Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: Tackles

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Michael Roos has played in two Pro Bowls. Photo by Andrew Strickert for Total Titans

We continue our offseason positional analyses, in which we take a look at the state of affairs within each position group. What’s the contract status of the players at that position? Are any of them potential losses? Is there a need to upgrade the position, either in March through free agency or in April via the draft?

In earlier articles, Drexel examined the quarterback and receiver positions and I took a look at the guards. Today we continue on the offensive line with a look at the tackles.

The good news is that the Titans have two All-Pro tackles signed through 2013. The bad news is that the depth behind them is untested. We’ll take a closer look after the jump.

Michael Roos has been to two Pro Bowls and is generally considered to be one of the best young left tackles in the league. I thought he was quite a bit better in 2008 and that his 2009 Pro Bowl invite was strictly on reputation. If you’re an optimist, you know Roos is capable of recapturing his 2008 form and even improving beyond that. I’m glad he’ll be a Titan for at least four more years.

David Stewart was the Titans’ best o-lineman in 2009, in my opinion. Other than his All-Pro recognition, he doesn’t get enough credit, probably because he’s a right tackle and also because he’s on the same line as Roos. Big Country is a guy I enjoy watching, especially the ways he uses his hands. Like Roos, I’m glad he’ll be a Titan for at least four more years.

Michael Otto appeared in 14 games last year, taking over Daniel Loper’s role as a special teams blocker and as the primary backup tackle. He had played in only game in 2008 so it appeared he was making a natural progression as a Titans’ o-lineman. (Stewart didn’t play at all in his rookie season.) Appearances can be deceiving. Otto’s status changed when Stewart sat out the 49ers game and was replaced by C/G Leroy Harris, who hadn’t played tackle since high school. If o-line coach Mike Munchak didn’t have enough confidence to play Otto, who was in his third year as a Titans tackle, then I don’t believe it says much for Otto.

Troy Kropog, a fourth-round draft selection a year ago, is the fourth OT on the roster. Munchak worked him at left tackle for the first half of training camp last summer, then at right tackle for the remainder of camp, so he has at least some experience at both positions. Kropog can also play guard but I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him at that position. Kropog appeared in one game last year and will compete with Otto for the #3 OT spot this year.

The Titans are set with their starting tackles, but Munchak’s lack of faith in his two backups gives me cause for concern. I expect Harris to start this season at either center or guard so he shouldn’t be available to step in again in the event of an injury to Roos or Stewart.

I don’t anticipate Tennessee obtaining a tackle in free agency. It seems far more likely that they’ll acquire one late in the draft, either as a potential upgrade over Otto and Kropog, or to convert to an interior lineman. It’s not at all unusual for college tackles to become NFL guards (Zach Piller is a good example) and Munchak also converted Justin Hartwig into a center. As noted in the positional analysis for the guards, depth is needed there so if the Titans do draft a tackle, we’ll just have to see how Munchak plans to use him.

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2 Responses to “Tennessee Titans offseason positional analysis: Tackles”

  1. Scott Says:

    It is kind of surprising how thin the Titans are at the tackle position. If Roos or Stewart were to get injured and be out for a significant period of time, that would have a seriously detrimental impact on the offense. I agree that Otto doesn’t look like the answer as the backup this coming season.

    So that leaves Kropog. He is a bit of an unknown. But I think we will get the answer on him this off-season. It will be interesting to see what the Titans do in free agency this year with respect to the OT position. If Munchak, Fisher and Reinfeld are comfortable with Kropog, then the Titans probably won’t go after a backup OT in free agency. If they are not comfortable with him, that has to be a priority in the off-season, and I don’t think using a later round pick on another OT project would be the answer.

  2. Andrew Strickert Says:

    I wish I had remembered this before writing about Munchak’s lack of confidence in Otto, but as I wrote before the 49ers game, Otto had a knee injury and missed several days of practice that week. As it turned out, Otto and Stewart were both inactive for the game. Upon reflection, I now consider Otto to be a more viable option than I opined in this piece.

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