Tennessee Titans positional analysis: Center

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We continue our look at the Titans going into 2009 training camp with the third and final entry on the offensive linemen, this one on the men in the middle.

Yes, that’s men.  As is true at both the tackle and guard positions, the men who started most of the regular season and in the postseason return.  The difference is, there’s only one center at a time while there are two each of guards and tackles.  For the second straight year, Kevin Mawae started most of the regular season but didn’t make it to the end of the season.  What can we expect out of him this year?


Well, the facts speak for themselves.  Mawae only started 6 games in 2005 in his final year as a member of the Jets, but has rebounded to start 16, 14, and 15 games the past 3 years for the Titans.   This year, though, offseason surgery has slowed him to the point where he won’t be ready for the start of training camp.  As I wrote back in February, my 2006-era expectation was that Mawae would retire this offseason.  Obviously, he didn’t, but, success of Bruce Matthews notwithstanding, the list of 38+ year old centers who start 16 games is a pretty short one.  Even in Mawae is ready to start come Pittsburgh, chances are he won’t make the whole season.

That Leroy Harris, who started the playoff game in Mawae’s stead, is pretty much guaranteed to see work.  He doesn’t have Mawae’s veteran savvy, but is stronger and might be a better bet against a guy like the Steelers’ Casey Hampton.

Beyond that, I ran through the suspects in the guards positional analysis.  Eugene Amano could be flip-flopped with Harris, and take over the center position he filled at the end of 2007.  Doug Datish is #3 on the depth chart, but he’s never looked to me like an NFL player.  Jason Murphy and Fernando Velasco are also out there.  Look for the Titans to keep one of those last three, or somebody else, around for depth purposes if and when Mawae goes down for the year.  I’d put the most money on Velasco, as Murphy is out of practice squad eligibility.

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5 Responses to “Tennessee Titans positional analysis: Center”

  1. Dave Says:

    Is it legal to hike the ball from any other position on the o-line? Since every center we have is also a guard and vice-versa, we could do some interesting things… I’m joking of course ( but now that I asked, I really need to know; is it legal?…I assume not).

  2. Tom Gower Says:

    Dave,
    I’m pretty sure the rule is that you have to have 7 guys on the line of scrimmage, of which only the two on the outside are eligible, and the ball snapper cannot one of the guys on the end. Beyond that, you can do pretty much whatever you want.
    The Ravens did a little unbalanced line against the Titans last year, with both tackles on one side of the line, moreso in the regular season game than in the playoffs. Think Scaife-Amano-Mawae (snapper)-Scott-Stewart-Roos-Crumpler. Perfectly legal.
    Fish will very occasionally pull out a gimmick formation-they ran the swinging gate on the first or second play in the playoff game against San Diego a couple years ago. I’d have to go back to the tape, but I think that was Mawae, Bell, and a TE at the right hash, and the rest of the OL over between the left numbers and the left hash. It’s definitely unconventional, but not against the rules.
    In all these cases, though, you see the normal person hiking the ball to the quarterback-teams don’t like to disrupt that relationship.

  3. Tom Gower Says:

    And yes, that would’ve been Amano at center in the swinging gate play against the Chargers, not Mawae.

  4. BurheadTitans Says:

    Kevin is probably the best center of the decade and still one of the best centers in the game even at his advanced age. The Titans got lucky when we managed to sign him in ’06 and was good move by the FO. If Kevin can play one or two more solid years he is sure fire first ballot of HoFer and he deserves that. I’m all for Kevin starting again this year for us if he is healthy, but I hope to see Kevin at least get some time in training camp and preseason and not go into the opener rusty.
    Kevin is one of those guys you want on a team that is poised to make another playoff run.

  5. Tom Gower Says:

    Burhead,
    I mostly agree with you on Mawae, but have to disagree on his Hall of Fame chances-it’s extraordinarily difficult to make the Hall as a center. Of the field positions, safety may be the only tougher one. Mawae has 7 Pro Bowls and 3 First-Team All-Pro nods. These are admittedly crude metrics, but they’re voted on by sportswriters, who are the same people (more or less) who are Hall voters. Compare him to, say, Mick Tingelhoff (6&5, more team success) or Dermontti Dawson (7&6), neither of whom is in the Hall. In his own era, compare Tom Nalen (5&2), who could see additional support for being a constant in the Denver system, or Jeff Saturday (3&2). See also Kent Hull (3&2, team success), who I’d put in over Mawae.
    First ballot? Randall McDaniel didn’t even get in the first time, and he was 12&7. Nor did Gary Zimmerman, and he made two All-Decade teams.
    One other thing that may hurt his chances is he played well but not exceptionally in three cities-SEA, NYJ, TEN. That may mean that even if he gets into the room (which, e.g., Dawson has not), there’s not one guy who’s regularly arguing for his election. No, life isn’t fair.

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