In each of the last two games the Tennessee Titans have found themselves at the end of the line. Make that the end of the offensive linemen.
Their 46-man gameday rosters in victories over the Los Angeles Chargers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers included seven offensive linemen, five starters and two reserves. In each case, both backups – Dennis Kelly and Jamil Douglas – were pressed into service.
Starting left guard Rodger Saffold sustained a concussion early in Sunday’s victory over the Buccaneers. Douglas replaced him until center Ben Jones needed medical attention. At that point, Kelly entered at left guard and Douglas shifted to center. That alignment that lasted four plays before Jones returned to action, Douglas went back to left guard and Kelly was back on the sideline.
A week earlier against the Chargers, Kelly replaced right tackle Jack Conklin in the first quarter and held down that spot for the remainder of the contest. A short time later Douglas stepped in at right guard when Nate Davis was injured. The Titans played more than three-quarters of their offensive snaps in that game with no other available offensive linemen, which would have caused coaches to get creative if another injury occurred.
“You’re getting nervous a little bit,” offensive line coach Keith Carter said Monday (hear more from him in the above video). “You’re going through worst-case scenarios: ‘OK, if you lose another one, who goes in and plays tackle?’ Typically, you know, you got think, ‘What tight end can go in and play tackle?’ Because that’s the closest to where they play at tight end, so you would think that’s the easiest transition.”
Carter added that MyCole Pruitt, Tennessee’s primary blocking tight end who also doubles as fullback, was the choice to play tackle. The rest of the line would have adjusted accordingly, but it never came to that in either case.
The Titans have used just two different starting combinations on the offensive line thus far this season, one for the first four games when Davis was injured and left tackle Taylor Lewan was suspended and another in the four games since. Several others have been employed within games as needed.
Saffold is currently in the concussion protocol, which means his status for this Sunday’s game at Carolina is undetermined and that a new starting five is possible.
“It’s kind of wild, the different combinations,” quarterback Ryan Tannehill said Sunday. “… It was kind of crazy that we had guys shuffling around, but I have a ton of faith. Those guys have all played a lot of football for us. … Stepping into the huddle, I have complete confidence in those five guys that are up there whoever it is.”