Lewan Motivated By Top 10 Snub

Mike Hogan

Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Taylor Lewan said his forearm was twitching. He felt angry and disrespected.

Last week, CBS Sports released its ranking of the NFL’s top 10 offensive tackles for the 2020 season. Lewan was mentioned as one who “just missed the list.”

The three-time Pro Bowler expressed his displeasure during the latest edition of his Barstool Sports podcast, Bussin’ With the Boys.

“All of these guys are good football players,” he said of the 10 who made the list. “[But] It's hard to even argue that I'm not top 5. I think if you look at what a team asks a guy to do, there aren't many guys who do as much as I do on the field. And if you go into meetings, I'm also the guy who asks for more responsibility. I will get my respect. We'll see.”

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.

In May, Lewan said it took until Week 7 - his third game after the suspension - for the offensive line to click. 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.

In 2019, the Titans averaged 6.00 yards per carry on running plays behind the left tackle, fifth best in the NFL. They also averaged 6.69 yards on running plays around left end, third best in the NFL. In addition, Lewan was one of 14 Titans with an Approximate Value of seven or better last season.

The news was not all bad for Lewan in recent days, though.

The Big Ten Network released its Big Ten All-Decade team for the 2010s last week and the Michigan product made the list.

Lewan was a four-year lettermen for the Wolverines (he redshirted in 2009). He played in 50 games on mostly underwhelming teams, but took home All-Big Ten first team honors in 2012 and 2013. As a team captain in his final season, Lewan also won the Big Ten Remington-Pace Award, which is given to the conference’s best offensive linemen.

“He was an overpowering All-American, but I just remember him being the latest in a long line of nasty Michigan offensive lineman,” Big Ten Network's Rick Pizzo said. “Whether it was Jon Jansen, whether it was Jake Long, whether it was guys that held that position and just took so much pride in playing that spot, protecting Michigan's quarterback. These are the offensive lineman that defensive linemen never wanted to go against.”

Former Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry had a similar take. Perry said while Lewan is a talented offensive linemen who has good technique, it’s his style of play that sets him apart from the rest.

“Our coaches would throw up the tape,” Perry said, “and it would be him plumbing guys into the ground or giving a little bit of a forearm at the end of a play.

“You had to bring your big boy pants when you were going up against Taylor Lewan.”

That was true then. It is also more true now as Lewan and the Titans’ offensive line aim to be even better in 2020.

“We know what we can be for this team,” Lewan said during a video conference in May. “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.”

Maybe that mindset will lead to what now motivates Lewan.

“I know I got suspended last year but not being top 10 is ridiculous,” he said on the podcast. “It's all good now. It's easy to put a list up in June. We'll see in January.”