Remember the Titans
That's a cheesy and all-too-obvious a reference for a game against the Tennessee Titans, but this week it's very appropriate. After a day of chaos - for everybody save Bill Parcells and his players, who seem unaffected - the Dallas Cowboys do have a game coming up against the Titans. Tennessee has stumbled out of the gate at 0-3, but this is the NFL and nothing comes for free in this league. If you go on the road and play sloppy football, you can come away a losing team. Besides, as Parcells likes to remind us about our own Cowboys - this team hasn't done anything yet.
So what kind of team will we see in Tennessee? I went back and watched the Dolphins/Titans game on tape and came way with these impressions.
1. The Titans want to run the ball, but aren't very good at it. They gave the ball 21 times to Travis Henry even though most plays were duds and he averaged 2.8 yards per carry. It's not Henry's fault, the few times he got room he ran hard and with good quickness. The Titans line was getting pushed around by the Dolphins regularly in the running game and Henry had to fight hard to limit negative plays. Jeff Fisher wants to run the ball, they might have had "Air" McNair all those years, but they relied on "Steady" Eddie George to move that offense. The possible return of Chris Brown could shake this equation up, but Dallas should be able to handle the Titans running game.
2. I don't know how well Vince Young would play, but I watched Kerry Collins play, and in some ways, he's a poor man's Drew Bledsoe. He's not going anywhere, so you always know where he's going to be in the pocket. That makes it easier on the pass rush. He'll hold the ball and give up sacks; but he has a big arm and can make all the throws. Just not always with the desired result; he threw a game killing interception at the end of the game. But what hurt him most were a few long passes - to open receivers - where he missed them, he just wasn't accurate on those passes. If he'd hit a couple of those, they probably win that game.
3. To be fair to the Titans, I thought they outplayed Miami in that game and were the better team on the field. Turnovers and no running game doomed them. They had to rely on Collins, and he almost came through. They should've been up 14-3 early, which may have changed the whole tenor of the game, but TE Bo Scaife fumbled at the goal line at the end of a long catch. That was a killer turnover, as was Collins' interception while driving his team to the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter.
4. On defense, the Titans are pretty aggressive. A couple of the Dolphins best plays were misdirection reverses to their WR's, who broke long runs. The Titans got 5 sacks and they will blitz. I was surprised by the number of times they will send a CB or a safety into the blitz. I easily counted 8 blitzes where they sent a defensive back from the outside. At first, it worked OK, but Miami caught on and started throwing quick slants to the side of the blitz and picking up nice yardage. Owens (or Hurd) and Crayton could do the same thing Sunday if the Titans continue that pattern.
5. They have some weapons on offense; Bo Scaife and Ben Troupe are a pretty good pass-catching TE duo with veteran Erron Kinney out. Drew Bennett is a good #2 receiver, as is David Givens, but that's their problem, they need a #1 receiver. Chris Brown - when healthy - can be a factor in games. But they don't have anybody that truly scares you. They have no go-to playmaker on offense. Their offensive line is also banged up, with two starters listed as questionable.
6. On defense, we need to control their defensive front seven, which played pretty well for most of the day. Kyle Vanden Bosch and Albert Haynesworth are pretty active players, and LB's Keith Bulluck and David Thornton do a good job.