Now that Eugene Amano has been named the starting center for the Titans, with Leroy Harris taking over at left guard, we can begin to speculate on how good the offensive line will be this year. (I had thought earlier that Harris would replace Mawae and Tom was correct in predicting Amano would. Although I don’t believe it had much of a bearing on the final decision, o-line coach Mike Munchak claimed he asked Amano if he would prefer playing center or guard.)
Count me in as one of those who believe the line should be improved over last year’s line. While it’s true that Titans quarterbacks Vince Young and Kerry Collins were sacked only 15 times last year and Chris Johnson gained 2,000 yards rushing, those numbers don’t translate into “that was a great line.”
The 2008 o-line was far better than the 2009 edition. Michael Roos was selected first-team All-Pro in 2008 and David Stewart was second-team. Most importantly, Kevin Mawae was still playing fairly well.
Mawae’s 2009 decline is the primary reason the line play deteriorated. Replacing him is the primary reason I believe the line will be improved this season.
I realize there are some who think the line must have been great and Mawae could still play well. Here’s evidence the o-line wasn’t that good in 2009. According to Football Outsiders, the Titans were 21st in the league for overall run-blocking, 28th run-blocking in the middle/guard and 28th in being stuffed. The NFL’s stats rank the Titans tied for 23rd in first downs at the center of the line and 28th in power rushing at the center. Pro Football Focus ranked Mawae 31st among the 34 centers who played over 25% of their team’s snaps. Here’s an article about PFF’s ranking of Mawae.
(A word about Pro Football Focus – I consider them as a useful tool, but only that. I have some reservations about them and they are certainly not the be-all, end-all authority that a few consider them to be. My personal preference is Football Outsiders.)
Those who saw Mawae get pushed around too often last year don’t need all of the above info, it simply reinforces the belief that Mawae is past his prime.
Whether Amano remained at left guard or moved to center, with Harris filling the other spot, the 2010 Titans line should be improved with the changes.
Harris adds more strength, bulk and physicality to the line, which should help especially with reducing stuffs and improving the conversion of third-and-short rushes.
Amano’s five-year contract adds more stability to a line that already has Roos and Stewart under contract through 2013. Harris has one year remaining on his contract and right guard Jake Scott has two more years. This is a line that could become very good again and remain so for several more years.
What do you think about the new o-line? Will it be better, worse or about the same?