Next up on our trip around the Tennessee Titans position by position is a look at the offensive tackles.
Or, for the seventh consecutive offseason, it's time to write about Michael Roos and David Stewart. Drafted in the same draft class back in 2005. Heck, the picks to draft them actually came in the same trade, when the Detroit Lions traded up to select current Texans nose tackle Shaun Cody. Beginning when Stewart finally stepped into the starting lineup in Week 4 of the 2006 season, they'd been the starters at left and right tackle for 91 of 93 regular season games.
2012 saw more disruption to the bookend pairing, though, as Roos missed his first career game and Stewart suffered a broken leg late in the season. Both players return for 2013 and should be regarded as the presumptive starters, but after last year, what might 2013 bring?
I named Roos the Titans' offensive MVP for 2012, though the choice was by default as much as anything else. After a very fine year in 2011, I thought he took a bit of a step back in 2012. Not much of one, mind you, and better than he was in 2010, but not up to what he did in his very best seasons. He remains more of an agile pass-blocker with pretty good mobility, but not really a drive-blocker in the run game. With short arms for an offensive tackle, he depends heavily on preparation and doesn't have the same margin of error when he does make one of his rare mistakes. His one game missed was with an appendectomy, so expect him to be about the same player in 2013 he's been in the past.
I've been more conflicted on David Stewart's level of play than I have been on Roos's. Outside of 2009, the Titans' success running right hasn't matched his reputation as a mauler in the run game. Still average or above for a right tackle, 2012 was still a bit of a disappointing season for him. He seemed to almost lose his cool against the Texans, picking up a couple penalties, and seemed to struggle more in pass protection than he had in the past. A broken leg ended his 2012 season early, and I have not seen any reports on his recovery period. As I noted in the context of Marc Mariani's break, broken bones once fixed tend not to be performance impediments. Still, it wouldn't surprise me a bit if Stewart does nothing before training camp and plays no or very limited snaps in the preseason. I'm not too worried.
If Roos or Stewart goes down again, their replacement will very likely be Mike Otto, back for another year as the Titans' swing tackle. He put in a very creditable effort against Dwight Freeney in the game Roos missed and looked okay replacing Stewart the first couple games he missed as well. Due $1.7 million in the final year of his contract in 2013, some people have speculated he could be a cap casualty. Given Stewart's coming off a serious injury and what happened in 2012, I really doubt it.
2011 sixth-round pick Byron Stingily got the start at right tackle in Week 16 when Otto was scratched and also in Week 17. As I noted in my review of the offense against the Jaguars, he did not particularly impress me with his work that game. Still on his rookie deal, he's cheap, plus the Titans normally keep four offensive tackles. I expect him to be the Titans' fourth tackle again in 2013.
Another year of Roos and Stewart, another year of Otto and Stingily backing them up. It's possible the Titans will look to move on from Stingily, but I doubt it. A late-round pick is never an impossibility, and it'll probably be somewhat likelier than the 0.1% I put it at last year, though not a whole lot more. Unless Stewart's recovery is a lot more of an issue than I think it is, the Titans should have another year of strong offensive tackle play. Considering the issues I've written about and have to write about in the positional analyses to come, that's a very good thing.
Though it is definitely not a glaring problem yet, tackle is a position the Titans needs to be thinking about an upgrade in the coming years. Both are getting up there and, especially with Stewart, the level of play is dropping. In reality I don't think he was any better than average this year. When compared to the ineptitude of the interior O-line, these guys comes out looking good, but there is a lot of room for improvement.
@Sportsfan007 Oops. This is what happens when you write posts after midnight and don't check the depth chart like you should.
After Stewart went to injured reserve following Week 13, the Titans added Daniel Baldridge, who was on the Jaguars' practice squad and had spent the previous three seasons on the fringes of their roster. He was inactive three times and active for the Packers game, but did not make an appearance on offense or on special teams. Good size at 6'8. I've probably seen him play from watching the Jaguars in preseason, but certainly don't remember it.
I'd guess the chance he passes Otto or Stingily is minimal, and the Titans won't keep five offensive tackles. With the need for bodies in camp, there's no need to cut him, but his only hope is an injury and/or the unexpected. Pretty sure he's out of practice squad eligibility, too.