Week 9 Players To Watch: Cowboys vs. Titans
The Dallas Cowboys’ offense will have a decidedly different look Monday night against the Tennessee Titans. And for the most part, we can all attest, that’s probably a good thing.
For much of the seven games before the bye week, the Cowboys’ offense has been inconsistent and one-dimensional (or no-dimensional).
Newly-acquired receiver Amari Cooper will be thrust headlong into the offense, according to coordinator Scott Linehan. Good idea. It’s not like the Cowboys (3-4) have a lot of time to pussy foot around. Monday’s game against the Titans (3-4) will also be the first for Marc Colombo as the offensive line coach. He replaced Paul Alexander last week. Both moves are clear signals that Jerry Jones expects head coach Jason Garrett’s 2018 squad to win and earn a playoff berth. That renewed quest starts Monday night.
Five things to watch tonight:
1. Hanging with Mr. Cooper
How quickly will Cooper impact the offense? Will the speedy receiver open up the field for Ezekiel Elliott? Will he take some heat off Cole Beasley? Will he give Dak Prescott a deep threat to help stretch the field? Perhaps we won’t see all of this against the Titans, but the Cowboys are hoping he helps do all of the above. But how quickly can Cooper and Prescott get on the same page remains to be seen. Prescott had six months to get in tune with Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin, Michael Gallup and Deonte Thompson but has little to show for it. So don’t expect Aikman-to-Irving after a week of practice.
2. Change on the line
The other big bye-week move was firing offensive line coach Paul Alexander and replacing him with assistant line coach Marc Colombo. Colombo, the nine-year veteran who played with Dallas for more than five seasons, promises a renewed energy and nastiness from the line. Even more substantially, Colombo says he’ll ease the line back towards their previous style and technique. What does that mean? Instead of a more passive technique, they’ll be more aggressive engaging their blocks.
3. Unfancy passing
Only the Buffalo Bills have fewer passing yards than the Cowboys and Titans. Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota is 30th in the league with a 78.5 quarterback rating (Prescott is 24th at 87.4). He’s been sacked 19 times, including 11 times against the Ravens three weeks ago. He has thrown for three touchdowns, five interceptions and 1,030 yards.
4. A Sort of Homecoming
Jason Witten returns to AT&T Stadium for the first time since retiring last spring. The 15-year tight end will call his first Cowboys’ game for ESPN’s Monday Night Football. It will be an emotional moment for the future Hall of Famer. He’s likely to receive a loud welcome from fans if the Cowboys choose to introduce him in some capacity as they did when Tony Romo returned to call his first game in Arlington. It will be much deserved for Witten, who along with Romo is a future no-brainer Ring of Honor decision.
5. Monday Night Cowboys
Speaking of Monday Night Football, the Cowboys make their lone appearance on the telecast and 80th all-time. Only the Dolphins (82 MNF appearances) have been featured more. Dallas is 4-4 on Monday since 2010 and 4-3 under Garrett. Dallas beat the Cardinals in Arizona on MNF a year ago and have won three consecutive MNF games. The last time the Cowboys were on MNF twice in a season was 2005. The Titans are 12-6 since 1999 on MNF, with six of their wins coming on the road.