Tennessee Titans 2016 Season Grades: Offensive Line
Next up in the grading system for the 2016 season is the offensive line.
After a brutal rollercoaster under the watchful eye of Ken Whisenhunt, the Tennessee Titans offensive line finally returned to its dominant form with Mike Mularkey. Not since Chris Johnson’s 2,000 yard season have the Titans been able to feel so confident about their offensive line as they head into the next season.
Note: all penalty statistics taken from NFLPenalties.com
The only reason Lewan didn’t get an A+ was his penchant for penalties. He racked up a whopping 12 flags throughout the year. One of them was a possible season killer (not at the time) in Week Two, when he dove into an Oakland Raiders defender after the play and put the Titans in a bvery tough position to tie the game late. All that said, he was outstanding this year and earned his first Pro Bowl nod. Lewan has lived up to the hype since being drafted in 2014.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I didn’t particularly care for the Conklin draft pick. The Titans traded up to draft him and Laremy Tunsil was also there to be had. Tunsil seemed to have more potential and a game that translated better to the NFL, but Conklin shut me and many others up with a rookie season that earned him All-Pro honors. There were instances where Conklin got pushed back a bit too easily in pass protection, but that can be corrected as he goes into just his second season. The Titans are set at tackle for the next decade.
After showing promise in six games in 2015, Spain won the starting left guard job outright in the following offseason and was a key figure in the rejuvenation of the Titans offensive line in 2016. A sometimes immovable mammoth at 6’4″ and 330 lbs., Spain consistently stalled and pushed back defensive linemen during an impressive sophomore campaign. After getting carted off in Week 7 with what looked to be a bad knee injury, he returned in just two weeks and battled through the final half of the season. Going into next year fully healthy, Spain is deservedly entrenched as the starting left guard.
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Kline was scooped up off waivers from the New England Patriots just three days before the season began. After being inactive for the first two weeks, Kline assumed the starting right guard spot after Warmack went down and proved to be a major upgrade to the disappointing Alabama product. While good for most of the year, Kline faded a bit down the stretch. He performed poorly in the season-ending loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and it was his blown blocking assignment that resulted in Marcus Mariota getting injured. Overall, though, he’s shown the ability to be a solid starter in this league. Whether the Titans choose to upgrade this offseason is another story.
Signed to a four-year deal in the offseason to bring stability at, arguably, the most important position on the offensive line, Jones was solid, consistent, and durable. Had enough of the cliches? Well, I’m sorry, but all of the NFL offensive line stereotypes apply to Jones. He’s a hard worker and a mauler and does everything right. He has a slight bad temper (3 penalties for 35 yards), but you can look past it because of his above average play. At 27 years old, Jones will be in his prime throughout his Titans contract.
Schwenke was forced into action from Weeks 7 to 10 and performed admirably. A traditional center, Schwenke was deployed as a left guard and more than held his own. The running game kept on chugging along, and the Titans offense put up a ridiculous amount of points during that span. He also didn’t commit a single penalty all year. He’s proven to be a very capable guard and center, and is needed for insurance in case Jones or Spain/Kline go down at any point.
Some fans want Warmack back because they’re chasing the potential he showed in 2014, but he has been awful since. He struggled mightily and was the main weak link on the line before going down after Week Two. I don’t see a reason to bring him back, and he’ll go down as another Ruston Webster bust of a draft pick.
Kelly was acquired for fellow Ruston Webster draft bust Dorial Green-Beckham before the season began. The primary backup offensive tackle took over for either Lewan or Conklin on 145 snaps and didn’t make a positive impression. Whenever he came into games, pass rushers routinely beat him and forced Mariota into uncomfortable situations. He also committed two penalties in his low number of reps. The Titans might be better off looking for a different swing tackle.
Tretola played just three snaps throughout what was essentially a redshirt season. He’ll have a chance to push Kline for a starting job next season, but it’s not likely he’ll be much more than a backup for the immediate future.