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Should Titans bench Andre Dillard?

Tennessee’s starting left tackle struggled mightily on Sunday

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Los Angeles Chargers v Tennessee Titans Photo by Alika Jenner/Getty Images

Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Andre Dillard put forth a nightmare performance in Sunday’s disappointing 27-3 defeat to the Cleveland Browns. Dillard was to blame for the majority of Cleveland’s 5.0 sacks of Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill. Dillard certainly appeared at fault for Myles Garrett’s 3.5 sack performance, one of which included a forced fumble drive-killer after the Titans took over in Browns territory.

Heading into Sunday’s contest versus the Browns, Pro Football Focus had already credited Dillard with allowing 3.0 sacks, tied for the most among all qualifying NFL tackles. Dillard’s nine pressures surrendered was tied for fourth-most among tackles. The numbers will look significantly worse when updated. Dillard should now be tagged for 6.0 sacks at minimum.

Titans general manager Ran Carthon made a risky gamble when signing Dillard to a three-year contract worth $29 million in the offseason. Dillard was tasked with replacing cap-casualty Taylor Lewan, and Dennis Daley, who put forth worst-in-the-league performances at left tackle throughout the 2022 campaign.

Through three contests, Dillard perhaps hasn’t been as negatively impactful as Daley on a snap-by-snap basis, but that doesn’t necessarily matter. Dillard certainly hasn’t provided the desired upgrade, nor is he living up to his average annual salary of $9.66 million. The Titans appeared to have whiffed on left tackle.

What comes next?

The Titans could release Dillard at the conclusion of the campaign. A pre-June-1 release would create $7.7 million in dead cap while creating nearly $3 million in savings, per Spotrac. The savings are fairly minimal, but the dead cap is manageable for a Titans squad that’s currently projected to possess an abundance of cap space in the summer.

That’s a long-term play. What now?

The Titans could consider benching Dillard. They probably should, but I’m hesitant to believe they will. Although yanking an underperforming Xavier Newman-Johnson through two series’ last weekend offers hope, the Titans have significantly more invested in Dillard’s success. And we all remember how long it took before they even considered replacing Daley last season.

If Dillard were to be benched, what are the options? I’ve seen Peter Skoronski’s name mentioned on Twitter. The first-rounder out of Northwestern has missed consecutive games after undergoing a procedure. Skoronski could be ready to return in Week 4 versus the Cincinnati Bengals.

Skoronski was an all-pro tackle at Northwestern, but was always expected to kick inside to guard at the next level. Skoronski possesses historically short arms to play the tackle position, although it never hampered his collegiate performances. Perhaps desperation will force the Titans to reconsider, but if they believed their premium No. 11 overall selection was capable of playing a valuable position like tackle, he should’ve received that opportunity from the get-go, regardless of Dillard’s short-term investment.

I’d be surprised if the Titans kicked Skoronski outside now. An alternative choice is Dillon Radunz, who is currently playing left guard in Skoronski’s absence. The Titans have consistently treated Radunz like a guard despite him, like Skoronski, playing tackle in college. The difference is Radunz’s arm length is acceptable for the position, and the Titans momentarily placed him there last season in place of Daley. Radunz unfortunately tore his ACL almost immediately.

Tennessee’s gamble on Dillard is backfiring. Will the Titans consider replacing their struggling left tackle? Or will it be Daley-level stubbornness all over again? Time will tell.