Time: 6:00 PM MDT
Location: AT&T Stadium
Broncos: 08/23/14 - Houston Texans. The Broncos lost their first game of the preseason 18-17. The first-team offense struggled while committing drive-killing penalties for much of the first half. Until the final two minutes of the half, the offense managed just three points on a Matt Prater 32-yard field goal in the first quarter.
The Broncos first-team defense was just as stout as they have been all preseason. Down 7-3 with two minutes remaining in the first half, they forced the Texans into a quick three-and-out and put the ball right back into Peyton Manning’s hands.
Manning conducted two quick drives that resulted in touchdown passes of 67-yards and 29-yards to Emmanuel Sanders for a 17-7 halftime lead. Manning ended the night 21-of-27 for 243 yards with one touchdown and an interception. Sanders had his first ever 100 plus yard receiving night as he caught five passes for 128 yards and two touchdown in his first significant playing time since suffering a thigh injury earlier in training camp.
Brock Osweiler took over in the second half and struggled (4-of-11 for 43 yards and one interception) as the Texans defense shut the Broncos out. The Texans won the game on a touchdown and two-point conversion with less than a minute to play in the game.
Cowboys: 08/23/14 at Miami Dolphins. Lost 25-20 as the Cowboy’s first-team offense was anemic. Tony Romo was 10-of-18 for 87 yards and was sacked three times during his first half of work. The Cowboys offense had five possessions in the first half resulting in just two field goals. The first-team defense was able to hold the Dolphins offense to just three points.
Brandon Weeden (5-of-9 for 77 yards, 1 TD) replaced Romo in the second half and led the Cowboys on two scoring drives for touchdowns.
Last Time Met: 10/06/13 at Cowboys. Both teams’ defenses took much of the game off as an epic offensive battle was unleashed that went back and forth until the final play as the Broncos defeated the Cowboys 51-48. The Broncos began the game down 14 points before the offense came to life. Manning was 33-of-42 for 414 yards and four touchdowns with a pick, while Romo was 25-of-36 for 506 yards and five touchdowns with an interception. There was a combined 1,039 yards of offense.
For all the offensive numbers that were amassed in the game, it was a defensive play that determined the outcome of the game. With the game tied at 48 and just under two minutes left in the game, linebacker Danny Trevathan made a diving interception of a Romo pass on the Cowboys’ 24-yard line. As time expired, Prater kicked the game-winning 28-yard field goal.
What To Look For As The Broncos Play The Cowboys:
For fans, the fourth preseason game is the least satisfying of what almost always is an underwhelming schedule of games. If it was a regular season game the focus would be on DeMarcus Ware as he returns to Dallas to face his former team. Ware won't be playing and neither will most, if any, starters as playing time will be left to the backups and players on the bubble battling for the few remaining roster spots.
Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert At Quarterback
Osweiler will start at quarterback and play at least the first half. Things didn’t go exactly as planned for Osweiler's playing time against the Texans last Saturday. The Broncos had intended to get their backup a few series with the first-team offense in the second quarter but Manning put an end to that when his dissatisfaction with the offense’s performance kept him out there for the entire half. Osweiler ended up with a subpar performance against the Texans in the second half. The key for the third year quarterback in this game is to get back on track in what the Broncos hope will be his only start in 2014.
Osweiler’s last start came in the final preseason game of 2013 against the Arizona Cardinals. Osweiler played the first half and was 7-of-11 for 108 yards in the 34-24 loss. He also demonstrated his mobility in the game by rushing four times for 25 yards.
Osweiler's growth as a quarterback from last year to this year is apparent. He is far more comfortable executing the Broncos’ complicated offense this preseason. He has taken command of the huddle and isn’t shy about barking at an offensive player who made a mistake on a play. It’s important for Osweiler to continue to show that he is prepared to be Manning’s heir-apparent as there is another quarterback behind him that continues to show he is ready for that opportunity.
Zac Dysert, in his second year with the Broncos, has been impressive in practice and his one appearance this preseason against the San Francisco 49ers. Against the 49ers Dysert was 8-of-11 for 63 yards and one touchdown. Dysert is expected to play the second half against the Cowboys and will have the opportunity to make what is already a difficult decision for the Broncos brain trust even more difficult as the final cuts approach on Saturday at 2 PM MDT.
Dysert played a terrific final preseason game last year against the Cardinals. He was 9-of-20 for 163 yards and one touchdown that came on a 25-yard pass to tight end Gerell Robinson. With another preseason under his belt, Dysert has shown he belongs in the National Football League.
