NASHVILLE – Just two years into his NFL career, Aaron Brewer can already call himself a success story.
A lightweight offensive lineman from a lesser-known college – Texas State – Brewer first bucked the odds in 2020 when he made the Tennessee Titans as an undrafted free agent.
He took a significant step forward in 2021 with five starts more than 500 offensive snaps at various positions on the offensive line.
The question now for Brewer and the Titans: Does he have what it takes to become a full-time starter?
With the departure of Pro Bowler Rodger Saffold, Brewer appears to be penciled in as the team’s starting left guard heading into training camp.
There’s no guarantee, however, that status will remain when Week 1 arrives. Competition will come in the form of free-agent addition Jamarco Jones, as well as other potential players the Titans might sign during the offseason.
But first and foremost, the 6-foot-1, 295-pound Brewer – still comparatively undersized despite adding 20 pounds since college – must prove he can consistently hold his own against the NFL’s monstrous defensive linemen.
He’s developed strategies to battle bigger men over the years.
“The kind of player I am, I’m smaller, quick-twitch explosive,” Brewer said. “So it’s just working with what I got. I know I’m strong for my size and fast as well. So it works with what I do.”
Added offensive line coach Keith Carter: “Aaron is an unbelievable athlete. He has a really unbelievable way to kind of recover when he gets stuck in maybe some bad positions. For him it’s about getting as big as he can, but not losing (the strengths) of his game, and then just being consistent from a technique standpoint. I think he’s come a long way and I’m excited to see where he goes.”
Brewer’s speed and athleticism appeared more effective in the Titans’ zone-scheme run game than in pass blocking last season.
He earned a 62.6 grade from Pro Football Focus for his run-blocking. But Brewer surrendered six sacks, the second-highest figure on the team, despite the fact he was on the field for 262 pass-block snaps – far fewer than the regular starters. The sacks and pressures allowed were the primary reasons PFF gave Brewer a 48.7 pass-blocking grade in 2021.
Carter said the challenge for the Titans is to find ways to maximize the strengths of lighter linemen like Brewer, while minimizing their weaknesses.
“Athleticism in general is good, but obviously the lighter, smaller guys, we’ve got to compensate in other ways,” Carter said. “Like anything else in this league, it’s about match-ups … figuring out where you can maybe be better than a less athletic guy up front. Or if it’s a bigger guy, figure out ways to help them when maybe there’s a weight disadvantage or something like that.”
Brewer, 24, doesn’t sound too concerned about those who might doubt his ability to go head-to-head with heavyweights on a more regular basis in 2022.
In fact, he appreciates the added motivation.
“I’ve heard that forever, from high school all the way to this point,” Brewer said. “Didn’t stop me then and it’s not going to stop me now.”