New Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt took the San Diego Chargers from a bottom 5 offense to a the top 5 statistically in all but one season. An aberration? Not likely. His record from Arizona speaks to the same improvements. We've touched on some of the new trends we are likely to see in the Titans 2014 offense compared to those of the Munchak era, and indeed we could talk all day about how the new schemes affect the skill positions; the wideouts, tight ends, running backs, and Quarterbacks. But my focus today is on the unsung heroes on the front line, in the trenches.
Evaluating offensive lines can be, admittedly, a tricky business. For a casual fan watching at home, it's a lot harder than you'd think. The Titans have spent a lot of time and resources in rebuilding their offensive line over the past few years, an attempt to get back to the upper echelons of the league where the team had it's greatest volume of success.
After being spoiled with the likes of David Stewart, Kevin Mawae, Michael Roos, etc, over the past decade, Titans fans faced unfamiliar territory over the past few years when the line began to fall apart. In fact, prior to 2013, the Titans were one of only two NFL franchises to not have drafted an offensive linemen in the first three rounds of the draft for over 5 seasons, a stunningly low 7% of their draft picks in that span. Whether that was testament to the group's success and high level of talent, or purely out of benign neglect, is up to the observer's opinion.
That all changed over the past two seasons. Tennessee have added Chance Warmack at Right Guard, Andy Levitre at the left, Taylor Lewan and Michael Oher at the tackle spots, and Brian Schwenke in the middle. They have also kept around guys like Chris Spencer and Byron Stingily, who are more than capable of playing at a high level in a pinch. With Michael Roos still manning the left side of the formation admirably, the Titans have an offensive line that, on paper, figures to be flush with talent. Beyond this, excluding Roos the group is young, very young in fact, with an average age of 26.4, and that is with Michael Oher at RT over rookie Taylor Lewan. With Lewan, it's a youthful 25.2.
I wrote earlier in the off-season about the likely changes we'll see in Ken Whisenhunt's revamped offensive system. for the Titans. In the passing game, we are looking at more of a rhythm and quick release game, incorporating the running backs as outlet receivers as well. While this takes the proverbial heat of off Jake Locker, it also makes the job in the trenches all the more simple. With maulers like Warmack and Lewan, and technicians like Levitre and Roos, holding the walls up for 2-3 seconds should be an easier task than defending the QB on more consistent five step drops. The prevalence of the shotgun in Whisenhunt's passing attack should also help both parties as well.
Tennessee should be in good shape whether they decide to play Lewan (as I think they should) in 2014 or not, and with a system designed to take the pressure off their shoulders, they should be able to perform at a high level. The more this young line can progress this season, the better chance the Titans have of taking their football back into January.