Ben Jones at the center of Offensive Line struggles

Titans Ben Jones
Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones (60) looks over the defense of the Indianapolis Colts during an NFL football game on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 in Nashville, Tenn. The Colts won the game 34-26. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

The anchor of the Titans offensive line has struggled this season, and it’s bleeding over to the play of the guards.

Veteran Presence

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

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About Brandon Morales 111 Articles
Despite being a New Mexico Native, he is a diehard Tennessee Titans fan. He’s followed the team since the Houston Oilers days and continues to support the Two-Tone Blue. He covered High School football, basketball, volleyball, and track for a local New Mexico newspaper after his playing days in were ended due to injuries. His love for journalism was inspired by English Teacher, Sara Ball. In 2010, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from New Mexico State University. His contributions to the site include in-depth analysis on the Tennessee Titans, coverage on the Tennessee Vols and other SEC teams. He prides himself on being a supporting husband and loving father. This New Mexico family is a Titans household that loves cheering on their team each and every Sunday.