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    Through two games Youth Terrance Williams Jersey , the importance of Travis Frederick has become very clear Stop me if you’ve heard this before: the Cowboys offensive een a common refrain in recent years, and the trio that have anchored this impressive unit consisted of Tyron Smith, arguably the best left tackle in the NFL, Zack Martin, arguably the best guard in the NFL, and Travis Frederick, arguably the best center in the NFL. For all the hype given to these three, it seems that Smith and Martin are usually the ones garnering the majority of the praise, and for good reason. Smith just gets beat so rarely, and his strength as a run blocker makes him stand apart from other elite left tackles. Martin, on the other hand, was an All-Pro as a rookie. That just doesn’t happen often. While nobody has ever watched Frederick play and said “He just isn’t that good,” it’s not unrealistic to suggest that Frederick is underrated as a player. And these first two games for the Dallas Cowboys have proved exactly that. First things first, though, a clarification – this piece is not meant to serve as any criticism of backup center Joe Looney, who has done a serviceable job starting in place of Frederick these last two weeks. In fact, Looney even got a pancake block on Damon “Snacks” Harrison on Sunday night, no easy feat. However, the running game has struggled significantly to start the season. Ezekiel Elliott has been limited to under 80 yards both games – 69 yards against Carolina and 78 against New York. That has only happened to Elliott twice before: one was his rookie debut, also against the Giants, and the other last year in the infamous Debacle in Denver. Part of the problem can be tied to a lack of carries for Zeke, who has failed to get 20 carries in either game, something that’s only happened to him four other times in his career. And to be fair, Elliott has averaged 4.6 yards per carry in both games this year, a better mark than last season. However, a lot of Elliott’s runs have been snuffed out from the beginning, resulting in losses, no gains, or minimal gains. There are plenty of people to blame for that, but perhaps the biggest factor is the opposing defense. In Week One, the offensive line faced two defensive tackles who are outstanding against the run in Kawann Short and Dontari Poe. Short, in particular, is a defensive monster and his two sacks against the Cowboys last week prove it. He also ranks fourth in the NFL in tackles for loss since 2015 with 35, showcasing his ability to disrupt plays in the backfield. Poe, on the other hand , is a space-eating machine at 346 pounds. Somehow, though, Poe looks small compared to Giants nose tackle Damon Harrison, measuring in at 355 pounds. Harrison is an even more unstoppable space-eater than Short or Poe, and he was behind a lot of the Cowboys’ troubles running the ball on Sunday night. But the Cowboys have faced Harrison, Poe, and Short in the past and been able to run the ball. The difference this season is the absence of Frederick. Of course, Frederick is out indefinitely with Guillain-Barre syndrome, and although there’s no real time table on when he may return, the Cowboys felt confident enough to not place him on the Injured Reserve/Designated to Return list. And as previously mentioned, Looney has done a good enough job in his place. But good enough just isn’t going to cut it against the kind of All-Pro talent Looney has faced in the first two games, and the running game has suffered because of it. This next week, against the Seahawks, Looney will likely face another tough battle against Jarran Reed. After that, it’s going to be Da’Shawn Hand and A’Shawn Robinson of the Lions before things get really hard going against the Texans’ and Jaguars’ stout defensive fronts. The issue with this is that it takes away one of the Cowboys’ favorite type of run plays, the zone stretch concept, in which Elliott gets the option of cutting between the tackles, cutting outside, or possibly cutting back to the other side of the play. If the first option, going between the tackles, gets routinely taken away as it has thus far, it severely limits the things Elliott can do with the ball. Thus, the Cowboys will have to switch up their run game considerably unless Looney can start to play at an elite status or Frederick returns. This means more pulling blocks, pitches outside the tackles, and more runs out of the shotgun. Of course, more read-option stuff with successful QB keepers by Dak Prescott helps make the defensive line a little more hesitant as well. But if you noticed that a lot of the run plays from under center seemed to fizzle out Sunday night, this is why. It’s a testament to just how great Frederick is that an entire rushing attack can be so disrupted by his absence. When Looney first started getting extensive work in the preseason and looked solid, many people (myself included) seemed to think the Cowboys would be fine without the Bearded One. Through these first two games, though, it seems that idea was wrong. Frederick is vital to the success of Elliott, and if the Cowboys want to run the ball as successfully as they have in the past, Scott Linehan will need to make some changes going forward to more appropriately mask the temporary weakness. 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 Tyrone Crawford Jersey , 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.

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