NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Tennessee Titans need to keep things simple as they look to replace LT Taylor Lewan, who will miss the rest of the 2020 season thanks to an ACL tear.
Head coach Mike Vrabel said on Monday that the Titans will explore several options to replace Lewan, including moving starting RT Dennis Kelly to the left side. Reporters and fans have also thrown out the possibility of moving LG Rodger Saffold to left tackle.
The best solution available to the Titans, here, is to simply play backup Ty Sambrailo at left tackle and keep everyone else on the offensive line where they already are.
KEEP IT SIMPLE
#Titans HC Mike Vrabel: Disappointed for Taylor Lewan. He works hard. We’ll get the next guy in there and see who is best for the team
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) October 19, 2020
The last thing a team should want to do when dealing with an injury as catastrophic as Lewan’s is re-invent the wheel.
Lewan being out will make the Titans worse at left tackle no matter who replaces him. Moving other starters around would make other positions worse, too.
The aforementioned moves involving Kelly and Saffold, or anything that puts rookie first-round pick Isaiah Wilson into the lineup, would be the result of Vrabel overthinking things.
Letting Sambrailo start and not messing with Saffold, Kelly or anyone else is the best move available to the Titans in this situation which is, admittedly, lightyears away from ideal.
It helps, though, that Sambrailo is a more-than-capable option at left tackle.
He’s not nearly as good as Lewan, a three-time Pro Bowler, but he isn’t going to be some kind of liability for the Titans, either. He’s already proven that.
Since Week Three, Sambrailo has played more snaps for the Titans than Lewan, a result of Lewan dealing with injuries unrelated to his ACL tear. Barring one disastrous play against J.J. Watt on Sunday, he’s held up well.
“I have a lot of confidence in Ty,” QB Ryan Tannehill said. “We’re going to miss Taylor, he does a great job for us. But Ty’s been in several times this year and, each time, he’s done a good job for us.
“I’m really excited to have a guy like Ty be able to step up and take on that left tackle spot.”
Center Ben Jones is also confident in Sambrailo, based on what he’s already proven in 2020.
“Ty has played in almost every game this year, he played a lot in camp for us,” Jones said. “Ty is a guy who we trust and can step right in for us.”
DON’T HANG HIM OUT TO DRY
I wanted to let everyone know I got an MRI today. I Tore my ACL yesterday against Houston. Don’t feel sorry for me, I’m going to handle this rehab like a Pro and come back better than ever. Thank you @Titans fans for your support. #NoBadDays
— Jerry Ainsworth (@TaylorLewan77) October 19, 2020
The Titans will need to give Sambrailo help on the left side, however. Hanging him out to dry by consistently leaving him in one-on-one matchups, especially in obvious passing situations, would be a bad idea.
That’s what led to Sambrailo’s terrible play against Watt, who breezed past the left tackle en route to a strip-sack of Tannehill that nearly cost the Titans the game.
Luckily for the Titans, Vrabel realized the team’s error in that situation.
“We’ll continue to work and make sure that we’re trying to find ways to help people where they need help,” Vrabel said when asked about the play.
Whether it’s through having a tight end chip before running his route or some other strategy, the Titans must avoid leaving Sambrailo in critical situations.
If they’re able to do that, the offense should be able to keep up its remarkable pace, despite not having one of its best players in Lewan.
“Ty’s played in this league,” Vrabel said. “He’s played multiple positions. He’s got versatility.
“We’re sure lucky to have him. He’s one of those guys that takes advantage of the situation.”
Cover image: Isaiah J. Downing & Christopher Hanewinckel / USA Today