A year ago the Tennessee Titans had the same five starting offensive linemen in 15 of their 16 games.
Just past the halfway point of this season it looks highly unlikely they will match that consistency.
The Titans were forced to alter their front last Sunday because left tackle Michael Roos had not been cleared after an appendectomy seven days earlier. Wednesday, right guard Leroy Harris and right tackle David Stewart did not practice Wednesday because of knee injuries and it seemed improbable that both would ply this Sunday against Chicago (noon, LP Field).
“[Harris] has some distance to cover to be ready to play on Sunday, so we’ll see,” coach Mike Munchak said. “… [Stewart] is a guy that usually rallies and can play. We should have him back.
“… Guys are so different with knees and how they respond to them.”
Tennessee made a move to shore up its offensive line depth when it signed guard/center Kyle DeVan and waived safety Tracy Wilson. DeVan was with the Titans for offseason workouts and training camp but was waived prior to the start of the regular season.
Roos participated in a portion of Wednesday’s workout and was expected to play. Mike Otto, who played in Roos’ plce Sunday, practiced in place of Stewart. Kevin Matthews and Duece Lutui each spent time at Harris’ spot. Lutui, claimed off waivers one week into the regular season, has not appeared in a game for the Titans.
The Bears are anything but an ideal opponent to face with a depleted offensive line.
As a team, Chicago is tied for third with 23 sacks but has played one game fewer than Green Bay and Arizona, which are tied for the league lead with 26. Defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Henry Melton have a team-high five apiece, which is twice as many as Titans’ co-leaders Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley.
“We’re just trying to get good matchups,” Chicago coach Lovie Smith said. “When you have a player like we have in Julius Peppers, you just don’t want to pin him down in one spot. You want to move him around and let him have a chance to rush and play against different guys.
“It’s not just [Peppers]; Henry Melton, and most of our guys along our front can play just about every position, so it just gives us flexibility to do a few things.”
Not coincidentally, the Bears are second in the league in scoring defense and tied with the New York Giants for the interception lead with 16. They have picked off at least one pass in every game this season and as many as five in a single contest. Four of their last five opponents have scored fewer than 20 points.
“When the front guys are getting pressure, that’s when the interceptions usually come,” Munchak said. “When you’re getting pressure, the quarterback has to make quicker decisions, the ball is out of his hands faster than he wants to. All of a sudden, it’s an interception.
“They’re covering well too, don’t get me wrong, but a lot of the credit goes to the front group that is creating the havoc up front that the ball is coming out. They’re getting a lot of interceptions and taking advantage of it.”