The trenches. It is where a lot of games are won and lost in the NFL. There’s a reason a franchise left tackle is one of the most sought-after pieces to every team. For the Kansas City Chiefs, their offensive line’s play in the trenches almost singlehandedly cost them any shot they had in the Super Bowl last season. For the Tennessee Titans, it is vital to their offensive game plan as well. Their downhill running game and field-stretching passing attack have to have sufficient blockers up front to be effective. That’s where rookie Dillon Radunz comes into the equation.
The Titans’ starting OL is mostly set in stone for the start of the regular season. The starting guards will be Rodger Saffold III and Nate Davis. Ben Jones will start at center as long as he is healthy. Taylor Lewan will be the starting left tackle, of course. That leaves right tackle as the sole opening.
Dillon Radunz opens up on some of the small victories the #Titans staff has focused on for him. One of which is his punch. Says working w/former #49ers LT Joe Staley during the offseason helped improve his strength. pic.twitter.com/yWiuQIme3X
— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) August 15, 2021
It seems to be a four-man race for the starting nod there right now. Kendall Lamm, David Quessenberry, Ty Sambrailo, and Radunz are all vying for it. The team listed Lamm and Sambrailo as “co-starters” on their first unofficial depth chart last week.
Sambrailo has had limited reps in camp since returning from injury last Monday but is recovering well. Lamm left that same day with an injury of his own, and neither of them played in the team’s first preseason game against the Falcons.
Quessenberry has been getting time on both the outside and inside of the line during drills. He’s been a rotational depth piece for most of his career, though, so the Titans may hope to use him as the backup for multiple OL positions rather than start him.
Accordingly, the door is wide open for Radunz. He has the clearest path of any rookie to open the season as a starter for Tennessee.
Strong Start from Radunz
The OT from North Dakota State had some blips in his first game in the NFL this past Friday, but he probably played the best of any offensive lineman on the Titans in that game. His play was impressive considering the leap from the FCS to the NFL. Radunz played both guard and tackle in Friday’s game as well, showing some versatility.
#Titans‘ Vrabel: Radunz performance was encouraging. Had some really good plays. Some not as good, with pad level too high.
— John Glennon (@glennonsports) August 14, 2021
The rookie may have looked even better if he was surrounded by the Titans’ starters on the OL as well. That’ll be the case if he locks down the starting RT job by the start of the season. Radunz still has a ways to go to solidify that spot, but so do the rest of the team’s rookies when it comes to significant playing time.
Rookie cornerbacks Caleb Farley and Elijah Molden were low on the team’s second and third-team defenses on the first depth chart. Although, that is fairly customary for rookies on the inaugural depth chart. Regardless, there are undoubtedly more guys for them to pass up for a starting role than Radunz as of now.
First-year WRs Dez Fitzpatrick and Racey McMath are in a similar boat. It is more likely that they’ll start the season as purely depth and special teams players.
Rookie EDGE rusher Rashad Weaver may rival Radunz as the most likely candidate to get immediate playing time.
Rookie leaders in pass-rush win rate this preseason:
🔹 Rashad Weaver, Titans (26%)
🔹 Ronnie Perkins, Patriots (24%)
🔹 Quincy Roche, Steelers (21%) pic.twitter.com/iy9Bz4O7j3
— PFF (@PFF) August 14, 2021
Weaver was arguably Tennessee’s best defender in their first pre-season and has had an impressive training camp so far. There’s more proven talent ahead of him on the depth chart in Bud Dupree and Harold Landry. He could carve out an intriguing rotational role with more strong play before the start of the regular season, though.
Radunz may not get his name called as a starter during the broadcast against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 1, but expect him to play a substantial role on the offensive line this season.
Featured Image via USA TODAY-Sports