If you ask old school scouts what is required to field a championship contender, they will quickly tell you that it takes eight to twelve blue-chip players to compete for a title. This premise has been the standard for general managers around the league and I rely on it to help me identify the players to watch on game day.
With that in mind, let's identify the players to watch on the Cowboys' next opponent. Here's a quick report on the current blue-chip players for the Tennessee Titans, although with their unique situation where this game doesn't matter in the standings but they'll have a do-or-die game in Week 18, it's unlikely all of these guys will play against Dallas.
Derrick Henry, RB: The two-time NFL rushing champ remains the most feared runner in football due to his superior size, strength, and power. Measuring 6-foot-4, 247 pounds with long strides and a nasty stiff arm, Henry is a downhill runner who excels at running through defenders at the point of attack. Despite facing loaded boxes with eight- and nine defenders near the line of scrimmage, the Titans' RB1 routinely churns out 100-yard games, and his success steadies an offense that lives and dies with the running game.
Malik Willis, QB: The rookie quarterback is a five-star athlete with outstanding physical tools and arm talent. Although he has struggled from the pocket, Willis' raw ability makes him a threat to score from anywhere on the field as a runner or thrower.
Robert Woods, WR: Do not let the pedestrian numbers fool you. Woods is a crafty receiver with the route running ability and sticky hands to produce a big game on the perimeter. Although the Titans' quarterback play has limited his impact, the veteran is the Titans' No.1 option in the passing game, with a knack for moving the chains when given opportunities.
Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, WR: As the Titans' designated big play threat, Westbrook-Ikhine specializes in taking the top off of coverage on vertical routes. The 6-foot-2, 211-pound speedster averages 16-plus yards per catch and leads the wideouts with three receiving touchdowns. If the Cowboys fall asleep on the perimeter, No.15 can make them pay for their mistake with a big play on the outside.
Jeremy Simmons, DT: As a 300-plus pound "bull in a china shop", Simmons wreaks havoc on opponents at the line of scrimmage, utilizing a variety of power maneuvers to overwhelm blockers. The veteran destroys the running game with his "knockback" power but is at his best, harassing quarterbacks from his interior position. With 7.5 sacks and nine tackles for loss, the Titans' designated playmaker should command some added attention from the Cowboys' offensive line.
Kevin Byard, S: The instinctive ball hawk has a knack for snagging interceptions on tipped passes and overthrows, as evidenced by his 25 career interceptions. Byard's combination of range, anticipation and ball skills are showcased in a scheme that enables him to roam between the numbers as an "over the top" playmaker. Given Dak Prescott's recent turnover woes, the veteran safety could play a huge role in the Titans' defensive game plan.
DeMarcus Walker, DE: The underrated veteran has emerged as a major contributor as a complementary pass rusher. Walker's 6.5 sacks rank behind only Jeffery Simmons (7.5) in the lineup but he matches the all-star defensive tackle with nine tackles for loss. For a defense tasked with creating "splash plays" to off-set a dismal offense, the veteran's playmaking skills should merit some extra attention from Cowboys' coaching staff.