NASHVILLE — Left tackle Taylor Lewan is the foundational piece on which the current version of the Tennessee Titans was built. Drafted eleventh overall in 2014 at a position Tennessee did not really need at the time, Lewan and punter Brett Kern are the lone survivors of the down-bad Titans era.
Nine seasons later it is difficult to imagine this team without the three-time Pro Bowler.
The 2022 season will have several positional evaluations to monitor. Lewan, with two years (including this one) remaining on the five-year, $80 million deal he signed in 2018, is at a critical juncture in his Tennessee tenure. A PED suspension, an ACL tear followed by another season trying to regain his form has cost Lewan 16 total missed games.
A significant rebound is required in the coming campaign for the left tackle to remain a part of the Titans’ future.
Lewan is still a premier talent at a critical position
We have not seen him live up to that potential in the last three seasons, however.
A quote in ESPN’s ranking of the Top 10 offensive tackles basically accused Lewan of being a player more famous for his name than his production in recent years. The assessment is fair and one that Tennessee’s blindside protector is more than self-aware about.
Lewan understands who he is and what is expected of him.
“Being out here (at OTAs) is already a world of difference to me,” Lewan told media in May. “I can put a helmet on. I’m not gasping for air after four or five plays – (going) through a whole period and I’m laughing, talking trash with the boys. It’s a good time. Football is now fun for me again. If there’s any difference you want to know between last year and this year, I’m enjoying the hell out of myself now.”
Much better energy after a 2021 that the left tackle described as “f–king miserable.”
Several Titans personnel decisions are tied into a potential rebound
The Titans were abysmal at keeping quarterback Ryan Tannehill upright last season.
Tennessee managed to cling to the No. 1 overall seed in the AFC last year despite eighth-worst sack rate in football (7.91%) among several other issues. Run blocking suffered in 2021 as well. Titans rushers were stopped at the line of scrimmage 237 times (1st) and stuffed in the backfield on 106 attempts (T-1st), according to Sports Info Solutions.
Lewan bouncing back and being consistently available will not single-handedly fix all of those issues, but he does have a critical part to play in both.
“I was involved in the vetting process of (Lewan) when he was coming out when I was with the Rams,” former NFL head coach, now Titans Radio analyst Dave McGinnis told me on 104.5 The Zone this Friday. “I know what we thought about him, and what most of the league thought about him. He is an exceptional talent at left tackle because of size, not only size but athleticism. This is an athletic, big dude that can move. I believe, just watching his progress especially through OTAs and this offseason, I would expect that he would start to look more like himself.”
Tannehill needs Lewan to rebound, and so does star running back Derrick Henry.
All three are at an interesting stage in their pro football timelines. All three must perform at optimal levels for the Titans to achieve their ultimate goal with the current personnel group in place. It is more than reasonable to project all three to do exactly that.
Tennessee just needs Taylor Lewan to be famous for football again.
Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.