Protecting the quarterback’s blind side is important, but the run the Tennessee Titans are having at left tackle is nothing short of remarkable.
Look no further than how well the best (or even functional) at the position are paid, and you know left tackle is a very important position for NFL teams. After quarterbacks and pass rushers, there’s a case for left tackle as No.3 on the list of most important positions. The Tennessee Titans have, as Paul Kuharsky put it, had a “left tackle lockdown” for pushing three decades now.
So what were you doing in 1993?
If you were the then-Houston Oilers, you drafted an offensive tackle out of Illinois named Brad Hopkins No. 13 overall. He went on to play in 194 and start 188 games over the next 13 seasons.
The Oilers became the Titans before the 1997 season, and Hopkins overlapped with 2005 second-round pick (No. 41 overall) Michael Roos. Roos held down left tackle from there for awhile, starting 127 of 128 possible games over the next eight seasons.
The run continued with Taylor Lewan, the Titans’ first-round pick (11th overall) in 2014. He started six games as a rookie, and has subsequently started 60 more games over the nearly four seasons since.
So the Titans have had three primary left tackles for the last 26 seasons, and at 27 years old Lewan isn’t going anywhere. They’ve combined to start 402 games over that span, with a combined total of 413 games played out of a possible 442 contests with some overlap from Hopkins to Roos (who played some right tackle as a rookie) and Roos to Lewan.
Hopkins, Roos and Lewan have combined to earn six Pro Bowl selections, and they were drafted by three different general managers (Mike Holovak, Floyd Reese and Ruston Webster). As Kuharsky further cited, they have blocked for 62 players who have taken handoffs and protected 19 different quarterbacks thus far.
The Titans have consistently failed to find wide receivers in the draft, though there’s still plenty of hope for Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe right now. Marcus Mariota’s long-term future under center is also a question until further notice. But the Titans have perfected the art of finding left tackles, and for that matter 2016 first-round pick Jack Conklin looks like a mainstay at right tackle too.