Cowboys Wary Of Titans' Speed

IRVING, Tex. - At this time a year ago, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah was a star defensive back at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, a Div. II school in the town of Indiana, Penn. (about 50 miles from Pittsburgh).

What a difference a year makes. Last year, Owusu-Ansah looked like the Div. II version of Charles Woodson, a do-everything star who excelled on defense and special teams, and was the best athlete on the field in almost every game in which he played.

Fast-forward a year. Owusu-Ansah is now a special teamer and backup safety for the Dallas Cowboys, and is getting ready to face a Tennessee Titans team that boasts a pair of rare athletes, the likes of which he never saw in college. Last year, running back Chris Johnson ran for more than 2,000 yards and is widely considered to be among the fastest pure sprinters in the entire league. Quarterback Vince Young is still developing as a passer, but has rare speed and athletic ability for a quarterback. Each can score, or at least make huge plays, almost any time he touches the ball.

It's safe to say Owusu-Ansah never saw anything like Johnson or Young while playing for IUP.

"He's incredible to watch on film," Owusu-Ansah said of Johnson. "What you notice about him is that he's really not the kind of back who's going to pick up six yards, then six yards, then eight yards. He's going to get one yard, two yards … and then break a long one, and when he breaks it, his speed is amazing."

The common assumption about fast backs like Johnson is that their speed somehow allows them to survive in the violent world of professional football despite a perceived lack of durability. But Johnson averaged more than 22 carries per game last year; this year, that average has gone up to 23.5 carries per game.

"Everyone looks at his speed," Owusu-Ansah said, "but his durability might be even more impressive. He's not the biggest guy we'll see (Johnson is listed at 5-11, 191), but he gets a lot of carries, and he does a lot with them."

Young is off to the best start of his five-year career, having completed 66.2 percent of his passes through Tennessee's first four games, but Owusu-Ansah said the Cowboys still would rather try to contain Johnson and Young's running ability and make him prove he can beat the Dallas with his arm rather than his feet.

"He's amazingly athletic," Owusu-Ansah said. "We know that when he scrambles, he scrambles to throw, and we know that when he runs, he's really dangerous. We've got to watch out for that, because he can really hurt you."

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