When Jon Gruden interviewed for the head coaching job in Oakland, Al Davis asked him to rank the most important positions. Gruden replied that, obviously, quarterback was the most important position. The player who could have the most effect on stopping the opposing quarterback, a defensive end, was therefore the second most important. To continue the logic, the third most important position was offensive tackle, since they were charged with the responsibility of blocking the defensive ends.
The Titans are fortunate to have two very good players at the third most important position and two reserves for depth. I often like to focus on a particular player throughout an entire play during games (especially home games) and the Titans’ tackles are two of my favorite guys to watch.
Michael Roos – The left tackle has quietly become the best player on the o-line. Every week he faced the best pass rusher on the opposing team and finished the season with only four penalties and four sacks allowed. As effective as he is in pass protection, he’s also a good run blocker and probably doesn’t receive enough credit for that. Roos is under contract through the end of the year and I have no doubt the Titans will try to get a long-term deal with him done. Some of the best things I’ve heard about Roos have been said by the man he replaced, Brad Hopkins.
David Stewart – The man nicknamed “Big Country” is a fierce blocker and after three years in the league still draws comparisons to Jon Runyan. I especially like the way he plays until the whistle, and a few times beyond that in the eyes of the officials. I also like the way he hits unsuspecting defenders standing around any pile. Stewart’s a restricted free agent who will definitely be tendered at a high level if the Titans can’t reach a long-term deal with him first. Either way, he’ll be wearing two-tone blue again this year. His college coach, Sylvester Croom, once said he’d make a perfect NFL right tackle. Croom’s evaluation seems to be spot on.
Daniel Loper – If I’m not mistaken, the only playing time he got this year was at guard. Mainly a finesse guy when he was drafted, it looks like he’s been spending a lot of time in the weight room. Although his weight is listed about the same as three years ago, he looks bigger and he’s definitely stronger. I don’t believe there’s any doubt that he’s the most athletic guy on the line. Loper is also a restricted free agent who will be tendered and the only question is if he’ll play guard or be a reserve tackle again this year. Loper started at right guard in the playoff game against the Chargers and acquitted himself well, as he did on the occasions when he subbed for Benji Olson during regular season games.
Michael Otto – A seventh-round draft pick last year, Otto spent the entire season on the practice squad. If Loper is the backup tackle again, then Otto will spend this season on the practice squad again. His best chance to make the regular 53-man roster will obviously occur if Loper is moved to guard.
Overview: If the Titans are successful in resigning Roos and Stewart, which I hope happens, they’ll have a pair of bookend tackles which are among the best duos in the league. Both will be back for at least this year and I don’t anticipate the Titans looking to add anyone, unless Loper is moved to guard. If they go in that direction then they will probably draft someone to challenge Otto for the backup position.
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Next in the series: the guards.