Tennessee Titans fans have become accustomed to quality play from their offensive linemen. Those expectations are even higher when the head coach and offensive line coach were both Hall of Fame offensive linemen for the franchise. Mike Munchak and Bruce Matthews know good offensive lines.
After last season, they also know when reinforcements are needed.
How much did the offensive line regress? From 2009-11, the Titans allowed a total of 66 sacks. That’s an average of 22 sacks per season. In 2012, they allowed 39 sacks. For the last two seasons, inconsistent run-blocking has been an issue.
Two interior offensive linemen are needed. Should Fernando Velasco remain at center or return to guard? Velasco moved to center after Eugene Amano tore his triceps during training camp. Pro Football Focus gave Velasco a 13.0 rating.
Let’s assume that Velasco moves to guard. Even in that scenario, the Titans need to replace Steve Hutchinson, who may retire. Leroy Harris and Amano shouldn’t get another opportunity to win a starting job. They’re fine for depth; not as starters.
The Titans are fortunate because they have many options to choose from. With the 10th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, numerous mock drafts have the Titans taking Chance Warmack from the University of Alabama.
Pro Football Focus has graded five unrestricted free agents with ratings of 11.2 or higher. Brandon Moore tops that list with a 21.3 rating. However, at age 33 (in June), Moore is on the downside of his career. The more-enticing option is the player who comes in second with a 17.3 rating: Andy Levitre.
Levitre spent his first four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. Since then, Levitre has yet to miss a start. He hasn’t missed a snap since 2010. His durability, versatility, athleticism, toughness and consistency have given him a reputation as one of the NFL’s best up-and-coming interior lineman.
Levitre should shore up the interior of the offensive line. However, does it make sense to pay big money for an offensive guard? For the Titans, it just might.
It’s more logical now that many defenses are switching to 3-4 alignments. AFC South teams must have good guards who can control Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt. While Michael Roos and David Stewart are concentrating on the outside linebackers, the guards must keep Watt out of the backfield. If the Titans don’t fix this problem, it could haunt them for the next decade.
Whether the Tennessee Titans spend on a proven asset or develop a rookie, it’s critical that they improve their guard play for 2013 and beyond.