NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) The Tennessee Titans finally have settled on their starting offensive line, and the group tasked with protecting rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota features two new starters.
The Titans traded veteran left guard Andy Levitre to the Atlanta Falcons earlier Friday, leaving veteran Byron Bell as his replacement with rookie Jeremiah Poutasi the new right tackle. Bell and Poutasi started the final three preseason games with left tackle Taylor Lewan, center Brian Schwenke and right guard Chance Warmack.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he’s happy for Levitre who now gets an opportunity to potentially start with Atlanta in a trade that landed the Titans a sixth-round draft pick in 2016 and a conditional pick in the future.
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”That was something that was certainly good for us,” Whisenhunt said. ”We’re ready to move on.”
With the trade, the Titans now have cleared up two free agent signings since last season. They released right tackle Michael Oher in February, and Levitre had started all 32 games since being signed to a six-year, $46.8 million deal in March 2013.
But the Titans wanted to get bigger on their offensive line. The 6-foot-5, 340-pound Bell is nearly 40 pounds and 3 inches bigger than Levitre, while Poutasi, a third-round draft pick out of Utah, is 6-5 and 335 pounds. Moving to left guard has been a transition for Bell who played either left or right tackle at Carolina with only one start at right guard back in 2013.
”He’s gotten better, and Byron’s bigger in there and he’s done a nice job,” Whisenhunt said. ”So we felt good about that move.”
Poutasi worked his way up to the first-team at right tackle in training camp. The Titans made sure to give the rookie right tackle plenty of work in their 24-17 preseason finale win Thursday night, keeping him on the field for 31 snaps while Bell and Warmack played 11 and Lewan and Schwenke only four.
Whisenhunt said he is as confident in Poutasi as a coach can be in a rookie, even expecting a big adjustment starting Sept. 13 with the season opener at Tampa Bay.
”But what I like about him he’s athletic, he’s worked very hard, he’s gotten better over the three games that he’s played, and we know that there’s going to be times where he’s going to struggle a little bit,” Whisenhunt said. ”And we’ll try to do some things to help him.”
The Titans went 2-14 last season starting 10 different linemen and ranked 27th in the NFL allowing 50 sacks. Keeping Mariota upright and healthy is key to this franchise’s turnaround, and they gave up five sacks combined this preseason. Now the Titans have to settle on their backup offensive linemen with 12 more to release to reach the 53-man roster by Saturday’s deadline.
With the trade, the Titans cleared 10 players off their roster Friday with center Gabe Ikard among nine waived. Center Andy Gallik, a sixth-round pick out of Boston College, likely is safe. Jamon Meredith started at both left and right tackle last season, and Byron Stingily started four games at right tackle.
Tackle Will Poehls has the size that the Titans like these days at 6-8 and 334 pounds, and so does guard Quinton Spain at 6-4 and 330 pounds. Josue Matias, an undrafted rookie out of Florida State is 6-5 but 309 pounds.
Notes: The Titans will be off Saturday and Sunday before returning to practice Monday to start preparing for Tampa Bay. … Others waived include fullback Zach Boren, cornerback Ri’Shard Anderson, defensive backs Khalid Wooten and Jemea Thomas, defensive lineman Isaako Aaitui, wide receiver Josh Stewart and linebackers Andy Studebaker and Kaelin Burnett.
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