Titans still need Lewan, Saffold despite great effort by O-line

Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
Taylor Lewan, Tennessee Titans. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

Call the Tennessee Titans’ offensive line a boomerang because it’s bounced back from every challenge it’s faced this season.

First, the quickly-lost trench war against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1 that was so ugly that Tennessee’s players had to apologize to their fans on Twitter.

Then, losing left tackle Taylor Lewan and guard Rodger Saffold in Week 2 and still providing enough protection for Derrick Henry to run his way to a victory at Lumen Field.

In a press conference on Monday, head coach Mike Vrabel didn’t give an update on Lewan’s and Saffold’s recovery and stated that the team will “know more as we work our way through the week.” Yet Vrabel was quick to praise the current state of the Titans’ 0-line in Lewan’s and Saffold’s absence:

"I can’t say enough about that group. They battled, they competed. That’s who we are, man. At the end of the game they are picking themselves off the ground. They got us a couple of times on some pressures … that we have to be better on, but they gave us a chance to win. That unit gave us a chance to win."

Tennessee Titans can’t afford to lose Lewan and Saffold for rest of the season

And win they did. Ty Sambrailo stepped in for Lewan and Aaron Brewer for Saffold, and both played their respective positions admirably. Right tackle David Quessenberry has also proved reliable at right tackle and seems to have won the starting spot for now.

Those players’ efforts alone won’t be enough, though. Tennessee need Lewan and Saffold to come back as soon as possible since their current offensive line’s state simply isn’t sustainable.

Lewan and Saffold’s combined 18 years of experience in the NFL have sculpted the Titans’ O-line into the indomitable unit that allowed just 25 sacks in 2020, tied for the sixth-fewest number of sacks allowed in the NFL.

Against Arizona in Week 1, the O-line was anything but elite. Indomitable? More like “utterly dominated by the Cardinals’ pass-rushers including that one man who must not be named.” But one stinking performance does not a stinking player make. Lewan and Saffold’s careers precede them, and they must still be counted on to win games for Tennessee.

To give the current O-line due credit, Sambrailo, Brewer, and others did pave the way for Henry to rush for 182 yards and three touchdowns against Seattle. But the single-game sample size is just too small to expect them to do the same over and over this season.

The sooner Lewan and Saffold return to the starting lineup, the better.

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Mike Vrabel might not be able to say it in public, but he’s thinking it, and all the Titans are, too. The offensive line just isn’t the same without its star players. The others guys may indeed give Tennessee a chance to win, but having Lewan and Saffold back in the fold gives the team the best chance of topping the division and hopefully achieving even more.