To keep Dysert, who broke Ben Roethlisberger’s total offense record (12,678 yards) at Miami (Ohio) University, the Broncos would have to give up a valuable roster spot that could be used to shore up another position. NFL teams who carry three quarterbacks on their roster have become less and less in recent years. In order for the Broncos to keep Dysert in the organization without tying up a roster spot, they would have to pass him through waivers without another team claiming him before being placed on the practice squad. The chances of Dysert passing unclaimed through waivers in a league starved for quality QB’s are near zero.
Who Will Return Punts?
Even though Wes Welker was listed as the first team punt returner before his third concussion in 10 months occurred against the Texans last Saturday, it's almost unthinkable that the Broncos would have risked exposing him to the pounding that comes with the position. Since Jordan Norwood was lost for the season with a torn ACL, it has fallen to the undrafted rookie out of Fresno State, Isaiah Burse, to step up and win the job.
Burse moved into the punt return role last Saturday against the Texans, handling six punts with four being returned. He had an issue with one kick that bounced for a one-yard loss, but he was more than competent at the position and didn't allow things to turn into an adventure. At Monday’s practice, he had difficulty judging the flight of the football and ended up dropping three balls. If Burse’s play on Thursday is more like his performance last Saturday, he should end up making the team. .
Can Kevin Dickerson Save His Job?
The Broncos depth at defensive tackle is the deepest it’s been in years which means that a player in his ninth year who is recovering from a hip injury might find it difficult making the final roster. Such is the situation that Kevin Dickerson finds himself in as the final preseason game approaches. Dickerson missed the first two preseason games before appearing against the Texans.
Vickerson was signed by the Broncos in 2010 as a costless agent from the Tennessee Titans. Vickerson is currently listed second on the depth chart, behind 2013 first round pick Sylvester Williams. He has faced serious competition from veterans Marvin Austin, who has had a terrific camp, and Mitch Unrein, who has also lined up at fullback in some packages. The Broncos are expected to cut at least one of the three, possibly two depending on needs elsewhere. With Vickerson's recent injury and approximately $2,265,625 salary cap number, he would seem to be the most likely candidate to be released.
Meet Brandon McManus
The Broncos traded a conditional 2015 seventh round draft pick to the New York Giants for 23 year old kicker Brandon McManus. McManus was set to be released by the Giants at the first cutdown deadline last Tuesday when the Broncos reportedly preempted the Philadelphia Eagles who were prepared to claim McManus off waivers.
McManus has a strong kicking leg and fits the profile the Broncos were looking for as a fill-in for the suspended Prater. In four preseason games for the Giants this year he was 2-for-2 in field goals of 47 and 46 yards. He also had 10 touchbacks in 11 kickoffs.
The Broncos released rookie kicker Mitch Ewald after acquiring McManus. McManus will be the Broncos sole kicker against the Cowboys and will have every opportunity to prove that he is the right one to replace Prater for four games.
Does Juwan Thompson Make The Team At Running Back?
Thompson, an undrafted rookie from Duke University, has appeared in every game this preseason. He leads the team with 16 carries for 102 yards (6.4 yds avg.) with a 20-yard run against the Seattle Seahawks and a 16-yard run against Houston.
At 5’11, 225 lbs. Thompson is the biggest of the Broncos running backs. He is a one-cut runner much like former Broncos running back Terrell Davis. He utilizes his size and power to break through the front-line blockers into the secondary. Thompson also possesses soft hands which makes him a pass catching threat out of the backfield. He has caught two passes for 19 yards with a 12-yard reception coming against the 49ers.
The Broncos will need convincing to keep a fifth running back. With Ball, Hillman, and Anderson the Broncos are comfortable heading into the season at running back. Just like Dysert, Thompson is unlikely to pass through waivers unclaimed in order to be available for the practice squad. If Thompson can put on a show like he did against the Seahawks when he opened eyes with a 59 yard performance on just six carries, the Broncos will probably keep Thompson just in case Hillman flames out like he did in 2013.
|AFC West||W L||PCT||Home||Away||Streak|
|Denver Broncos||2 1||.667||1-1||1-0||L1|
|Kansas City Chiefs||1 2||.333||1-1||0-1||L2|
|Oakland Raiders||1 2||.333||1-0||0-2||L1|
|San Diego Chargers||1 2||.333||1-0||0-2||L2|