Three things to know ahead of the Cowboys-Titans clash on NFL Week 9’s Monday Night Football...
1. With deficient wide receivers, analysts have been calling for the Cowboys to feature fewer spread formations and iso routes, and more multifaceted route combinations to help their passing game. When receivers can’t win on their own, your scheme must aid them. Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan have become more receptive to schemed passing concepts as this season has progressed. But will that continue now that Amari Cooper is here? It’s easy to envision the Cowboys using Cooper’s first-round price tag and hefty contract to justify a return to their old spread tactics. They clearly see Cooper as a true No. 1 receiver, and a true No. 1 should allow you to spread out. The problem is Cooper, because he sometimes struggles against press coverage, is not a great iso-route player—that’s why Oakland traded him. Like Dallas’s incumbent receivers, Cooper is better as part of a route combination. The sooner the Cowboys realize this, the better.
2. This is an especially important week for Dallas to feature route combinations. The Titans have two outstanding cover corners in Logan Ryan and Adoree Jackson, and a capable third corner in the (albeit, up-and-down) Malcolm Butler. Complicating matters is the fact these men have maybe the league’s best deep-field safety behind them (Kevin Byard), and the ability to play detailed zone coverage, which Tennessee in certain games has featured more than man-to-man.
3. Prior to the season, Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur said he viewed Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis as running backs 1A and 1B. LaFleur wouldn’t—and shouldn’t—say this publicly, but now halfway through the season, there’s no way he doesn’t see Lewis as RB1 and Derrick Henry as a very distant RB2. Lewis is a quick, balanced runner with outstanding vision; Henry is a slow-starting mauler who requires near-perfect blocking so that he can have time to kick into gear. It’s no surprise that Lewis has wound up playing over 63% of the snaps while Henry has played just under 38%.
Bold prediction: Against a fast-flowing Cowboys defense, the Titans will have more turnovers than touchdowns.