Things will start to get a little more serious for the Titans as they visit the Dallas Cowboys for their third game of the preseason. Unlike the first two exhibition contests, Jeff Fisher is installing game plans for this one so I expect a little more emphasis on the game and a little less on player evaluation.
The Cowboys will provide a good test for Tennessee. They have a lot of stars on both sides of the ball, as evidenced by numerous honors. They're a solid veteran team favored to be a postseason contender. They're also a very tough, physical team which likes to muscle opponents around.
Tony Romo will probably quarterback them for the first quarter before giving way to veteran Jon Kitna. I'd guess Kitna will go until the fourth quarter, then let the third-string guy mop up.
Like the Titans, the Cowboys have one of the best o-lines in the business, setting the table for everything the offense does. Three of them, LT Flozell Adams, C Andre Gurode and RG Leonard Davis have combined for eight Pro Bowls in the past three seasons. Kyle Vanden Bosch and Jovan Haye will get a real workout from them.
Also like the Titans, the Cowboys have a great one-two punch in the backfield in Marion Barber and Felix Jones. Barber at times resembles a bull in a china shop. I saw Jones play a lot when he and McFadden ran hog wild in Arkansas and think he's similar to Chris Johnson. Matter of fact, if Dallas had selected CJ, Tennessee might have taken Jones.
Dallas will use a lot of two-TE sets with All-Pro/five-time Pro Bowler Jason Witten and second-year rising star Martellus Bennett, who's a lot like Jared Cook - a combination of size and speed that creates mismatch problems for defenses.
Bennett and WR Sam Hurd are reportedly the offensive stars of Dallas' training camp so far. Hurd, who backs up Roy E. Williams and Patrick Crayton, has supposedly made highlight reel catches in every practice.
The Cowboy defense has one of the very best front sevens in the league, starring ROLB DeMarcus Ware, who has three Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro designations in three years. Ware will provide a great matchup for Michael Roos.
Dallas lost Chris Canty in free agency (the Titans were interested in him) but replaced him with a foe familiar to the Titans, Igor Olshansky, who's played well against them the last several years.
I thought Jay Ratliff was one of the most underrated nose tackles in the league. Wrong. I just learned he was a Pro Bowler last year.
In my opinion, Marcus Spears is one of the better 3-4 DEs in the league.
The Boys have also added ILB Keith Brooking, who can still play. Being lined up behind Ratliff and Olshansky should help him continue to play the game for another year.
While the starters are in the game, I'll try to watch the line play as much as TV will allow. Ratliff should be a tough guy for Leroy Harris to block so I'll be real interested in watching that matchup. If Harris can block Ratliff, then he should hold his own against just about anyone he goes up against. I'll also try to watch the Roos-Ware battle, simply because it will be two of the very best players going head to head.
Likewise, on defense, KVB/Adams looks good on paper but I wonder if Adams is in a decline, whether he's in shape, etc. I'm also interested in watching the Haye/Davis matchup.
Jeff Fisher announced that the following players will be out: Stewart, Mouton, Jones, Chris Davis, Stamer and Schommer. Fuller, Tulloch and Allred are doubtful.
With nickelbacks Fuller doubtful and Mouton out, the Titans will be using some corners at the position Friday night. I don't know who will be first but Tanard Davis has gotten a lot of work at nickel this week.