Tennessee Titans offensive line is AFC South’s second-best per experts

Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports)
Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports) /

Football cliches tend to hang around for years. That’s why, as Tennessee Titans fans, you’ve heard them so often, and, for the most part, that’s why those same cliches have often proven to be true. You’ve heard that “offense sells tickets and defense wins championships” and “a quarterback’s best friend is a strong running game”, right? That’s pretty good football advice right?

Here’s something else that always tends to work at all levels of football, winning in the trenches. Year after year, all 32 NFL teams, the Titans included, invest into both their offensive and defensive line. Why? It’s simple. They do that because it works.

Look at it this way. If those guys aren’t doing their jobs, it won’t matter if Ryan Tannehill has A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Michael Irvin, and Jerry Rice to throw the ball to. He won’t have the time to get the ball there. If the offensive line is performing, Derrick Henry won’t run for 1,000 yards on the season. Thankfully, Tennessee has a great group in Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, and Nate Davis.

They also have two great options who will battle it out for the right tackle position in Kendall Lamm and Dillon Radunz. Recently, the Titans’ O-line finished in the top half of the league in Pro Football Focus’ ranking of all 32 units. They landed at 14. That’s one spot better than where they landed in 2020. Here’s some of what Steve Palazzolo, the writer of this one, had to say.

"The Tennessee offensive line finished sixth in run-blocking grade (77.5) but just 25th in pass-blocking grade (59.4). That all evened out to the number 15 offensive line in our final rankings.Left tackle Taylor Lewan returns after playing just 239 snaps last season. He’s been one of the better left tackles in the NFL, grading out at 75.0 or better in all six years of his career prior to an injury-shortened 2020.Right tackle became an issue for the Titans after the team released 2020 first-rounder Isaiah Wilson, who played just three snaps with the team. The battle will involve Kendall Lamm and Ty Sambrailo, though the Titans would surely like second-rounder Dillon Radunz to win the job. Radunz is an explosive athlete who projects well in Tennessee’s zone-heavy system. The only question mark is his lack of experience in pass protection. He saw only 215 true pass sets in his three years at North Dakota State."

So far, so good. Here’s where Palazzolo stands on everyone else.

"Left guard Rodger Saffold is as dependable as they come, grading out at 70.0 or better in each of his past five seasons. Like the other Titans, Saffold was better in the run game than in pass protection last season. It’s a similar story for right guard Nate Davis, who posted a 72.6 run-blocking grade (13th) but just a 52.6 pass-blocking grade (60th).Center Ben Jones has graded “in the green” in all nine years of his NFL career, and he finished with the No. 5 grade among centers (78.6) last season. The Titans’ offensive line should excel in the run game once again in 2021, but the unit must get better in the pass game if it’s to get back into the top 10."

The Tennessee Titans don’t house the AFC South’s second-best line, or do they?

Finishing ahead of the Tennessee Titans were 14 teams. The Cleveland Browns topped the list. The third through 14th-best teams landed in this order: New England Patriots, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Dallas Cowboys, Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions, Arizona Cardinals, Baltimore Ravens, Buffalo Bills.

Tennessee’s rivals, the Indianapolis Colts, landed at number two. Their lineup features some guys that the Titans know well (Eric Fisher, Quenton Nelson, Ryan Kelly, Mark Glowinski, and Braden Smith). In the two games that these two proud franchises played against one another in 2020, they split the season series.

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In their first meeting, Tennessee’s O-line gave up a sack while helping the offense to 133 net passing yards, 297 net passing yards, and 17 points in the loss. In the second meeting, a 19-point win for the Tennessee Titans where they scored 45 points, the offensive line delivered, helping the team to 28 first downs, 229 yards rushing, and 220 yards passing. Titans fans are hoping for a sweep in 2021. If they earn one, it will be because of this offensive line. They’ve got a great one to depend on.