Will Tennessee Titans hold a two-man or three-man competition at right tackle?

The Tennessee Titans possess two front-runners who are in the mix to open the 2024 campaign as the starting right tackle. Who else may join them?
Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers
Tennessee Titans v Pittsburgh Steelers / Michael Owens/GettyImages

The Tennessee Titans spent premium capital on improving the left side of their offensive line during free agency and the 2024 NFL Draft. No. 7 overall pick JC Latham will attempt to fill a multi-year hole at left tackle. Prized free-agent signing Lloyd Cushenberry is expected to solidify a line that is also expecting a second-year jump from left guard Peter Skoronski.

What is happening at right tackle remains far more mysterious. That is where legendary offensive line coach Bill Callahan can prove his worth. Callahan will be tasked with coaching up young developmental blockers that have struggled via limited action.

Third-year blocker Nicholas Petit-Frere is considered the in-house favorite to claim the starting job. A 2022 draft pick, Petit-Frere experienced the typical highs of and lows of a rookie offensive linemen, but managed to play 975 snaps.

The 2023 campaign was a complete disaster. Petit-Frere served a multi-game suspension for violating the league's gambling policy. When he made a mid-season return to the lineup, he was completely ineffective, earning a pass-pro grade of 27.8 from Pro Football Focus before suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in November. Petit-Frere is seemingly still rehabbing that injury, a development that is keeping him sidelined through organized team activities, according to head coach Brian Callahan.

Petit-Frere should be handed nothing this offseason. He was a top-75 pick of a previous general manager under a completely different regime and coaching staff. His on-field performance hasn't earned him guaranteed starter status. With that said, let's examine some of the alternative young players in competition to push Petit-Frere throughout training camp.

Jaelyn Duncan

Jaelyn Duncan is a sophomore sixth-rounder that never should have seen the field last season. Injuries and inconsistent play from other plays unfortunately catapulted him into a starting role. Duncan learned on the fly as PFF credited him with allowing 9.0 sacks and 36 pressures via just 207 pass-blocking snaps en route to a 29.2 protection grade.

It's a shame that Duncan wasn't on the field for the early portion of OTAs. He likely would have received first-team reps at right tackle in Petit-Frere's absence. I managed to confirm through independent sources that Duncan was present, which indicates he simply joined Petit-Frere in the rehab room.

Some would argue Duncan is a more naturally gifted blocker than Petit-Frere. The former Maryland standout earned a Relative Athletic Score of 9.44 throughout the 2023 pre-draft process. If Callahan can get Duncan playing his best football, he may be Tennessee's long-term solution at right tackle.

Who are the alternative options?

The two players that seem to possess an outside shot of pushing Duncan and Petit-Frere are Leroy Watson and John Ojukwu. Watson was acquired from the Cleveland Browns in a trade that reunited him with Callahan (the offensive line coach). Callahan coached Watson in Cleveland last season, even starting him during the Week 18 finale against the Cincinnati Bengals (where his son and Titans head coach Brian Callahan was serving as the offensive coordinator).

Ojukwu is a second-year undrafted free agent. He was impressing Mike Vrabel and staff last offseason before suffering an injury that prevented him from playing in the preseason. He couldn't earn an initial 53-man roster spot as a result, but the Titans kept him around all year long on the practice squad before promoting him later in the season.

With Petit-Frere and Duncan ruled incapable of physically participating in the early portion of OTA's, the Titans were forced to try another player at right tackle. Credentialed members of the media are barred from revealing who that player was, but Paul Kuharsky said on the May 24th episode of Robby & Rexrode that the remaining blocker "with the most seniority" was the one playing right tackle. That would seemingly indicate it was Ojukwu, not Watson.

The Titans are tasked with identifying which blocker can provide them with at least league-average play at right tackle. Petit-Frere seems like the likeliest choice, but players such as Duncan, Ojukwu, and Watson should provide competition. How well Tennessee's rebuilt offensive line performs in 2024 could partially hinge on the outcome at right tackle.