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Taylor Lewan suspension provides unique challenge for Arthur Smith

NFL: Tennessee Titans-Minicamp Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, Titans LT Taylor Lewan is facing a 4 game suspension after he tested positive for a banned substance.

Many thoughts went through my head after the news came out. The first of which is how the Titans will now have to cope without their Pro Bowl LT at the beginning of a grueling schedule that will put them up against some of the league’s premier pass rushers such as Myles Garrett, Yannick Ngakoue and Jadeveon Clowney (if the last two end their holdouts anytime soon).

I then thought of how the Titans dealt with similar issues across the o-line to open up the season last year. Tyler Marz and Kevin Pamphile started at the tackle positions in a miraculous week 2 win vs. the Texans partially due to a special teams touchdown. The team was dealing with absences to Lewan, Jack Conklin and Dennis Kelly at that point.

The Titans have plenty of time to figure out what combination of five offensive linemen best offsets Lewan’s absence for 25% of the regular season. They’ll get all of training camp and four pre-season games to formulate a plan.

They’ll also have plenty of options thanks to some of the position versatility held by some of the reserve linemen on the roster. Both Kelly and Pamphile have experience playing inside and outside. Either one of them could realistically play LT in Lewan’s absence.

My guess is that Kelly plays LT and Pamphile opens up the season as the starting RG, but the training camp performance of Nate Davis, Corey Levin, Aaron Stinnie and Tyler Marz could have something to say about that. Finding the right five will be key to the team’s early season success.

That brought me to my next thought and perhaps the most interesting fallout of all this.

Arthur Smith is going to be tested right out of the gate.

I’m not sure there’s been a story line talked about more among Titans fans this off season than Smith’s rise to offensive coordinator. Perhaps Marcus Mariota and how crucial this year is for him, but we’re not going there now. Smith seems to be an exciting breath of fresh air, especially after the last couple of offensive coordinator hirings failed miserably. He’s saying all the right things, but he’ll be facing a unique and unforeseen challenge now.

Much like how Matt LaFleur had to scheme around the absences of multiple key offensive players throughout the course of the first few games last year, Smith is now put in a similar position. Smith gets to coach a more talented offense than LaFleur did a year ago. That’s the case on paper at least thanks to the additions of Rodger Saffold, Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown.

How can Smith tailor an offense to be better than it was a year ago? How can he get Derrick Henry hot from the beginning of the season as opposed to just at the end? How can he keep Mariota upright and healthy? These are just a few of questions that Smith must now answer out of the gate without relying on his $80 million dollar left tackle.

MCM Radio breaking down the Taylor Lewan suspension. Listen here.