The anchor of the Titans offensive line has struggled this season, and it’s bleeding over to the play of the guards.
Tennessee’s acquisition of Ben Jones was one of the key additions that helped contribute to the success the team experienced in 2016.
Jones, a savvy veteran who was familiar with play in the AFC South, help solidify the center position. His football acumen helped the development of undrafted guard Quinton Spain and waiver wire pickup Josh Kline. Jones ability to read the defense and adjust blocking responsibilities at the line of scrimmage was a big help.
Last season, the Titans offensive line fielded two top 10 tackles and a top 20 center in Jones. Neither Spain nor Kline were ranked in the top 20 at their respective position. Jones’s play helped mask some of the deficiencies Spain and Kline brought to the line play.
This season, Jones’s mistakes cannot be unseen, and it’s been costly.
Trouble in the Middle
The Titans inability to establish a consistent running game has been on display all season. Jones plays a big part.
This season, defenses are placing a nose tackle on Jones more often than last season. This has caused a tremendous amount of difficulty for Jones. It’s effecting his entire game.
Jones is habitually getting mauled and pushed into the backfield, triggering a collapsing pocket. Both Kline and Spain already have their hands full so they are unable to assist Jones in doubling the nose to buy Marcus Mariota a little more time.
A collapsing interior is affecting the mental aspect of Jones’s game. Is he still making the effective blocking adjustments at the line of scrimmage with the proficiency of last year? The tape says no. He’s played with a level of visible anxiety that has even began to affect his snaps. Too many times the ball has rolled or been low, and it’s disrupted Mariota’s timing and the overall flow of the play.
Is Jones dealing with injury? Possibly. Nothing has been reported indicating he’s playing through an injury that would inhibit his performance, but as evidenced by the recently released new of Mariota playing through injury, sometimes these things aren’t reported.
Restoring the Nasty
Unlike last season, the running game doesn’t maintain the same level of intimidation. The offensive line haven’t been the bullies in the trenches and defenses are forcing the Titans to let an injury-plagued Mariota win with his arm.
Although the offensive line’s confidence has taken a shot, it’s not gone. The big runs have influenced the level of nastiness the line plays with. The Titans were used to a dominating running game last year that was driven by the occasional big run that set fire under the offensive line.
Tennessee has to figure out how to reignite that flame.
It’s fair to assume that had DeMarco Murray’s big gain not been negated by an errant holding penalty on Jack Conklin, the fire would have been blazing. The run that seemingly would send an influx of energy in a momentum-building drive was stalled. This has happened too many times this season.
The Titans have to bring the nasty back, and Jones can help with that. Right now, the offensive line is not feared. That has to be fixed. Tennessee’s offensive line is at a crossroads and only they can get themselves out of the rut. Finishing blocks, making the proper adjustments and playing through the whistle will be paramount in reestablishing their identity as one of the top units in football.
Jones and company have three games left to prove the nastiness never left Nashville.
Stats referenced at NFL.com and ESPN.com
Did you enjoy this article? Would you like the opportunity to write about your favorite team? We’re looking for writers; click here to apply! As always, stay tuned to Blue HQ Media for the latest on all your favorite Midwest sports teams!