Going into the 2018 season, the Titans had many questions. How would Derrick Henry and Dion Lewis work together? Would Marcus Mariota take a step forward? Do we have the receivers to make a playoff run? One unit we weren’t asking questions about was the Titans’ offensive line. Before the season started, Pro Football Focus had the Titans projected as the 5th best offensive line in the league. This was roughly where I expected them to be as well, somewhere around the top 5 for a unit that has been together for three years now. Unfortunately, they were not top 5, but the offensive line may have performed better than you thought.
Pass Blocking: Who Takes the Blame?
The biggest issue the Titans line had this entire season was their pass blocking. Pass blocking was a constant issue that never showed a lick of improvement. However, I have mentioned in the past that I think Mariota is to blame for a lot of the sacks that have happened. According to Pro Football Focus, the Titans allowed 47 sacks this year. Among those 47 sacks, 19 of them were “unassigned.” The Titans starters on the line accounted for 16 sacks. Ben Jones gave up 5, Jack Conklin 4, Josh Kline 4, Taylor Lewan 2 and Quinton Spain 1. According to PFF, Ben Jones was the NFL leader in sacks allowed for a center.
The most surprising thing about the sacks is that Marcus Mariota is blamed for 4 of them, which I would have been sorely mistaken on. According to PFF, Mariota is pretty quick to avoid pressure. I still think there is work to do when it comes to his reads and how quickly he decides to scramble. All in all, their pass blocking wasn’t as big of an issue as I thought it was before digging in. Sacks are an issue overall, giving up 47 sacks is not where you want to be at the end of the season.
Run Blocking: What Happened?
For the majority of the season, the Titans’ running game lacked any juice. They were slow, sloppy and downright sad. Part of this was because they were using a new blocking scheme. The zone blocking scheme was a colossal fail until December arrived. Perhaps it was the offensive line finally getting a grasp on the zone blocking scheme? Regardless, something finally clicked, and the Titans rushed for over 800 yards in December with eight touchdowns. Yes, Derrick Henry was a monster, but he is not the one to solely credit.
This offensive line figured things out at the end of the year, regarding rushing, and made monumental leaps. Through the end of November, the Titans ranked 31st in yards per carry; they were first in December. Whatever they figured out has to be continued, a rushing attack is vital for this team, as it opens up so much more for Mariota to work with.
The Titans offensive line was an issue in 2018, but not as big of a problem as I thought. There is still a lot of room for improvement going into next year. There aren’t many options available for what the Titans need, meaning we may have the same offensive line, or close to it in 2018. Luckily, Dennis Kelly played very well this season and will be able to step in if we want a permanent change. Maybe the Titans address this in the later rounds of the draft? Some changes may be welcomed; we’ll find out soon enough.
Overall Grade: C-