NASHVILLE – Dennis Daley isn’t the only member of the Tennessee Titans who is struggling these days.
He’s not even the only one on the offensive line who is struggling.
There’s plenty of blame to go around.
But the fact that Daley, who stepped in when Taylor Lewan sustained a season-ending knee injury in Week 2 at Buffalo, is having such a hard time at such a critical position – left tackle – leads to a simple question: Isn’t it worth at least trying someone else?
Daley was at the forefront of the Titans’ pass-protection issues in Sunday’s 35-10 loss to Philadelphia. He was faulted for three of the six sacks the team surrendered, per Pro Football Focus. He also was flagged for a false start on a third-and-1 at the Eagles’ 8-yard line in the second quarter, a red-zone penalty that contributed to a stalled drive.
Among league tackles, here’s where Daley ranks this season, per PFF: tied for first in sacks allowed (nine); tied for fourth in quarterback hits – not counting sacks – allowed; and third in pressures allowed (36). His 46.0 pass-blocking grade is third-worst among tackles with at least 200 pass-blocking snaps.
Coach Mike Vrabel did offer some defense of Daley on Monday, saying “there’s plays where I think he’s doing his job. And then there’s plays where we know we can’t get beat inside. We’re chipping for him and you can’t get beat inside.”
Vrabel also pointed out that on one of Daley’s sacks allowed, he had actually pushed Eagles defensive lineman Josh Sweat well beyond quarterback Ryan Tannehill in the pocket. However, when Tannehill was unable to step up in the pocket (not necessarily Daley’s responsibility), Sweat recorded a sack.
But Vrabel also sounded more willing to try someone besides Daley when the Titans host the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Option number one is back-up tackle Le’Raven Clark, who Vrabel said “is going to have a chance to compete” this week.
The 6-foot-5, 319-pound Clark, a third-round pick by the Indianapolis Colts in 2016, has 59 games of NFL experience, including 16 starts. He played just 11 offensive snaps this season for Tennessee, and 10 of those came in mop-up duty in the loss to Philadelphia.
Clark was signed from the Eagles’ practice squad in late September, and Vrabel earlier this season noted the challenge such players face trying to get playing time for a new team without the benefit of an offseason or training camp.
Daley, it should be noted, was acquired in a trade with Carolina at the start of the regular season.
Might Clark be more ready now after spending more than two months with the Titans?
“Sure, anything could change right now,” Vrabel said.
Option number two could be Dillon Radunz, who played left tackle at North Dakota State and who started at that position in the Titans’ win over San Francisco last season. But Radunz lost the battle for the starting right tackle position to Nicholas Petit-Frere this season, and the Titans have committed to using him as a guard ever since. Vrabel so far has not shown any indication the Titans would try Radunz again at tackle.
Should the Titans be more active looking beyond their own roster – whether free agents or players on other practice squads? The Dolphins, for instance, on Monday signed nine-year veteran tackle Eric Fisher, who started 30 games over the past two seasons.
The biggest name left among unsigned offensive linemen is likely 6-foot-6, 330-pound Daryl Williams, a seven-year vet who has played both right guard and right tackle. He’s started 74 NFL games, including 33 for Buffalo over the past two seasons.
“You have an option of finding guys on somebody’s practice squad that you could poach,” Vrabel said. “You have an option of signing guys off the street, which … I don’t know what would be there. We’re looking for players that are there, and we’ve signed a lot of guys off other peoples’ practice squad that are playing for us. (But) at some point, we’ve got to figure (that) if they’re not playing for them, are they going to play for us?’”
It’s a reasonable question, maybe even more so for current free agents who haven’t practiced or played in several months.
But given Daley’s struggles – and the threat they pose to Tannehill’s health – the Titans need to be willing to give someone else a chance.
It’s hard to imagine the potential downside would be much worse than the current state of affairs.