The competitive juices were flowing as Broncos and Cowboys hit the practice field together for the second straight day on Thursday. Hard hits and big plays were abound and a skirmish between the two squads showed that neither team is taking their time out on the field together lightly.
ATTENDANCE REPORT: Boss and Champ Bailey remained out of pads with their respective injuries, Boss nursing a sprained right ankle and Champ as sore right hamstring…Louis Green remained on the sidelines with a concussion/neck injury…Tom Nalen watched practices still resting his left knee…Erik Pears was out of pads with a sore back…Ryan Torain continues to recover from surgery on his left elbow.
POSTURING FOR POSITION: Niko Koutouvides continued to take reps at middle linebacker with first team. Jamie Winborn continued to fill in for Boss Bailey at first unit strong side linebacker. Marquand Manuel continued taking first unit snaps at safety with Hamza Abdullah getting reps with the second team. After getting the afternoon off yesterday, Casey Wiegmann was back as the first unit center.
MATCHUPS: Here is the breakdown of how each competition went down.
Broncos’ Offense vs. Cowboy’s Defense: Brandon Marshall got the offense started early. Donning a new piece of tape on the bottom of his shoulder pads that read, “Adam’s No Pacman” using the familiar video game logo, he lined up in one-on-ones against Adam Jones and beat him deep on a stop-and-go route.
Marshall held the ball over his head in triumph and jogged back down the field beside Jones, who said, “That one doesn’t count. I could’ve gotten that one.”
- It wasn’t a practice to remember for Jones, who was consistently beat during one-on-ones, including a quick slant route to the inside by Taylor Jacobs that left Jones on his hands and knees in the grass. He said it just reinforces for him the importance of a pass rush.
“I don’t think nobody in this league that plays corner is going to say that a pass rush doesn’t help,” he said after practice. “When you’re back there and the quarterback can sit on the ball for six seconds, it just makes it a whole lot easier.”
- Andre Hall had a solid run to the left sideline during 9-on-7 run-oriented drills that had the Cowboys coaches fired up at their players.
- The Cowboys defensive line had its fair share of blow-bys on the Broncos linemen during one-on-ones. But the Broncos had their fair share of retaliation, as well. At one point Ryan Clady pushed a charging Tearrius George to the ground, and Mitch Erickson’s blocking got him a pat on the helmet from Tom Nalen, who was acting as the quarterback in the drill. The Broncos are a zone blocking team, however, so the best barometer of how the line will perform against a defense is during team drills.
- After being relatively picked apart during yesterday afternoon’s 11-on-11 drills, the Cowboys defense looked like it came out with something to prove. Dallas didn’t give much leeway at all during 7-on-7s, breaking up several passes, and for the first good chunk of the team drills the ‘Boys were constantly pressuring Cutler, grabbed what looked like a couple of sacks and Chris Canty even knocked down a ball at the line. DeMarcus Ware looked especially dangerous.
- The Broncos got it back under control and ended up making some solid plays during the team drill. The line held firm after its early struggles and the first play that got Denver out of a rut was a play action pass to Selvin Young. Peyton Hillis lined up out wide, went in motion back behind Cutler and they faked a run up the middle. Cutler faded back to avoid a defender and lobbed the ball over the line to Young for a first down.
- Daniel Graham leaped up to grab a pass over Zach Thomas near the goal line, prompting a disappointed clap from Thomas.
- Marshall took a quick pass in the middle of the field from Cutler and ducked his way past a few defenders before forcing his way into the endzone.
- Brandon Stokley was the most consistent offensive player all day — he caught several passes from Cutler and Patrick Ramsey throughout the morning practice, including a catch and dive to the right front pylon for a TD during team drills and a catch in the middle of traffic in the back of the endzone during 7-on-7s.
- Anthony Alridge had almost an exact copy of a run he had yesterday afternoon. Alridge took the handoff and started left before cutting back right and beating the Cowboys defense to the corner, sprinting for a touchdown.
- Eddie Royal caught a bullet from Cutler close to the ground. He got his hands under the ball as he fell in the front right corner of the endzone in front of Dallas’ Orlando Scandrick. In a game it might have been reviewable, but from my angle it looked like Royal would be the victor on that one.
