The 2013 Tennessee Titans had some problems, and arguably the biggest one was up front. The offensive line was a major point of emphasis for the Titans the previous off-season, in which they brought in Andy Levitre to lock down the LG spot, and drafted Chance Warmack and Brian Schwenke to take over at RG and C respectively. The team also added veteran depth in Center, Rob Turner and the versatile Guard, Chris Spencer, to further bolster the line. In doing so, they successfully avoided the fate of the team that came before; the dreaded 2012 campaign which ended the season with one lone starter left standing on the offensive line.
So how did they fare? Well, not brilliantly if we are being honest. The running game faced similar issues as the year before, but pass pro was definitely improved, albeit with a lot of growth still to be made.
The first play below is from the Titans game in Seattle. The Hawks have a very deep D-line, and running yards were tough to come by. I picked this particular play because CJ makes the correct read here and sticks with his blocks. It is hard to evaluate line performance if the running back isn't following the play as designed, which was a prevalent problem in 2013.
The problem on this play is that Warmack, while positioning himself correctly, does not maintain leverage enough to create a big enough lane for CJ. The result is the RB darting through a tiny hole with no room to work. Also note that Roos blocks immediately to the second level, leaving the DE a free shot at CJ should he cut it back. Coupled with Taylor Thompson (acting as a FB) tripping trying to get through that previously mentioned "too small" gap, and you have a play going nowhere fast.
The next play is from the Rams game. This time the Titans run from the gun (with Walker to the far left of your screen and CJ to Locker's left.) Stewart and Warmack combo block inside to create an outside lane and Schwenke effectively blocks heads-up, maintaining a clean backfield against the 1-Tech NT. This space allows Levitre a clear path as he pulls back across the formation. Roos adeptly covers Levitre's tracks and blocks down.
Levitre makes this play with an excellent block on the OLB, and Walker does a good job to tie up the DB covering him and giving CJ some added space to work with. The rest is history.
For me, one of the biggest advantages will be going into next season with a healthy Brian Schwenke, who played very well when given the opportunity. He was slowed by an injury later in the year, but I have high hopes for the Titans Center. The rookie had this to say when given his chance to start:
"The way I see myself, I don’t think there’s a more physical player in the league," Schwenke said. "That’s how I go out there, thinking every single play, and whether it’s true or not, that’s a different story."
Former OC, Dowell Loggains had this to say about him:
"He’s big, solid, extremely athletic for his size, so when we play a 3-4 defense, the burden sometimes falls on the center to block the nose (tackle), so it’s a big challenge and we feel good about his ability to get that done," Loggains said.
I would say Schwenke did a fine job of just that.
We can see the progression from the Seattle game to this one against the Rams. This was the Titans best performance on the ground the entire year, and a lot of that stemmed from using the players on the O-line to their strengths. Too bad this effort from the O-line also coincided with a very poor one in pass protection.
The group as a whole was very hot and cold in their performances across the board. The play below from week 3 in San Diego showed some struggles, especially on the right side of the line. Warmack gets overpowered by the 1-Tech DT, and is worked back into Locker. The left side of the line picks up their assignments fairly well, with Rob Turner and Levitre combo-blocking. Roos gets worked back on the bull rush and eventually loses leverage, though.
David Stewart is the killer here. He gets badly beaten by the edge speed rush, which forces Locker to Houdini his way out of the pocket. More often than not, this play is a sack.
2014 and Beyond
The line has some work to do to improve in 2014. The first part of that is fixing the basics, like the running game. With an off-season to work out the kinks and play as a unit, this part of the Titans' game should improve. Warmack and Schwenke go into next year as the clear starters with likely a new RT next to them. In the passing game, it is hard to say how the new Titans offense will look next season, especially with Whisenhunt running the show. I expect a lot of changes on that side of the ball.
I expect a lot more out of this line next season, both on the ground and in pass pro, and will be looking for these young guys to take the proverbial next step. The talent is clearly there for this Titans offensive line to be a top group again; it's up to Whisenhunt and co. to make that a reality.