With the news coming out that Taylor Lewan will miss the first four games of the NFL season due to a positive test for a banned supplement, it forces the Tennessee Titans to already begin shuffling even before training camp begins.
Lewan, who signed a five-year, $80 million contract extension last year making him the highest-paid offensive lineman in the NFL, was to be part of the base around which the offense is built. The Titans forked over free agent money to sign guard Rodger Saffold in the off-season to fortify the offensive line, by having arguably their two best lineman side by side.
That was done because it appears that offensively, though they won’t call it “exotic smashmouth” as Mike Mularkey did, they are going back to being a run-first offense built around the late season heroics of Derrick Henry in 2018.
The hope was that with a strong running game –albeit one that was quite left-hand dominant with Lewan and Saffold – it would help create more play-action and one-on-one opportunities for Marcus Mariota in the passing game.
With Lewan out of the equation for a quarter of the season, it will put that plan and the Titans’ depth to test early.
The Titans have plenty of confidence in third tackle Dennis Kelly’s ability to fill in in the short-term and there was the possibility that Kelly might have even wrested away the right tackle spot from Jack Conklin, who has battled injuries of late. But those plans now shift into desperation mode, with Kelly likely manning the left side and Conklin playing on the right.
That also means that for the first four games that Tyler Marz or Austin Pasztor could be one play way from being a starter, unless the Titans would rather move Kevin Pamphile outside in case of emergency and throw rookie Nate Davis into the fire immediately at right guard.
Nevertheless, an offensive line that was already in flux on the right side, just suffered another jolt to a position group the Titans are counting on to be a strength of the team.