We continue our look at the Titans going into 2009 training camp with the third and final entry on the offensive linemen, this one on the men in the middle.
Yes, that’s men. As is true at both the tackle and guard positions, the men who started most of the regular season and in the postseason return. The difference is, there’s only one center at a time while there are two each of guards and tackles. For the second straight year, Kevin Mawae started most of the regular season but didn’t make it to the end of the season. What can we expect out of him this year?
Well, the facts speak for themselves. Mawae only started 6 games in 2005 in his final year as a member of the Jets, but has rebounded to start 16, 14, and 15 games the past 3 years for the Titans. This year, though, offseason surgery has slowed him to the point where he won’t be ready for the start of training camp. As I wrote back in February, my 2006-era expectation was that Mawae would retire this offseason. Obviously, he didn’t, but, success of Bruce Matthews notwithstanding, the list of 38+ year old centers who start 16 games is a pretty short one. Even in Mawae is ready to start come Pittsburgh, chances are he won’t make the whole season.
That Leroy Harris, who started the playoff game in Mawae’s stead, is pretty much guaranteed to see work. He doesn’t have Mawae’s veteran savvy, but is stronger and might be a better bet against a guy like the Steelers’ Casey Hampton.
Beyond that, I ran through the suspects in the guards positional analysis. Eugene Amano could be flip-flopped with Harris, and take over the center position he filled at the end of 2007. Doug Datish is #3 on the depth chart, but he’s never looked to me like an NFL player. Jason Murphy and Fernando Velasco are also out there. Look for the Titans to keep one of those last three, or somebody else, around for depth purposes if and when Mawae goes down for the year. I’d put the most money on Velasco, as Murphy is out of practice squad eligibility.