Tennessee's offensive line work in progress this preseason
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans are having to shuffle around players on the offensive line, a unit they hoped would be all set by this point of the preseason.
They have used two first-round picks on offensive lineman since 2013, and both left tackle Taylor Lewan and right guard Chance Warmack appear safe. But left guard Andy Levitre, the highest-paid player on the Tennessee offense and the big free agent signee in 2013, has been working at center with the second unit replaced by veteran Byron Bell with Jamon Meredith working in Bell's spot at right tackle.
Usually, teams prefer to be refining chemistry and communication at this time between linemen where a simple nudge or look can help a teammate adjust to a defender.
''We're looking for the right five, and we're working on that,'' coach Ken Whisenhunt said. ''So it's not any different than a lot of teams in the league that face that challenge. I've been on teams that had good offensive lines that went through this same process. So the only thing you can do is keep pushing them, make sure they work hard, and that will come. That's an important piece of it.
''We've got three preseason games left to work on that.''
The Titans have invested heavily in this offensive line starting in 2013 signing Levitre to a six-year deal worth $46.8 million and drafting Warmack at No. 10 overall followed by center Brian Schwenke in the fourth. Lewan was the 11th draft pick overall last year, and the Titans signed Bell in April.
Levitre and Warmack were the only offensive linemen to play all 16 games last season when the Titans played seven different tackles and Schwenke wound up on injured reserve after 11 games.
But the Titans first-team offense averaged only 1.9 yards per carry against Atlanta in a 31-24 loss in their preseason opener. So Bell, signed this offseason ideally to fill the right tackle slot, has gotten more work at left guard. Bell has started 56 of his 62 career games with only one of those starts at right guard in 2012. Schwenke missed practice Monday with a sore foot, so veteran Fernando Velasco replaced him at center with the first unit.
Bell said he was told to go to guard and he does whatever the coaches want him to do.
''We just got to gel,'' Bell said. ''I really don't think we're going to make any changes. The only thing we're out here doing is practicing out here doing our job.''
What Bell offers the Titans is a chance to bulk up at guard. Bell is 6-foot-5 and 340 pounds while Levitre is 6-2, 303. Meredith, signed last December, is 6-5 and 312 pounds himself, and he has started 27 games in a career that includes stops with Buffalo, the Giants, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay and Indianapolis.
Whisenhunt said the Titans hope to have a better idea after Sunday night's game so they can let five linemen get some extended playing time Aug. 28 at Kansas City. But he doesn't have a timetable.
''That's not really a decision that you can force,'' Whisenhunt said. ''I think we got some information after last game, we'll get some more in this game, and then we'll assess it after that. We're still in training camp mode and we've still got a lot of practice that we can do this week, so we'll find out.''
AP NFL websites: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker