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Cowboys vs. Titans: Previewing the Tennessee defense

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The Titans defense is something to be concerned with.

Baltimore Ravens v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Titans are similar to the Cowboys in a lot of ways. Both have severely under-performing offenses and stout defenses, and both are 3-4 entering Monday night’s matchup. The Titans have had to rely on their defense to win those three games this year, and they rank 11th in the league in overall defense while boasting the ninth best pass defense.

And the Titans have been so good in pass defense due in large part to a talented secondary. Two former Patriots man the cornerback spots in Malcolm Butler and Logan Ryan, with Adoree Jackson serving as the nickel corner. Kevin Byard plays free safety and is hands down the most underrated defensive back in football right now. Kenny Vaccaro, a Texas native, had been playing lights out before injuring his arm and missing the last three games. He has been in practice all week in full capacity, albeit with an arm brace, but it seems he’ll return to the field on Monday.

As talented as this unit looks, the Cowboys might have an ace in the hole in Amari Cooper. Of course, we all know what Cooper is capable of, but he hasn’t done too much recently. The Titans will get the first taste of Cooper the Cowboy, and it remains to be seen just how well Dak Prescott works with his new weapon. It’s entirely possible that the Titans will try to focus on Cooper to start, which would of course open things up for Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Geoff Swaim, and others.

For as good as the Titans are defending the pass, though, their run defense leaves a lot to be desired. The Titans have allowed 120 rushing yards or more in five of their seven games this season. The two games they didn’t? Against the Jaguars without Leonard Fournette and the Chargers without Melvin Gordon. Against the Cowboys, this defense will face one of the best running backs in the NFL.

Tennessee has an incredible defensive lineman in Jurrell Casey, who has already piled up 3.5 sacks with 33 tackles, six tackles for loss, six QB hits, and two forced fumbles. His fellow defensive linemen, DaQuan Jones and Austin Johnson, haven’t had much impact with only 30 tackles and zero sacks between them.

Pressure on the quarterback has been especially hard to come by for this defense. They rank 27th in the league for sacks with just 15. The team’s two most accomplished edge rushers, Brian Orakpo and Derrick Morgan, have put up zeroes in the sack column. Backup outside linebacker Kamalei Correa has notched 2.5 and middle linebacker Jayon Brown has put up three, while six different players have gotten one sack each, three of which are defensive backs.

In short, this defense has trouble pressuring the quarterback and can’t stop the run. That kind of combination on defense usually leads to a poor record, and sure enough the Titans are 3-4. Somehow, though, they do a good job of limiting scoring. Facing the Cowboys has to be worst case scenario for the defense, as Ezekiel Elliott can single-handedly destroy this unit and Dak Prescott is at his best when he has time to throw. If the Cowboys struggle to get their running game going, though, the Titans have the secondary to put up a fight against Prescott. However, this seems to be a perfect for Elliott to remind everyone of how good he is.