We continue our preseason trip around the Titans position by position by rounding out the offensive line with the center position.
Continuity is the order of the day here as well. As I wrote in the offseason positional analysis, Eugene Amano in the first year of a five-year deal had a difficult season. I thought he provided an upgrade on Kevin Mawae’s poor play from 2009 but only to below-average. I thought he struggled to mesh with Jake Scott and particularly Leroy Harris, with the result that too many linebackers had easy tackles and gap-stuffing opportunities. Harris and Scott both return, and I’m hoping the continuity will result in improved performance on the field. So far in the preseason, we’ve seen mixed evidence on that.
Fernando Velasco is Amano’s backup on the official depth chart and filled in for him in Week 15 and 16 after he went on reserve. He also got a start at left guard filling in for Leroy Harris against the Cowboys. I suspect he’ll be around for another year as a backup interior lineman.
Kevin Matthews got the start for Amano in the Week 17 season finale against the Colts, when his muffed snap exchange with Kerry Collins cost the Titans a shot at a game-winning field goal and was instead turned into the game-winning points. Had that play not happened, the Titans finished 7-9 and Jake Locker is quite probably a member of the Minnesota Vikings. Matthews is an undersized center who spent most of his rookie 2010 season on the practice squad. His dad Bruce is of course now the Titans’ offensive line coach. I’m not sure he has the mobility to be another Chris Myers, the Texans’ center and another lowly-rated undersized center, but he’s the coach’s best friend’s son and at least he’s on the offensive line and not quarterback.
It’s not one of the strongest positions on the team. Center is generally the least important position on the offensive line, and I think it’s one that has the chance of being perfectly adequate. Velasco provides reasonable depth as well, so the Titans should be able to sustain an injury without too much of a drop-off.