By signing free agent guard Rodger Saffold, the Tennessee Titans hope to increase their level of physicality on offense and protection for quarterback Marcus Mariota.
The 30-year-old All-Pro, who is coming off of a Super Bowl loss, is enthusiastic about both of those things.
“It fits my nature completely,” Saffold said. “I love to be aggressive. I think that with the help of Coach Keith Carter that I’ll be able to use my talents to help them [play with physicality] a little bit more. I think that I do a great job of helping out, especially on double teams, and I think that we’ll be able to open up really great lanes for Henry. We’ll be able to protect Mariota.”
— Luke Worsham (@luke_worsham) March 14, 2019
A Step Ahead
Prior to joining the Titans this week, Saffold had spent the entirety of his 9-year career with the Rams. His first transition to a new team will be aided by the fact that he is already familiar with much of the Titans’ terminology on offense.
New Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith has said that a lot of concepts will carry over from when Matt LaFleur called the shots on offense for the Titans in 2018. Saffold played under LaFleur when he was the offensive coordinator in L.A. back in 2017.
“It definitely cures a lot of anxiety that you have just with going to a new place, you’re not quite sure how things are going to work,” Saffold said. “But just knowing the terminology is going to pretty much stay the same and working with some guys that understand how those plays are supposed to be played, it’s going to be easier talking and communicating so that we can get the highest amount of efficiency and yards out of each play that we run.”
During a 2018 season in which the Titans’ offensive line as a whole was incredibly disappointing, the lone steadying force was Pro Bowler Taylor Lewan. Lewan took to Twitter earlier this week in an effort to recruit Saffold to the Titans.
His efforts, which included asking Saffold if he “wanted to be best friends,” were successful.
— Taylor Lewan (@TaylorLewan77) March 12, 2019
“I’ve been talking to [Lewan],” Saffold said, “and I think that relationship is going to go miles with this team, and I think the relationship with the entire offensive line will work really well for us because I really do believe in having that connected team, and nothing can be stronger than the o-line room.”
Working in Lewan and Saffold’s favor is the fact that both players are among the most athletic in the NFL at their respective positions. Saffold looks forward to that shared ability manifesting on the field.
“It’s going to be great. When you work next to an athletic tackle and you’re an athletic guard, sometimes you just have those freak of nature plays where things can just happen and you open up huge lanes in the running game, and also being able to pick up different twists and different blitzes of that nature.”
Getting on the Same Page
Saffold did acknowledge that it will take time for he and Lewan to get on the same page, saying, “There is going to be a little bit of time where me and Taylor are going to have to try and figure each other out and we’re going to have to adjust based on whatever we see. There’s going to be new things we have to learn about how to pass off certain twists, how to pick up certain blitzes, and just how to communicate in general.”
Luckily for Saffold, he went through a very similar experience two years ago when his former team, the L.A. Rams, added All-Pro tackle Andrew Whitworth in free agency.
— AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) March 14, 2019
“It’s literally the same experience,” Saffold said. “I remember starting OTA’s, [Whitworth and I] had a twist and one guy was thinking we were going to man it and the other was thinking we were going to pass it off and you probably saw one of the most athletic moves ever to stay on both of our guys. But then after that, it just became second nature. So, I expect the same thing. With how young Taylor is, it should be even better.”
The Titans got a relative bargain in Saffold. They will pay him an annual average of $11 million over the course of his four-year contract, which is significantly less than the Jacksonville Jaguars gave free agent guard Andrew Norwell just last year.
Some would argue that Saffold is a better player.
The Titans certainly hope that Saffold will be a steadying force not just for the offensive line, but for the entire offense. He seems to be prepared for the challenge.
Cover image: Luke Worsham/A to Z Sports