10th Overall Selection by the Tennessee Titans
Overview: The two most important players to the sustained success of the current front office and coaching staff of the Tennessee Titans are quarterback Jake Locker and running back Chris Johnson. After a rocky 2012 for both players, it came as no surprise that the Titans vice president Mike Reinfeldt and general manager Ruston Webster spent the 2013 NFL off-season strengthening the offensive line. The Titans spent big money on Buffalo Bills free agent Andy Levitre to start at left guard, and also used the #10 pick in the 2013 NFL Draft on Alabama All-American Chance Warmack to play right guard. The team then added California center Brian Schwenke in the 4th round to battle with incumbent Fernando Velasco for the starting center job. Warmack was a 3 time BCS National Champion at left guard for the Crimson Tide, but is a near perfect fit at right guard with a stout frame, brute strength, and excellent technique. The duo of Levitre and Warmack with Schwenke eventually taking over at center will add strength and tenacity necessary to give a tremendous boost to the running game and take a little pressure off of Jake Locker. The improved interior along with an under-rated set of bookend tackles, Michael Roos at left tackle and David Stewart on the strong side have the Titans on the verge of being one of the league’s better units. Johnson and Locker were both put on notice with the additions of quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running back Shonn Greene, and are running out of excuses. Warmack is currently the lone first round draft pick that remains un-signed due to what is to be believed to be a disagreement on “offset language”. With the “holdout” now reaching five days, Titans head coach Mike Munchak has begun voicing his frustrations with the situation by saying “it doesn’t seem very complicated to me. It’s just business is business, and the can’t agree.”
Position Battles: With Warmack yet to come into camp, the Titans have been rotating Fernando Velasco with free agent addition Rob Turner at first team right guard. The team also signed former first round pick Chris Spencer to play a utility role on the line due to his experience at both guard spots and center. In reality, the right guard position already belongs to Warmack, it is just a matter of him getting signed. Velasco and Schwenke’s battle at center is the only undecided position on the line and while Velasco has a leg up in the competition, the Titans would love to see Schwenke win the job. The Titans added a lot of strength and versatility to their offensive line, but maybe more importantly they greatly improved their depth on the interior. Roos and Stewart, Levitre and Warmack, and the winner of the Velasco-Schwenke center battle form a strong and balanced unit which will protect the athletic Locker and pave the way for the explosive home run threat CJ2K.
Notable Match-Ups: Warmack and the Titans offensive line will be challenged early and often in 2013, with an impressive list of defenses up and down the schedule. The entire NFC West finished in the top half of the league defensively in 2012, with the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers finishing #1-#2 in points allowed. Two match-ups against AFC South rival Houston Texans and reigning defensive player of the year J.J. Watt should provide Warmack’s most daunting individual match-up of 2013, with Cardinals defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, Seahawks 3-tech Brandon Mebane, and 49ers inside linebacker duo of Patrick Willis and Navorro Bowman following closely. The Titans will open the season in Pittsburgh against defensive coordinator Dick Lebeau’s “Blitzburgh” defense in a match-up that could set the tone for the Titans chances in 2013.
2014 and Beyond
The Titans offensive line is currently signed through the 2015 season. Ideally, the 21 year old Warmack should pair with the 22 year old Brian Schwenke to spear head the Tennessee running game for the next decade. Warmack is capable of playing on either side of the line, but with Levitre on the left side the Titans will let Warmack settle in at right guard for the foreseeable future. One of the cleanest prospects at any position in 2013, expectations are high with some analysts already calling him a “Pro Bowl” and even “Hall of Fame” caliber player. The ultra talented but maddeningly inconsistent Jake Locker finally looks to be afforded protection and a clean pocket and with a talent like Chris Johnson in the backfield, the improved offensive line gives the Titans offense has a chance to become one of the most explosive in the AFC in coming seasons.