The Tennessee Titans’ offensive line hopes to pick up right where it left off in 2020, and left tackle Taylor Lewan says it all starts with him being on the field for all 16 games.
Lewan was suspended for the first four games of the 2019 season after testing positive for a banned substance. His absence sent the offensive line into a shuffle, forcing Dennis Kelly to play left tackle and Rodger Saffold, who expected to man the left side of the offensive line with Lewan, to make adjustments.
Lewan said it took until week seven – his third game after the suspension – for the offensive line to click. After that, it was all systems go. From that week on and into the playoffs, the Titans, led by running back Derrick Henry, the 2019 rushing champion, featured one of the NFL’s best rushing attacks.
“We know what we can be for this team,” Lewan said Wenesday. “We know that as a group we have an opportunity to do something special, and not only as individuals, but the continuity of the offensive line and the entire offense itself.
“We take a lot of pride in the rushing title. We take a lot of pride in keeping (Ryan) Tannehill upright. It’s become personal for us to become one of the best offensive lines in the league and make that sort of a goal, and I know that’s a huge goal in our room right now.”
Saffold, who spent most of last season adjusting to a new offense and meshing with his new teammates, said similar.
Entering his second season with the Titans, the veteran knows what to expect. With a stronger knowledge of the system, Saffold said he can play free without putting too much thought into his assignments. And when he can play like that, he said, good things usually happen.
“We started to figure that out better and better as the season went on and now it’s kind of second nature,” Saffold said. “The fact that they can tell me something and I can regurgitate that back to them the way that they see it is really helpful. Kind of understanding plays and understanding technique. Now I have a better grasp of that, so it’s going to help me in the future, especially in the future.”
Minus Jack Conklin, who signed with the Cleveland Browns, the group hardly changed this offseason. In addition to Lewan and Saffold, the group returns Kelly, Ben Jones and Nate Davis. The group welcomes first-round draft pick Isaiah Wilson, the 6-foot-6, 350-pound offensive tackle from Georgia.
In an offseason of uncertainty, this is an advantage for a group that strives to be even better in 2020.
Lewan said communication has been a focal point for the offensive line this spring. While most of that communication has had to be done virtually, it hasn’t wavered. In fact, Lewan said it’s better than ever before.
“We have a group chat. The boys are always talking, we’re always getting together whether we’re gaming online, or FaceTiming, Rodger and I talking about taking tests to see how our bodies react to certain things,” Lewan said. “It’s constant competition too, so just trying to get better every single day. The guys do a great job of communicating. I think staying as sharp as you can, obviously, it’s never going to be the real thing of me sitting next to you bumping elbows talking to each other. Doing as much as you can in this kind of time, I think we’re making the most of it for sure.”
“Another year of playing together, me not getting suspended is a big one, and then making sure that the boys stay on top of it. Like I said, we keep an open line of communication. It sounds like everybody is working out really hard.”