It’s been a rough stretch for Titans right tackle and former first round pick Jack Conklin. Once a First Team All-Pro selection in his rookie season, he’s gone from the success of his rookie season to not having his fifth-year option.
This leaves Conklin in a “prove it” situation, and 2019 is now a contract year for him. The year of 2018 was an injury plagued one for him, as he tore his ACL against the Patriots last January, suffered a concussion against the Cowboys, and then sustained a knee injury in Week 14 against the Jaguars, ultimately ending his season.
Conklin’s clearly seen better days in the NFL, but whether he’s been healthy or not, he hasn’t had the same success he experienced in 2016. Though (somewhat) in his defense, he’s had less help on his side of the line in recent years.
In Mike Mularkey’s run heavy offense, Conklin didn’t have to worry much about pass blocking. He would constantly get a second blocker helping him on his side, contributing to the smaller amount of pressures he would allow as in comparison to games beyond his rookie season.
With his situation being that much easier, Conklin wasn’t asked to do an overwhelming amount, so the perception on his rookie season really warped things, as he was (as aforementioned) selected to First Team All-Pro.
Unfortunately, thanks in part to injuries Conklin is not producing the same efficiency he had early in his career. Aside from that however I think he’s struggled significantly as a pass blocker in an offense that demanded more individual efforts on his part.
Some sites had Conklin as an above average pass blocker in 2018, but personally I didn’t really see that. Take this snap at Houston for example.
Notice how awkward Conklin’s feet look off the snap going up against Chris Covington.
That lack of balance works against Conklin’s favor, and he’s easily overwhelmed by Covington...
...resulting in Conklin himself KOing Marcus Mariota for the sack. Let’s see how it looks below.
Yeah, this doesn’t inspire much confidence. Let’s look at some more clips below.
Conklin struggled early on against the Cowboys on Monday Night, and DeMarcus Lawrence was contributing heavy pressure on his side.
It’s not a contest here. Lawrence has much more power than Conklin on this play, and the tackle’s footwork is once again undisciplined.
This is not something you’d expect from someone who was a member of the All-Pro team two years prior to this snap. With that said, let’s look at the full clip.
Notice how left tackle Taylor Lewan’s footwork is much cleaner than Conklin’s. While the edge rusher Lewan is guarding gets to Mariota as well, the overwhelming pressure Lawrence creates against Conklin leaves the QB no choice but to move left, but he’s wrapped up for the sack anyway.
This time, this particular sack happens against Jets edge rusher Jordan Jenkins.
Right off the snap Conklin’s footwork once again doesn’t look natural.
Jenkins executes an effortless rip move against Conklin...
...leaving Mariota falling to the ground again.
So it’s no wonder the Titans will not pick up Conklin’s fifth-year option. Most of the Titans offensive line struggled big time in 2018, so he’s not alone at fault, but Conklin’s ability out of a run blocking environment—as well as athleticism sapping injuries—have turned him into a major liability in pass protection. With more time to heal, Tennessee is banking on him potentially rebounding in 2019.
There are some signs indicating that the Titans are focusing on giving Derrick Henry more touches, as that was the game plan in the final quarter of the 2018 season. Conklin’s ability as a run blocker was definitely really good in his rookie season, so perhaps this move will make his contract year look better.
Still, unless anything major happens in 2019, I would let Jack Conklin walk and draft a right tackle. Many fans have called for backup Dennis Kelly to start over him, and if Conklin continues to struggle and not stay on the field, that just might end up being the case. I do want to see how he performs healthy with the stakes high against him, but right now I’m not optimistic in his ability to protect Marcus Mariota.