Much is being made this week about the strength of the Dallas Cowboys’ rushing attack, and rightfully so. Dallas travels to Denver boasting the No. 2 rushing game in the NFL last season, facing a Broncos team that was 28th against the run. They also bring the league’s top run defense from last year to the Mile High City. While that stat is a bit of a misnomer, there’s no sleeping on the Dallas run D.

Running back C.J. Anderson certainly isn’t.

“Good defense. Last year, they were really, really good against the run,” Anderson said after Wednesday’s practice. “[Cowboys Defensive Coordinator] Coach Rod [Marinelli] does a great job up there with those guys. They fit well. It’s simple, but they fit well. They play hard and the effort is great. We definitely have to do our part this week. Especially along with what they have on the other side of the ball, too. It’s going to be a good football team. It’s a good test for us. We’re ready to play.”

One of the biggest reasons Dallas had the league’s best run defense last year was in part because they faced the least total attempts. That’s the product of a couple things: First, their pass defense was one of the few relative weaknesses on the team; and second, their opponents were so regularly playing from behind and forced to throw the ball.

Teams passed 633 times against the Cowboys in 2016, only two less attempts than Atlanta and Tennessee to register the most attempts against last season. In the case of both Dallas and Atlanta, much of that has to do with the fact their opponents were constantly playing catchup. That translated to solid numbers for the Dallas rush defense, who saw the fewest number of total attempts against them.

In the more neutral statistic of yards per attempt, Dallas was still above average in both categories. The Cowboys shared a four-way tie for 11th in terms of yards per pass attempt allowed at 6.9 in 2016. (Denver led the league with 5.8.) They tied for eighth in run defense, giving up an average of 3.9 yards per attempt. (Denver ranked at 4.3).

Dallas’ key to stopping the run is 2016 All-Pro and back-to-back Pro Bowl WLB Sean Lee.

“I think Sean can play,” Anderson said. “He’s all over. You can see it all on the tape. He’s super smart and very instinctive. He can get from point A to point B, where the ball is going to go, really fast.”

Although the tape is limited, Anderson is also impressed with rookie MLB Jaylon Smith.

“You see Jaylon [Smith] is getting his feet wet and getting more and more comfortable with being on the field,” Anderson said.

In his first regular-season NFL game, Smith had seven tackles (four solo) and a forced fumble.

“They’re going to be tough,” Anderson continued. “We have to handle them the correct way.”

The Broncos are off to a good start in the ground game after their Week 1 win over the Chargers, rushing for 140 yards and one touchdown. Their 3.9 yards per carry ranked 10th in the first week of the season.

The 2016 trends held true for Dallas in Week 1 as they defeated the Giants, 19-3. The Cowboys faced a league-low 12 rushing attempts. Their 2.9 yards per rush attempt tied for eighth with Denver and Minnesota. The 35 total rushing yards allowed tied with Cleveland for fewest in the opening week.

Denver’s goals heading into this week’s matchup are straightforward. According to Anderson, they want more big plays.

“We can be explosive. We want to be more explosive. The goal is to get better every week. This is our second opportunity to against the Cowboys to get better,” Anderson said.

Of Denver’s 10 longest plays from scrimmage against L.A., only two came in the run game – an 18-yard run from Anderson and a 12-yard run by Jamaal Charles. Their only rushing touchdown came via a Trevor Siemian 1-yard run.

Anderson could only laugh about Siemian’s scamper into the end zone.

“He calls it backyard football, something that he’s been doing since he was young,” the running back said of his QB. “We never have a chance to see it, but now he’s in the position to make those plays. I don’t think he wants to make a living off of though. Let’s just keep him in the pocket. His arm is a lot better than his feet, for sure.”

Keeping the quarterback in the pocket has been the recipe against Dallas since last year, but only three teams (the Giants twice, the Eagles and the Packers in the playoffs) were successful in that endeavor.

Anderson hinted that a pass-heavy attack could be in store this week.

“We’re going to change from week to week. Trev might throw for 500-yards this week. Me and Jamaal might have 10 carries between the both of us. At the end of the day, it’s about the W,” he said.

Given the lack of success teams have had against Dallas (3-13 last year, 0-1 this year), that may just be a smokescreen.

Denver considers the run game to be a strength this year, so expect them to test the Dallas D’s run-stopping ability and try to break some of those explosive plays they believe are in the playbook.