Titans have been hurt by instability on offensive line

AP photo by Gary McCullough / Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Dillon Radunz (75) prepares to block during Sunday's game against the host Jacksonville Jaguars.
AP photo by Gary McCullough / Tennessee Titans offensive tackle Dillon Radunz (75) prepares to block during Sunday's game against the host Jacksonville Jaguars.

NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Titans revamped their offensive line during the offseason from one end to the other, and they might wind up being worse.

The Titans have allowed 35 sacks so far, better than only four other NFL teams this season; they were better than just five teams last season, when they gave up 49 sacks.

Despite all of new general manager Ran Carthon's changes, injuries have forced the Titans to start seven combinations on the offensive line through the first 10 games. That number will grow to eight in 11 when Tennessee (3-7) hosts the Carolina Panthers (1-9) on Sunday, with starting right tackle Chris Hubbard out because of a biceps injury.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the constant changes have been part of the problem.

"We know that's part of this league," Vrabel said Tuesday. "That's just kind of what happens throughout the course of the season. Not to say that it's not challenging, but we've tried to get guys ready to go. Try to ask them to prepare starters."

Vrabel said those players have to be ready when the opportunity comes. Jaelyn Duncan, a sixth-round pick out of Maryland in April, got his most work yet in last weekend's 34-14 road loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, coming in at right tackle after Hubbard hurt his arm.

That was the first time Duncan had played right tackle in anything other than practice. Vrabel said Tuesday that veteran Andre Dillard, still in the concussion protocol at the time, and Duncan will be working at left tackle with Dillon Radunz flipping back to right tackle to start against Carolina. Dillard was listed as a full participant in practice on Wednesday's NFL injury report.

If Duncan starts, he would join left guard Peter Skoronski as the second rookie starter on Tennessee's line.

"I'm willing to work wherever I get put at," Duncan said.

Duncan benefited from the experience of working through play calls, the silent cadence and execution in a road environment, Vrabel said. The rookie also has plenty of little things to work on, including holding blocks longer.

"Every block matters, even though you did your job for the majority of the play," Vrabel said. "It's a good lesson to learn out there, seeing the guys finishing and being involved in the play, and you can help that."

The protection has worsened. Ryan Tannehill was sacked 19 times while starting the first six games of the season. Rookie Will Levis has been sacked 10 times in his four starts, with three of those on the road.

Two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry also has struggled to find holes with linemen constantly working on the chemistry and communication needed in games.

Veteran right guard Daniel Brunskill, one of three free agents Carthon signed in the offseason to revamp the line, said linemen got used to switching around a lot during training camp. He sees these challenges as part of the job of being an NFL lineman.

"In the (meeting) room, you build chemistry," Brunskill said, "and you've just got to keep working and learning how everybody speaks and how everybody works together, and just keep working like that."

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