One of the best things about OTAs (aside from football finally being sorta back) is that you can judge how serious the team is about starting certain players based on the snaps they hand out. For example, Fernando Velasco and Rob Turner have taken all the first team reps at center, leaving Brian Schwenke with the "B" team.
With a new OC and blocking system in place it won't matter what each player did last year, and there will be open competition between all three players for the starting job.
So what does each center bring to the table? More importantly, what are the odds for each player to start against the Steelers on opening weekend? Here are my thoughts on the competition.
Rob Turner 6'4" 308 lb.
-Exceptional in pass protection. Only allowed one sack in 2012 in the division with the best defenses in the league: the NFC West.
-Does a good enough job getting outside on screen plays, though not as good as Schwenke.
-Poor run blocker.
-Had an ankle injury in 2011 caused him to miss the entire season.
Chances to starts: 5%: Saying that it is impossible for him to start isn't fair given how good he was as a pass blocker in 2012, but a past injury and his deficiencies as a run blocker are substantial marks against him. The Titans can't afford to have a poor run blocker start in the new offense, so I expect he will find a spot on the roster as an above average backup.
Brian Schwenke 6'3" 314 lb.
-He is young (six years younger than bother other possible centers) and he seems to have good chemistry with Chance Warmack. Munchak is a huge believer in putting together a cohesive OL, and starting two rookies who can develop together makes sense.
-Outstanding pulling center, and can really block well on the move.
-Aggressive and feisty center that loves to knock people off their feet.
-He was the Titans #1 rated center in the 2013 NFL Draft.
-He is a rookie and so far the Titans haven't given him any reps at 1st team center.
-Doesn't have overwhelming strength, but relies on his quickness and technique to finish blocks.
Chances to start: 70%: Drafting a center in the fourth round isn't a huge move, but publicly saying that he was your top rated center in the draft and the taking him over value picks at other positions of need is significant. The Titans are expected to move to a full zone-blocking scheme which means speed and technique are king. With that in mind, the idea of having three nasty interior players that move well may be too much for Mathews and Muchack to resist.
Fernando Velasco 6'4" 312 lb.
-He is technically the incumbent starter.
-Probably the best run blocker of the bunch one-on-one.
-Allowed 0 sacks in 2012.
-Not a great mover, and could struggle to reach slimmer DTs.
-Hasn't shown the ability to get out in front and block for screens like Schwenke and Turner have.
-Never really seemed on the same page as Locker which lead to some mistimed snaps that resulted in turnovers.
Chances to start: 25%: I am a big Velasco fan, but this system puts him at a disadvantage. Velasco plays best in man-blocking situations and does a good job sealing off defensive linemen from that position. Unfortunately this scheme may ask him to move up to the linebacker and wall him off and I am just not confident that he can do that consistently.