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Dallas vs. Denver: Cowboys Preseason Week 4 Game Preview

John OwningCorrespondent IAugust 27, 2014

Dallas vs. Denver: Cowboys Preseason Week 4 Game Preview

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    While last week was the most important preseason game, this week the Dallas Cowboys will take on the Denver Broncos in what is likely the least important preseason game from a macro-perspective. 

    It is unlikely that any of the star players, such as Tony Romo, will play at all against the Broncos. However, this game is extremely important for a great deal of players who are on the roster bubble. 

    Not only will these players be competing with their teammates for a spot on the roster, but they are also competing with players across the league who may be cut from their team and claimed by the Cowboys.

    Players along the defensive line should be especially worried because it is likely the Cowboys will be scanning the waiver wire on August 30 for players who can potentially help improve the pass rush, per ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer

    It is paramount that these "bubble" players show their value in this game. You may recall that Lance Dunbar was on the roster bubble during the 2012 preseason; however, Dunbar had an incredible performance in the fourth preseason game, going for 105 yards on 15 carries.

    While he was initially waived and put on the practice squad, Dunbar was quickly called up to the 53-man roster in October. This probably wouldn't have happened if it weren't for Dunbar's stellar play in the fourth preseason game.

    The most important thing the Cowboys want to come away from this game with is health. First, they don't want any players who are locks to make the 53-man roster to get injured. Plus, they don't want any other players to get hurt, because if they cut them, they would have to come to an injury settlement with them.

    Read on for some news and notes, injury information and players to watch Thursday night. 

Cowboys Preseason Week 3 Recap

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The Cowboys' preseason record fell to 0-3 when they lost to the Miami Dolphins by a score of 25-20.

    The first-team offense was very sluggish against the Dolphins. They played up to the first half and only put up six points. This will not cut it when the regular season rolls around because Dallas will be relying on the offense to carry the team. 

    The first-team defense was gashed against the run, but it applied a bend-but-don't-break philosophy throughout the first half. The Cowboys utilized great red-zone defense to go along with timely third-down defense and critical turnovers. 

    This is the type of defense the Cowboys are going to have to employ in the regular season to have any modicum of success. They just don't have enough talent to routinely shut down opposing offenses. 

    The Cowboys led for the most part of the second half. However, the Dolphins scored a touchdown with 1:45 left in the fourth quarter, and the Cowboys failed to answer. 

    The player of the game for the Cowboys was rookie cornerback Tyler Patmon, who had two interceptions, a forced fumble and a touchdown. Patmon was possibly on the outside looking in when it came to the 53-man roster; however, this performance should put him firmly on the final roster. 

    Another player who played very well was Bruce Carter. Throughout the preseason, Carter's discipline and technique have been average at best. Nevertheless, he was much better in those aspects against the Dolphins. He flashed the type of playmaking ability that Cowboys hoped they would get when they drafted him. 

    While this game was ideal for the Cowboys, they still have some time to fix their mistakes before they play the San Francisco 49ers Week 1. 

News and Notes

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    Matt Strasen/Associated Press

    The Cowboys Cut to 75

    The Cowboys made the necessary roster moves to reduce their 88-man roster to 75 on Tuesday, per ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer

    The biggest name on the list of roster moves is former fourth-round pick Matt Johnson. There has always been a great deal of optimism toward Johnson since the Cowboys selected him. However, injuries have derailed his career and not allowed him to get any significant playing time in the preseason. 

    Another notable name is Justin Green, whom the Cowboys gave Ben Bass for in a trade with the New England Patriots. Green never flashed much and may have been asked to do too much too early.

    It is also interesting to note that the Cowboys placed Amobi Okoye on the reserve/non-football illness list, which allows him to come back to the Cowboys Week 6 if he is ready. With the luck the Cowboys have had with injuries along the defensive line lately, his return to football may be a huge addition to the team. 

     

    Dez Bryant Contract Talks

    While the Cowboys and Dez Bryant were not close on a new contract when training camp opened, they seem to be coming closer to an agreement as the season nears. 

    If the two sides want to come to an agreement before the year is over they are going to need to hurry up. ESPNDallas.com's Tim MacMahon reported that Bryant has put a deadline of Sept. 7 for when the two sides can come to a contract extension, or the talks will be tabled to next offseason. 

    It would benefit the Cowboys to get the contract done before the season so that it is not a distraction moving forward. Bryant is one of the top five receivers in the NFL and deserves to be paid like one. 

     

    DeMarcus Ware Returns to Dallas 

    DeMarcus Ware will be returning to Dallas for the first time since signing with the Denver Broncos this offseason, per Dallascowboys.com's Rowan Kavner. While he likely won't play in the game, it is still going to be odd seeing him in another jersey. 

