What the heck is wrong with the Titans o-line?

In the Week 17 Texans game, Titans Radio’s Frank Wycheck and Mike Keith were talking about Houston’s o-line and how good it was.  Wycheck said, and I paraphrase, that it was all about the scheme, that the Texans didn’t have the best players but they had a great scheme.  He was referring, of course, to their zone blocking, which has enabled Arian Foster to be such a successful rusher.

I consider the Texans o-line to be the best in the league (among the lines I have seen several times) and I agree with Wycheck’s observation.  Although I considered him to be more of a H-back than an inline blocker, I respect his knowledge of offensive line play and his thoughts carry a great deal of weight with me.

The Titans o-line was coached and trained by a Hall of Fame lineman and they’re now coached by another HoFer.  Why is it that two Hall of Famers are being out-schemed by John Benton, the Texans’ line coach?

It’s one thing if you don’t have the best players.  Titans fans have been living with that for years.  The lesser players can be replaced, and hopefully will be.

It’s another thing when two Hall of Fame linemen can’t or won’t use a scheme (at least not that often) which has been successful.  And I submit you can use zone blocking without being “dirty” or cutting a defender’s knees.

And now, on to another rant about the o-line.

I was planning on watching tape of the Titans o-line this offseason, but I don’t know if or when I’ll be able to get to it.  I have therefore been glad that Ben Muth has been watching them and wrote this end of season article (see also Tom’s overview of the line here.)  Muth is well qualified to write about line play; he’s a former All-Pac10 tackle and a colleague of Tom’s on Football Outsiders.

According to Muth, the Titans’ best lineman in 2011 was Michael Roos, followed by David Stewart, Leroy Harris, Eugene Amano and Jake Scott.  While Muth is probably right, it doesn’t change what my untrained eye saw, which was that Amano was the weak link.  I agreed with Muth on the top three (Roos, Stewart and Harris) but I thought Scott was fourth best and Amano worst.

Either way, Scott will be a free agent and I hope the Titans don’t re-sign him.

I’d also like to see Amano replaced and frankly don’t care right now if the Titans move him back to guard.  A new center and a new guard, whether that guard is Amano or someone else, would sure make me feel a lot better about the Titans.

Earlier in this article, I wrote that Titans fans have been living without a good o-line for years.  In case you’re interested, the last time they had a really good run-blocking line was in 1999, when they were ranked sixth by Football Outsider metrics.  That line consisted of, from left to right, Brad Hopkins, Bruce Matthews, Kevin Long, Benji Olson and Jon Runyan.

Good times.

The 2010 o-line was ranked 31st in the league for run-blocking by FO.  Last year they fell to 32nd.  I’d love to hear some of your thoughts on why the line is so poor.  We know there’s a personnel problem. Could it also be that there’s a coaching problem?

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