The State Of The Tennessee Titans Offensive Line


(Note: Pro Football Focus performance grades referenced from here. These performance grades aren’t the be-all and end-all, but are a great resource.)

For over a decade or so, the Tennessee Titans have been able to bank on their offensive line being an above average unit. Whether it be as hole openers for Chris Johnson or pocket protecters keeping Steve McNair clean, a good offensive line was a constant for the franchise. The days of Michael Roos, David Stewart and Kevin Mawae are now well over, and we have recently been blessed with the likes of Rob Turner, Mike Otto and Michael Oher.

Though the past two seasons haven’t produced a stellar offensive line, they certainly haven’t produced a bad one. The potential for a top-notch unit has been apparent, albeit coming at a cost that has raised questions about the aptitude of GM Ruston Webster. A massive contract handed out to a left guard in Andy Levitre and a subsequent 10th overall pick spent on a right guard in Chance Warmack have brought the results expected from both players. But the capital invested in both, especially at a position that is considered devalued in the modern NFL, has resulted in less overall talent at more important skill positions.

More from Titans News

Then came the Oher contract, a “blindsided” (sorry) money throw-away that resulted in an underachieving offensive tackle getting paid $6 million to get our quarterbacks killed for not even one whole season, accomplishing the 10th-lowest grade among all eligible OTs, before being released in the offseason. Along with the retirement of Michael Roos, there are some serious question marks pertaining to the Titans offensive line.

This much we know: Taylor Lewan is the starting left tackle; Andy Levitre is the starting left guard; Chance Warmack is the starting right guard.

Then it gets a little fuzzy, with a bunch of guys competing for two starting spots and a few backup jobs.

Byron Bell, Byron Stingily and Jeremiah Poutasi seem to be competing for the starting right tackle spot. Pardon me for not being tingly inside about this competition, but I don’t see any of these guys making a positive impact on any game. In fact, they will probably end up making a negative one. Bell graded out (according to PFF) as one of the worst offensive tackles in football last year with the Carolina Panthers, while Stingily struggled with pass rushers, allowing 14 total pressures over four starts. Poutasi is a rookie and may have the most potential, but his Pass Blocking Efficiency Rating of 96.8 ranked him 46th in his draft class and he had the 194th “best” run blocking grade among all OTs in college football last season. Not exactly what you want to hear about your third round pick.

I’m a yin and yang kind of guy, so let me splash some optimism on this flurry of negativity I just brought on.

Two of our undrafted free agent signings may play a big part in our immediate future: Quinton Spain and Josue Matias (I mean, what a great last name). Both are rather well-known in college circles and have plenty of talent. But as is the case with NFL teams, late round picks appear to be too valuable to use on talented players with some injury history. Matias failed multiple teams’ physicals and Spain has had a bit of a knee problem. If healthy, both of these guys can be starters in this league. The problem is they both play guard. But at their large sizes, a move to right tackle for either one seems like a very real possibility, which would help us solve one problem on the line. At the very least, they’ll provide really good depth at guard.

The other problem is at the center position.

Brian Schwenke was not good last year, which was disappointing considering he performed well in his 2013 rookie year. Maybe he can turn it around. Sixth round draft pick Andy Gallik might be able to poach a starting job, as many draft pundits believed he was one of the best centers in this year’s draft. Someone to watch for is newly signed Fernando Velasco, who was quite possibly our best offensive lineman during the 2012 season. Maybe Andy Levitre will move to center and we can stick one of Matias or Spain at that vacant left guard position.

Whatever the coaching staff decides to do with the holes on the offensive line, it’s essential that they get it right. There’s potential in the young and veteran talent on the team, and that talent needs to be maximized, whether it result in two rookies starting or two cast-off veterans starting or a position change for a high-quality guard. For the sake of our entire offense and the progression of a limitless rookie quarterback, the right choices need to be made.

Next: 5 Things We Learned From OTAs