Generally speaking, consistency at the offensive line is a very good thing, and somewhat of a necessity for a productive offense. That makes the success of the Titans’ offense in 2008 somewhat of an anomaly. Teams, even successful offenses, replace linemen most every year. But, even when they do, they have a solid tandem or side they can rely on-after all, there are 4 offensive line relationship pairs but you can generally rely on at least one of those making it through the offseason intact.
Heading into 2008, though, that wasn’t the case for the Titans, as the departure of Jacob Bell (the Rams, via free agency) and Benji Olson (wherever he wanted, in retirement). Jake Scott had been acquired in that same free agency process, as Olson’s presumptive replacement, while Bell’s replacement would come from somebody already on the roster.
Fast forward a season, and, as is the case with most positions on the Titans’ roster, the 2008 starters return and Titan fans can feel pretty good about them. Beyond those starters, though, there’s more uncertainty than there was this time last season.
As noted before the jump, Jake Scott returns for his second season as a Titan and should again start every meaningful game at the more difficult right guard spot. I’ve seen his season described as somewhat of a disappointment, but as Andrew wrote, he was still firmly above average and there’s no reason to think the same won’t be true of his play in 2009.
Eugene Amano won the in-house competition for what had been Bell’s left guard spot next to Michael Roos. While I thought he was Mawae’s replacement at center after playing very well for the veteran after his 2007 season-ending injury, the Titans prefer him at guard. He was better than I expected him to be, but clearly the weak link among Titans’ o-linemen, particularly on pass protection. Frankly, if I had my druthers, he’d be the backup center to Mawae and the starting left guard would instead be…
Leroy Harris, the Titans’ 4th round pick in 2007 out of NC State. He filled in capably for Mawae during his 2008 season-ending injury, and is listed only at center on the depth chart, though his roster position is G/C. Depending on how official the depth chart on the official site is, you may consider his listing here to be primarily aspirational on my part if you wish.
Instead, Jason Murphy is listed as the #2 at Amano’s left guard position. Murphy is, of course, listed as a center. He spent the end of 2007 and all of 2008 on the Titans’ practice squad after spending a year and a half on and off the Seahawks and Chargers. Maybe Munchak has worked wonders, but I’d expect a different #2 LG on the opening day depth chart.
Fernando Velasco, another member of the practice squad in 2008 is listed as the #2 right guard. Probably a better bet to be the backup right guard is instead 2009 draftee Ryan Durand. When I mention that UDFA Ryan Schmidt’s team bio page actually has fellow UDFA WR Philip Morris’s bio, you can probably guess his chances at making the team. Former Ohio State Buckeye Doug Datish, like Amano, is listed solely at center but could easily see action at guard in the preseason. Mike Otto, though listed solely as a tackle, may (or may not) be able to step into the Daniel Loper/Jason Mathews shows as backup at both position.
In terms of roster spots, Amano and Scott (and Harris) are clearly locks. Beyond those, though, it’s difficult to say with a great deal of confidence who gets the call. Durand obviously has a good shot as a draft pick, though the Titans did cut 7th rounder Cary Williams last year and 6th rounders Joel Filani and Cary Williams the year before that, on generally less crowded rosters. This will be a position I’ll be paying close attention to in the preseason for handicapping purposes-for now, give me Durand the only true backup guard, with Otto around as well.
What say you-want to defend any of the backup’s roster chances? What about Amano-could he lose his starting position?