After seeing the progress of Jake Locker, the excellent play of the new offensive line, the return of our running game, and the emergence of our receiving corp, I began to ask myself what other team this one looked like. Then it hit me: the Dallas Cowboys of the 1990's.
Bear with me here. Let's look at the pieces.
What Was Really Great About The '90's Cowboys
Everyone knows about the Triplets: Troy, Emmitt and Michael. But the real strength of that team was its offensive line. The '90's Cowboys offensive line was arguably the best that has ever played in the modern era. It was so dominant that anything the offense wanted to do would happen. It got so good that they began to get arrogant about it (remember Barry Switzer's ill-chosen decision to go for it on 4th down?). If you have a front line that is that consistent, it makes not only stars out of your skill players, it makes Hall of Famers out of them.
In a few short games in this preseason, we have watched that offensive line of ours gel into a fine unit. These guys are new to each other, yet they play like they've worked together for years. Just look at the massive improvement in our running game alone. They generally dominate the line of scrimmage, and from this all can flow. I believe that this line could be the best in this coming decade, so long as unforeseen events do not occur. Given that, look at the other pieces.
You Don't Have To Be A Star, Baby
What was Troy Aikman? He had the talent and will to put a team on his shoulders. But look at his numbers. He did not do this. He was, instead, the King of the Game Managers. Why? Because he knew that all he needed to do was to control the pacing of the game, keep the score up, then keep handing it to Emmitt. By the 4th quarter, the other team was ready to throw in the towel.
Jake Locker is built to do just this. More mobile than Aikman, he can use both his arm and legs to keep the chain moving. His decision-making, accuracy and efficiency have greatly improved. If this progress carries over into the season, several dynamics will come into play; the Titans will be able to dictate pacing and the clock, limiting the opportunities for opponents, and they will be able to demoralize them, starting with their defenses, by scoring consistently on most drives. Teams that don't believe they can win won't, and that was what the Cowboys did to their opponents.
Strike Early, Strike Often... But Especially Strike Consistently
So the next key for the Cowboys was keeping that score up early. Michael Irvin was an incredible deep threat, and allowed the Cowboys to strike early and often. Do we have a Michael Irvin? That, I'm not sure about, but if I had to choose between him and some palookas, or Britt, Washington, Wright & Hunter, I'm going with the crew with lots of above-average talent. CJ is our Emmit Smith, and he demands attention. There isn't enough players to put 8 in the box for CJ and still cover all these guys.
This makes Jake's job much easier, just like it did for Aikman & Irvin. It would be really nice to see Britt or one of the others emerge as a central threat, but that may not be necessary. If Jake can drive the ball down the field, control the clock, and consistently create a good TD/FG ratio, the tidal forces on opposing defenses will make them break.
The Cowboys offensive stars were their front line. Ours is too, plus CJ as our ground threat. Troy Aikman didn't have to play up to his potential, and Irvin only had to be great in the first half. I think our offensive has just his kind of makeup.
Where's Deon Sanders When You Need Him?
So, are the Titans going on a Super Bowl tear this year? That I can't say. The '90s Cowboys needed two other pieces: Deon Sanders and Charles Haley. Right now, the only Titan hinting at dominance on defense is Jurrell Casey.
But, ask me what the future holds? I see good things this year. In the coming years, I can also see a Lombardi Trophy or two. Maybe even some yellow jackets as well.