dallas what they are missing. The team drafted Garret Bolles (who held up his adorable baby at the draft like Simba) has taken over the all-important LT position and they have Raider transplant Menelik Watson as his bookend on the right side. The early returns for this group are solid.
Everyone knows that Dallas has three All-Pros in their starting five. That is almost an unfair starting point in a league seemingly bereft of even solid offensive lines. If the game film from the Giants game is to be believed, they have improved at RT and have a talented starter with upside at LG. La’el Collins was extremely impressive in his battle with Jason Pierre-Paul and showed why the team had the confidence to move him outside in the offseason. Chaz Green DID NOT GET HURT! That was the biggest surprise regarding his first game at guard. Almost as big of a surprise was that his play was solid and he was even effective getting to the second level. The Broncos have the makings of a good line this season but this is absolutely NO CONTEST…