O-line still major need as Titans plan for draft
Posted: Thursday, April 25, 2013 7:00 pm
By TERESA M. WALKER
AP Sports Writer
NASHVILLE (AP) — Chris Johnson certainly seems to have his own ideas about what position the Tennessee Titans should select with the 10th pick overall in the NFL Draft.
Johnson retweeted a fan on Twitter suggesting Tennessee draft either guard Jonathan Cooper of North Carolina or Alabama guard Chance Warmack for the Titans. The fan’s reasoning? “we need help up the middle for (at)ChrisJohnson28.”
The Titans thought they had shored up their offensive line signing veteran Steve Hutchinson for their left guard a year ago. Instead, four starters wound up with season ending injuries starting with center Eugene Amano to a torn muscle in August, right guard Leroy Harris to an injured right knee in November and then Hutchinson’s right knee injury Dec. 2 in the same game where right tackle David Stewart broke his right leg.
Tennessee wound up 6-10, putting coach Mike Munchak and general manager Ruston Webster into a must-win situation. Still, blocking better for Johnson and protecting quarterback Jake Locker means a franchise that hasn’t drafted an offensive lineman since 1993 or a guard since 1983 may be poised to do just that Thursday night.
“It’s just kind of making sure really that what we went through last year up front doesn’t happen again,” Webster said.
Tennessee opened free agency by signing left guard Andy Levitre to a six-year, $46.8 million deal hours after Hutchinson retired. The Titans also signed veteran linemen in Chris Spencer of Chicago and Rob Turner of St. Louis as part of a 12-member free agent group so far to pump some much-needed veteran experience onto the roster.
“We’ve done a lot this offseason so far, and we’ll continue to add the pieces that we need the best we can,” Webster said.
Signing three veteran offensive linemen hasn’t stopped the Titans from visiting with Cooper and Warmack, who has talked of his desire to play for Hall of Fame guards in Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, that guard drafted in 1983 at No. 9 overall.
“You kind of hone in on the guys you like,” Webster said. “You’ll have a list of say six guys that you think could be there and you could take at various positions, not necessarily one or two positions. Obviously, if there’s someone you felt like was really a special player and head and shoulders available, you would consider taking that player there.”
That description could fit either Cooper or Warmack with both considered guards who could start for several years. Either could be a final piece for an offense that now includes new signees running back Shonn Greene from the Jets, tight end Delanie Walker from the 49ers to replace Jared Cook and receiver Kevin Walter from Houston. The Titans ranked last in the NFL in 2012 averaging just 27 minutes, 18 seconds of possession time.
But Tennessee also gave up a franchise-worst 471 points last season, so Kentucky guard Larry Warford could be an option in the second round if the Titans choose to add a pass rusher at No. 10. They have met with tackle Sharrif Floyd of Florida, Barkevious Mingo of LSU and Dion Jordan of Oregon. Webster said pass rushers remain at a premium and usually go pretty quickly.
The team that signed veteran safeties Bernard Pollard from Baltimore and George Wilson of the Bills also has looked at several top safeties including Jonathan Cyprien of Florida International, Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro and Matt Elam of Florida.
Published in The Messenger 4.25.13