If Michael Roos is campaigning for the Pro Bowl, he has a big problem.
Roos might be too honest for politics.
STATS, Inc., an independent statistical service indicated this week in notes sent out about the Tennessee Titans that Roos was the NFL’s only starting left tackle not to have allowed a sack this season.
Roos’ response: “As far as I know, I did give up one at Cincinnati. Antwan Odom caused Kerry [Collins] to fumble, so as far as I know I gave up a sack. By our counts, that’s definitely a sack I gave up.”
Honesty and sack issues aside, Roos has steadily developed into one of the top tackles in the AFC, despite finishing fourth in the fan voting for the Pro Bowl. The fan balloting makes up one third of the process, along with votes from players and coaches. Pro Bowl selections are scheduled to be announced on Tuesday. But again, Roos is not hard on the campaign trail as it relates to his own selection.
Even with Jonathan Ogden’s retirement opening up what had been a perennial spot on the AFC roster, there is considerable competition against the likes of New England’s Matt Light, the Jets’ D’Brickashaw Ferguson, Cleveland’s Joe Thomas, Buffalo’s Jason Peters and San Diego’s Marcus McNeill.
“All I can control is what I’m doing each week and continuing to play hard. It would be a great honor to go, and we’ll see what happens next week,” Roos said.
Center Kevin Mawae, a veteran of 15 NFL seasons, sees something special in the man two spots down from him on the o-line.
“He’s definitely having a Pro Bowl-caliber season. He’s watching guys on film, and other teams,” Mawae said. “He’s played himself into probably being one of the best tackles in the NFL right now. The sad part is I don’t know if he’s getting the recognition or not.”
Those around Roos say he is plenty deserving of being able to go. There is high praise for Roos throughout the locker room, none more so than the man whose blind side he protects — Collins.
“He’s one of the best left tackles in the game. There’s no question about it. If he doesn’t make the Pro Bowl, it’ll be a shame, because he’s a heck of a player, and goes up against some of the best pass rushers in the league week in and week out,” Collins said. “In our division, we’ve got two great ones in [Dwight] Freeney and Mario [Williams]. He always comes to play and always is prepared and plays at a high level. … He’s probably the best I’ve ever played with.”
The Titans thought so as well this offseason, locking up Roos to a six-year, $43 million contract to help solidify the left tackle position.
Roos’ position coach, Hall of Fame guard Mike Munchak, said the key to Roos’ success is the fact that he combines technique, intellect, talent and lots of study all into one package.
“He just works hard. It’s real important to him to do it right. He’s prideful. He wants to be one of the best, and every year he’s gotten better,” Munchak said. “Week in and week out, he gets better. He really studies the game now, and he’s smart. He studies his opponents well, because left tackles get matched up more than other positions. He knows how much we count on him to do what he’s got to do, and he’s getting better, which is fun to watch. He’s having success, and I’m glad they locked him up for a long period of time.”
One of the unsung traits about Roos’ play that has gone unnoticed except to the untrained eye is that he has become such a student of the game that oftentimes, he can adjust even while blocking his man to throw up enough of a roadblock on another defender that might have gotten past a running back in protection or is a late blitzer. That split-second deterrent is often enough time to make the difference in a sack of Collins or a pass that gets out of his hand.
“I think that’s one of his strengths,” Collins said. “He’s smart, intelligent. He understands the offense and the protection schemes and really uses his head in conjunction with the talent that he has.”
No big deal says Roos, the NFL’s only player to hail from Estonia.
“We’re all kind of doing a little. You see a guy blitz late, and you know he’s unaccounted for,” Roos said. “You have to stay on your guy, but maybe you throw an arm out there just to slow him up enough for Kerry to get the ball off.”
Munchak said Roos is smart and talented enough to even have the presence of mind to make in-game corrections on himself. And, as a coach, that is enjoyable for Munchak to watch.
“He doesn’t panic. He’s very confident and very calm. That’s fun to watch,” Munchak said. “Even when he messes up, he knows right away and he can correct himself. He has a chance to be a really special kind of player.”
INJURY UPDATE: Defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch missed a second straight day of practice and will be a game-time decision Sunday against the Texans. Vanden Bosch is battling a recurrence of the groin injury that flared up last Sunday against Cleveland.
Defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth (knee) and LenDale White (knee) both missed practice again on Thursday. Fisher said Haynesworth should practice on Friday and that he hoped White would as well.
Meanwhile, defensive backs Cortland Finnegan (hamstring) and Nick Harper (ankle) both returned to practice after missing Wednesday, as did linebacker David Thornton (hip) and running back Quinton Ganther (hamstring).
PLAYOFF PRIDE: Bryan Pride, the ever-growing ball of tape created by the Titans’ offensive line, could be on the field when the Titans host a divisional playoff game, according to center Kevin Mawae — if they can get him on the field. “Bryan” weighed in at 138.2 pounds Thursday.
“As far as Brian is concerned, we got to the playoffs and he’ll be on the sidelines for the playoffs, but we haven’t discussed anything beyond that,” Mawae said. “We’ve talked about it. We’re not quite sure yet. The problem is who’s going to carry him out there. That’s the biggest issue. He’s part of the team, we’ll have to get him a jersey or something.”
Titans at Texans
CBS, WTVF-5, Sunday, noon
What to watch for on offense: The Titans would love to take advantage of yet another defense that has struggled against the run. Houston is ranked 24th vs. the run, and the Titans have racked up plenty of yards the past two games against Detroit and Cleveland, readying for a December push toward home-field advantage.
What to watch for on defense: The Texans have been playing better of late, save for turnovers where they are minus-11. Matt Schaub and the offense cranked up more than 500 yards total offense last week at Green Bay. Schaub will try to get his two primary weapons, receiver Andre Johnson (92 catches) and running back Steve Slaton (1,024 yards rushing) involved.
Worth noting: Save for Kyle Vanden Bosch, who has a groin injury, the Titans are relatively healthy for this late in the season. Vanden Bosch will be a game-time decision.
Prediction: The Titans have dominated the series, leading 11-2 all-time and posted a 31-12 rout of the Texans earlier this season. Houston, however, is playing better, having won three straight. The Texans have nothing else to play for, so beating a playoff-bound division rival would mean a lot. Titans 24, Texans 21.