Wow. Just over a week, and the Cowboys will be lining up against a real, live opponent. With all the doubt and turmoil of this year, it is hard to believe it. I never thought a preseason game would create such a stirring. In my heart. (What did you think I meant?)
This year, the preseason games will have a unique importance. The coaches have to focus on figuring out who is going to be on the team when real football rolls around for the 'boys on 9/11. America's Team playing the New York Jets in the shadow of the World Trade Center on the tenth anniversary of September 11th. I choke up just thinking about it. But I will control my emotions and focus on the first of our preseason opponents. On what is going on in Broncoland. And what looking at Denver may tell us about our own Cowboys.
Going into the 2011 season, the main issue facing the Denver Broncos can be summed up in two words:
Yes, the Denver fans are apparently in a rage over cuddly, loveable Tim Tebow. A quick scan of The Mile High Report indicates that there are fans who want to start Timmy despite a growing sense of unease about how he looks in training camp, and there are those who want Kyle Orton to start the season because he was the starter last year until he got injured, and he may represent the best hope to win. Although there are mentions of other issues, such as a similar concern to Dallas' along the defensive line, the big, burning issue is undoubtably who is going to be under center. It is so bad, there are pleas being made for the fans not to boo the team if their favorite is not calling signals.
Wow. Quite a contrast between them and the Cowboys. To quote someone I really like, or at least who I do know very well (and a recent winner of FPOTW, I might add) :
No one is talking about Tony Romo around here. None of the angry words about whether the Cowboys can win with him or not. The consensus seems to be that he is one of the better quarterbacks in the league, probably in the second five and perhaps nudging the top five. And he is the leader of the Cowboys, organizing the team workouts during the stupid lockout. That seems to be settled. His stats last year were quite good.
It doesn't mean there is no chance of problems here. Remember, no absolute certainty is possible. And the backups certainly have their limitations. Still, I think this is one area where we know what the team has, and feel pretty dang good about it.
It appears that the Broncos organization is in real dissarray. Josh McDaniel appears to have done a real number on them before they wised up and gave him the boot. Meanwhile, things seem a little rocky for Timmy T. (Disclaimer: this does quote Merril Hoge, who works for ESPN, which might put a nasty taste in your mouth.)
And Kyle Orton is creating discord in not one but two NFL cities. His absense is creating hostile fan behavior at the Miami training camp. Wow. When did he get into the same league as Peyton The-best-quarterback-in-the-NFL-ever Manning and Tom I-married-a-supermodel-but-I'm-still-prettiest-person-in-my-family Brady?
Hey. Maybe it's time to stick out heads up and look around at something besides the Eagles going all Steinbrenner in Free Agency.
I don't think the quarterback position is the only way we are in better shape than Denver. They apparently believe the solution to their running back issues is to sign a player pushing that dreaded 30 year old barrier. And they just picked up Ty Warren, who Dallas was apparently not interested in, so the game will let us see quickly if that was a mistake on our part. (One thing for sure, don't think we would have been interested at the price they paid.)
The general vibe from Broncoland is one of turmoil and controversy. Meanwhile, from San Antonio, we have Sean Lee saying this about Rob Ryan:
"He’s our leader and he’s out there saying what he says and I love it," Lee said. "The big thing of our defense is that [people] might have thought we quit, but I think it was about our confidence. Guys had just played so well for so many years and were certainly not playing well and [lost] that confidence.
"He brings that confidence, no matter what. No matter what’s going on, he’s going to bring that confidence. That’s what he had lost, and I think that’s what we’re really feeding off right now."
Meanwhile, Victor Butler has this to say:
It's a great scheme. [Rob Ryan] gets guys fired up. If you've got ability, he's going to play you. And when you've got a coach that trusts in you, it makes you want to go out there and perform better. It makes you want to hit the playbook harder, because now you've got people counting on you to be accountable. As a football player, as a competitor, that's what you want. You want to be held accountable.
"He brings that confidence." "You want to be held accountable." How many of you can seriously doubt that some incredibly good and imprortant things are happening down in the Alamodome?
So on August 11, the Broncos come to visit. What might we expect from that preseason game?
Well, the two teams certainly seem to be in different places, which I would expect to lead to very diffenent goals going in. Both have to make some serious evalutations, but Dallas seems settled at QB whereas this is likely the most important thing John Fox and his staff have to figure out. I would like to see Tony get just enough work to get the rust off, and then let Kitna, McGee, and even Eskridge get some snaps. I think we will see a lot of combinations elsewhere on offense, once Romo is safely on the sidelines, as the coaching staff sees who is for real. The compression of time forced by the moronic lockout means that preseason game time is precious and must be used effectively. The good news is that reports are that the Dallas staff is very good at using time effectively in camp. Hopefully, that carries over.
On defense. Oh, crap, who cares what the Broncos do? We just want to see Ryan's system in operation and find out if it is half the fun it sounds like. Unfortunately, I would expect to see a very limited version given the short amount of time they have had to work on things. But maybe they will surprise us.
This could actually be a problem for the guys in orange. If Ryan's defense comes out and works at all well, it may be a bit disruptive to Denver's attempt to sort out the quarterbacking position. And they don't really need any more disruption. I wonder if there might be some agreement for Dallas to hold off on some of the more exotic blitzes for at least part of the game? Do pro teams ever do that kind of stuff in preseason? Just wondering.
Anyway, the countdown clock is running. We will soon see the Cowboys hitting someone in a different uniform. And best of all, we will have all that wonderful playing time to dissect and discuss. (I'm working, so I hope there is a good video link up so I can see at least some of the game.)
But even if I have to rely on replays and summaries, I can barely wait. Football. Almost here. Go, Cowboys!