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Broncos-Cowboys: Three Questions, Answered

Posted Aug 28, 2014

Brock Osweiler was composed under pressure, Denver's running backs showed power, but Brandon McManus missed twice from beyond 50 yards.

ARLINGTON, Texas --The last preseason game is, above all, a showcase for the depth of the roster. The Broncos have it. The Cowboys, hamstrung by some unproductive drafts and salary-cap constraints, do not.

In that light, Denver's dominant 27-3 win at AT&T Stadium here Thursday came as no surprise. The Broncos rolled, and questions were answered -- including the ones I posed before the game, which we now revisit:

1. Who steps up at running back?

They all did -- at least, all three that played. C.J. Anderson started, and burrowed forward for 33 yards and a touchdown, even though he had little room to run early as the Cowboys attacked off the snap, led by linebacker Rolando McClain. Juwan Thompson pitched in with 41 yards on 13 carries and generally solid work in pass protection. Kapri Bibbs scored twice on seven carries and had the best per-carry average of the trio (4.6 yards).

In the bigger picture of the preseason, Thompson led the trio in rushing yardage (143) and yards per carry (4.9). Bibbs scored three times; Anderson twice. But what could determine their pecking order behind Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman is, as always, pass protection.

"We're a pass-happy team; we pass first," said Thompson. "So you have to make sure you protect the quarterback at the end of the day. That's what we hone in on a lot -- especially with Peyton in there, you've really got to make sure you hone in, because he can check to anything."

The choices in the next 48 hours will be difficult for the Broncos. All five of the running backs on the roster showed flashes of brilliance this summer.

2. How will Brandon McManus do?

He missed a pair of attempts from beyond 50 yards -- 52 and 54 -- wide right, but was perfect on his other placekicks, including field goals of 19 and 40 yards, and drilled all five of his kickoffs into or beyond the end zone for touchbacks.

McManus is now 5-of-7 on field goals in preseason play. All but one of his attempts have come from 40 yards or longer, and he has drilled 23 of 30 kickoffs for touchbacks in the last two preseasons, and has not missed an extra point. Although that's not a massive sample size, it offers reason to believe that the two misses were a hiccup, and that he should be okay in the regular season.

3. What will the Broncos get from quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert?

The first three quarters belonged to Osweiler, and he delivered one of his best performances. All that was missing was a touchdown pass. But he led the offense to three touchdowns, spread the football around to a variety of targets and delivered a deep pass to Andre Caldwell to set up a score. He also had a 57-yard pass to Cody Latimer that included 54 yards after the reception.

Osweiler operated under pressure, but was rarely flustered, completing nine of 13 passes for 190 yards. He also sprinted out of pressure for a 26-yard run in the third quarter that was the Broncos' longest run of the preseason.

Osweiler's 34-yard strike to Caldwell looked to be an ideal play: Caldwell adjusted to the football, twisting to get into position, and Osweiler delivered the football to the outside shoulder, reducing the chance of a turnover. But Osweiler saw the flaws.

"I saw the ball come out of my hand, so I definitely knew it was behind him. Not exactly where I wanted to place that ball," Osweiler said. "But I know Bubba went up there and made a great play for me, and I thanked him for it right afterwards."

Dysert entered in the fourth quarter, and despite the three-score lead, they continued to attack. He had Cody Latimer open deep down the left sideline on his second series, but overthrew him outside. Two plays later, he found tight end Cameron Morrah on third-and-7; he looked to his right and then turned left to find Morrah, who had worked beyond a linebacker and underneath the safety. That set the Broncos on course for the game's final points. But Dysert had fewer repetitions this summer than he did last year; in the final preseason game of 2013, he played the entire second half.Dysert finished the preseason with 106 yards on 12-of-18 passing. Now he must wait to see if it will be enough to remain on the 53-man roster.

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