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Do the Titans have a position battle forming at right guard?

The Titans appear to be experimenting with their interior line combinations.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Houston Texans Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans offensive line was a major strength during the 2016 season as they ranked among the top three lines in the NFL along with the Cowboys and the Raiders according to most analysts and statisticians. It was also fairly unanimous that if there was a weak link in the very strong chain, it was right guard Josh Kline.

Kline was claimed off of waivers from the Patriots just before the start of last season and was expected to be a backup interior lineman, but was pressed in to action after Chance Warmack was injured during the second game of the year. He proved to be an upgrade over Warmack, but according to former Titans Director of Player Personnel, Blake Beddingfield, he is viewed as more of a 6th lineman on most teams and was largely protected by the stellar play of Ben Jones and Jack Conklin on either side of him last year. Keep in mind that that viewpoint comes from a guy who is very familiar with the thoughts of the current front office and coaching staff.

This evaluation is supported by some stats that I found while spending entirely too much time on (which is a great site for football nerds like me). The Titans ran the ball really well in 2016 pretty much everywhere except for behind Josh Kline according to the charts below.

Sharp Football
Sharp Football

At 6’-3” tall and 300 pounds, Kline is a small guard by today’s NFL standards. He wins with technique, not brute strength, and that’s fine, but it also doesn’t really fit with the Titans MO as an offensive line. He isn’t built to be a mauler in the run game and it makes sense that the team would struggle to run the ball behind him more than guys like Lewan, Spain, and Conklin.

With that background it was interesting to me that Tyler Marz, a 2016 UDFA out of Wisconsin who spent all of last season on the Titans practice squad, came in to the first preseason game at right guard during the 4th series of the game with the first team offensive line still in the game while Josh Kline bumped inside to center. Marz is listed as a tackle by the team and has been operating primarily as the second team left tackle during camp, but now appears to be getting some looks at guard as well. We know that the Titans love big, physical offensive linemen and Marz fits that profile as a 6’-7” and 316 pound product of the Wisconsin School for Mauling Offensive Lineman (I believe that is the school’s official name).

If it had just been that preseason rotation, I would have chalked it up to not much of anything, but this morning David Boclair of the Nashville Post mentioned on The Wakeup Zone on 104.5 that he noticed both Marz and Tim Lelito rotating in with the first team guards during yesterday’s practice with the Panthers. I didn’t pick up on that when I was out there, but if that’s true that sounds like the coaching staff is at least interested to see what those guys look like in the starting group. You can listen to the audio here. The offensive line talk starts around the 6:00 mark.

During the spring many of us thought that the Titans would bring in competition for Kline, but that talked fizzled after the team signed Tim Lelito and drafted Corey Levin late. Neither of them seemed like a clear upgrade to Kline on the surface and if you aren’t upgrading you would prefer to maintain continuity among your starting line. Marz was mostly an afterthought heading in to camp, but it seems like his stock is on the rise right now. I’m not ready to call this a full scale position battle until we see more or hear it from Mularkey himself, but it is a situation that is worth watching as we move forward towards the start of the season.