    DeMarcus Ware is probably the best pass-rusher the Cowboys have ever had, and it would be nice if he was still on the team—especially with the rash of injuries that has plagued the defensive line. However, the Cowboys couldn't work things out on the financial side and had no other choice but to let him go. 

    Even though he is gone that doesn't rule out the possibility of him going in the Cowboys' Ring of Honor or even retiring a Cowboy, per Kavner

    It is going to be interesting to see what kind of reception Ware receives when he returns to AT&T Stadium. 

Injury Report

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    Brandon Wade/Associated Press

    As with last week, it is hard to accurately predict the injury report because teams don't disclose them until the regular season. So this week, I will once again state the players who have missed practice this week, making them likely candidates to miss this game. 

    PlayerPosition
    B.W. Webb (hip flexor)  CB
    Joseph Randle (oblique) RB
    Ryan Williams (groin)RB
    Darrion Weems (shoulder)OT
    Dwayne Harris (hip, ankle)WR
    George Selvie (shoulder)DE
    Jakar Hamilton (hamstring)S
    Ben Gardner (shoulder)  DE
    Demarcus Lawrence (ankle)      DE
    Anthony Spencer (knee) DE
    Amobi Okoye (illness) DT
    Terrell McClain (ankle) DT

    All injury status from ESPNDallas.com's Todd Archer.

    Most of these injuries have no barring on the 53-man roster or the fourth preseason game. Nonetheless, the injuries to B.W. Webb and Jakar Hamilton may give some other players the chance they need to beat them out to make the 53-man roster. 

    Webb has been battling with Sterling Moore, Terrance Mitchell and Tyler Patmon for the last two or three spots on the cornerback depth chart. If he misses the game, it may give others what they need to beat him out. 

    Hamilton's injury may open a possibility for a player like Ryan Smith to make the final roster, even though that is still unlikely. 

X-Factors and Matchups to Watch

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    Tyler Patmon vs. Cody Latimer

    Tyler Patmon is coming off a fantastic showing against the Dolphins and hopes to build off that showing against the Broncos. 

    Patmon will likely be matched up a lot with rookie receiver Cody Latimer. Patmon will have a great deal to deal with when covering Latimer, who has elite speed and hands. Patmon is going to have to play with very good technique so that he doesn't give up the big play but doesn't allow for any receptions either. 

    Patmon is going to have to rely on his great instincts to put him in a position to make plays on the ball. Latimer poses some considerable challenges for Patmon, but if he stays disciplined with his technique and trusts his instincts, Patmon should do just fine. 

     

    John Wetzel vs. Broncos Defensive Ends

    John Wetzel is firmly entrenched in a battle with Jermey Parnell for the swing tackle position on the 53-man roster. Wetzel's contract is his biggest ally, but his lack of playing experience is his biggest detriment. 

    He has played through the first three games of preseason but needs to have a great fourth preseason game if he is going to overtake Parnell. 

    Wetzel will likely line up against multiple defensive ends including: Derek Wolfe, Malik Jackson and Will Pericak. Wetzel must be sound technically in pass protection as well as physically dominant in the run game. 

    This game will likely be the determining factor in whether the Cowboys try to get Wetzel to the practice squad or keep him on the 53-man roster. 

     

    Cowboys' X-Factor of the Week: Davon Coleman

    Davon Coleman has gotten the third-most snaps and has been graded as the best player on the defensive line through the first three preseason games, per Pro Football Focus (subscription required). 

    While Coleman is likely to make the 53-man roster, he should get a large chunk of playing time against the Broncos. 

    He is a player who should get a considerable amount of playing time as a rotational 3-technique defensive tackle once the regular season begins. It will be important for Coleman to be disruptive against the Broncos' backup offensive line. 

    Coleman has utilized great strength and a sneaky spin move to make plays against first-, second- and third-team offensive linemen throughout the preseason. 

    It will be interesting to see if Coleman can continue his disruptive ways against the Broncos. 

Prediction

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    Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

    Predicting preseason games are very difficult, but predicting the fourth preseason game is basically impossible. The starters barely see any snaps, and the majority of the game will be played by players who will likely not make either squad.

    You should expect that the game will sloppy and hard to watch after the first quarter, when the third-stringers will be getting the majority of snaps. 

    For the Cowboys, expect the offense to have a difficult time moving the ball, as the second and third team has throughout the preseason. Also expect the second-team defense to do better than many expect and have a relatively productive night. 

    On defense, Davon Coleman should have a very productive night going up against the Broncos reserves, and on offense, Devin Street should make a much bigger impact than he has had in the other preseason games. 

    The final score will say nothing about how either team will do in the regular season, but here it is. 

     

    Prediction: Cowboys 21, Broncos 17

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