Special Teams: Matt Prater again kicked some field goals with the Cowboys defense on the field. From my count he was six for eight from 33 to 38 yards — it’s not official since the refs didn’t always signal whether it was good, and no one is allowed in the area behind the endzone so the angle’s tough to gauge. He did have the distance to get several kicks into the player parking lot, hitting a few roofs and even setting off a car alarm halfway through the drill.
- The Cowboys returned punts during the morning session, and the blockers on their return team were pretty impressive. At one point Roderick Rogers didn’t even get past the line of scrimmage while his two blockers kept him back. For the record, Rogers did end up making a great run at the returner later in the drill, garnering praise from Defensive Backs Coach Ronnie Bradford.
Broncos Defense vs. Cowboys Offense: The squads began practice with 9-on-7 drills. After a few impressive runs by Cowboys backs Marion Barber and Felix Jones the Broncos defense dialed it in. Linebacker Jordan Beck and defensive end Paul Carrington each were able to stuff the run at the line of scrimmage. Elvis Dumervil sniffed out a Barber run to the outside and stopped it for a short for a Cowboys loss just behind the line of scrimmage.
-During 7-on-7 drills D.J. Williams sniffed out a play, and if practice was full contact he would have tackled Barber in the backfield. The Dallas receiving corps looked impressive with Terrell Owens, Patrick Crayton, Miles Austin, Mike Jefferson and Martellus Bennett each making grabs in traffic and amongst tight coverage from the Denver secondary.
-From there the teams moved the 7-on-7 drills to the redzone. Owens hauled in a reception from Tony Romo on the first play of the drill. Romo’s second pass was deflected by Williams in the endzone. Romo attempted to force his next attempts. The first an over throw with tight coverage being applied by Dre’ Bly in the endzone. The second toss was broken up by Jamie Winborn. Brad Johnson took over the reigns at quarterback and his pass was tipped and intercepted by Jack Williams in the corner of the endzone. Owens capped of the drill for the Cowboys as he started it with a touchdown grab over Tyrone Poole.
-Tensions started to mount during 11-on-11s. The Cowboys began to show some frustration after a Romo over throw, Barber being stopped in the backfield by Koutouvides and an incomplete pass to Owens with tight coverage applied by Bly. A side note: watching the Cowboys offense during 7-on-7 drills it is abundantly obvious that Owens is Romo’s preferred target. Many times Romo would look to Owens first– often throwing him the ball for a completion — but if Owens wasn’t open he would a quick check to his other wideouts and then immediately look back to Owens. Romo showed his inclination to throwing toward Owens on the next play, forcing a pass into tight coverage only to have it intercepted by Bly.
The next play the Cowboys let their frustrations on the offensive side of the ball boil over. Marcus Thomas was applying pressure on the quarterback allowing Ebenezer Ekuban to get to Romo. Thomas and Cowboys tackle Flozell Adams got into a pushing match that escalated when Adams ripped off Thomas’ helmet and swung it towards Thomas’ head. Both teams got caught up in the scuffle, some shoves and words were exchanged, but cooler heads prevailed. Nate Webster made sure that the Cowboys were reminded of their frustrations, yelling, “defense” as the teams separated. A few plays later Webster literally reminded the Cowboys of their offensive stuggles, laying a devastating hit on a Cowboys receiver as he attempted to make a grab along the sideline.
QUOTABLE: “You can expect that, especially from those interior guys because they are more hands on and face on everyday. It does get a little chippy but that is just part of football.”
-Cowboys wide receiver Terrell Owens, on the altercation between Marcus Thomas and Flozell Adams.
The teams are back on the field this afternoon at 4:10. Check back for the afternoon blog.
Click here for the photo gallery from this morning’s practice.
-Gray Caldwell and Jake Grilley, DenverBroncos.com
Tags: Andre Hall, Anthony Alridge, Brandon Marshall, Casey Wiegmann, D.J. Williams, Daniel Graham, Dre Bly, Eddie Royal, Elvis Dumervil, Gray Caldwell, Jack Williams, Jake Grilley, Jay Cutler, Marcus Thomas, Nate Webster, Niko Koutouvides, Ryan Clady, Selvin Young, Training Camp