The Titans offensive line hasn’t done a great job blocking for the run or protecting Marcus Mariota this season. Dion Lewis is only averaging 3.4 yards per attempt, good for 39th in the league. The Titans have also given up the 5th most sacks in the league at 33. These numbers come as a bit of a surprise given how good the Titans have been on the offensive line in recent years. There clearly is a problem now, and today, I want to identify it and figure out how the O-Line issues can be fixed.
Taylor Lewan’s play this year has been up and down, however it is clear he is the best lineman the Titans have. With Lewan having signed a massive extension this summer, he is a clear long term piece the Titans have available. When healthy, he remains one of the top tackles in the league. Jack Conklin’s season has been rough, and that’s pretty surprising given his early success in the NFL. Conklin has been beat on numerous plays on speed rushes, which poses the question: Is Conklin’s knee injury from the AFC Divisional round still bothering him? He tore his ACL on his left knee, which as a right tackle is the knee he uses to push off in pass blocking situations. If Conklin can’t get the same initial push he did in his first two years, that may be a problem going forward for the talented young tackle. Dennis Kelly, the backup tackle, has looked good this season. He is someone to keep in mind as the season unfolds.
The interior of the Titans’ offensive line has been the weak spot recently. The eye test would say that Quinton Spain is the best of the group, however Pro Football Focus has him at a 66.1 season grade, lower than center Ben Jones, who has a 71.3. Jones doesn’t appear to have played that well and he’s certainly someone who may be replaced in the offseason. Right Guard Josh Kline has been average at best this season. He signed a 4 year, 26 million dollar deal this offseason. As the offensive switched to more of a zone blocking scheme, Titans management felt that the change would benefit Kline, who is a good athlete. This theory was proven incorrect as Kline is having the worst season of his career according to PFF. The Titans can cut Kline after next season and eat 1 million dollars, which would be the smart move to get them out of a bad contract. All in all, the interior of the offensive line needs improvement.
How to fix offensive line woes
Step 1 – Evaluate Jack Conklin’s knee issues. If damage is irreversible and he will never regain all his athleticism, kick him inside to guard.
It’s very sad to think that Conklin could possible have lost his kick on the outside, however if he can’t regain lateral athleticism, he can be a good fit at guard. If Conklin can continue to get healthier, I still believe he has a ton of potential to be a bookend tackle in the NFL.
Invest draft capital
The Colts used a first round pick and a second round pick in this past years’ draft to select two plug and play guards, Quenton Nelson and Braden Smith. Guards are very easily projectable to the NFL: Most guards drafted in the late first round-early second round grade will become at least solid starters.We hear the term “plug and play” used a lot for offensive lineman, and the Titans should look to add a guard through the draft with one of their top 2 picks. Specifically, Cody Ford from Oklahoma has been excellent this season as a right tackle, but will be a guard in the NFL.
Any other ideas for how to improve the O-Line? Let me know!