Titans creating competition on offensive line

By STEVE MEGARGEE - AP Sports Writer
    2013-04-27 16:54

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Titans are taking nothing for granted in their attempts to improve the middle of their offensive line.

Two days after taking Alabama offensive guard Chance Warmack with the 10th overall pick in the draft, the Titans continued reconstructing the interior of their line Saturday by using a fourth-round selection on California guard/center Brian Schwenke.

Tennessee later addressed its defense by taking LSU end Lavar Edwards in the fifth round and Nevada cornerback Khalid Wooten in the sixth round.

The selection of Schwenke continues a rebuilding process that started well before the draft.

Tennessee lured free-agent guard Andy Levitre away from Buffalo with a six-year, $46.8 million contract. The Titans also signed free agent guard/centers Rob Turner and Chris Spencer. Fernando Velasco, the Titans' starting center last year, signed a one-year tender Monday.

Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame guard, is trying to improve a line that didn't open up enough running room for Chris Johnson or provide enough protection for Jake Locker last season.

All those additions naturally might create uncertainty for the returning linemen.

``The natural question is, `What does this mean for me?' `` Munchak said. ``It means do everything you need to do to be the best player you can be. You'll get your opportunity on the field. You're going to have an opportunity to compete and make the team if you're one of the best players. Competition, there's nothing bad about that.''

Schwenke started 12 games at left guard for California in 2011 and moved to center last season. The Titans believe he can play both spots, but they prefer him at center. He recorded 85 knockdowns last season and finished second to Stanford tackle David Yankey in balloting for the Morris Trophy that goes to the Pac-12's top offensive lineman.

Schwenke worked out with Warmack before the draft and said he looked forward to playing alongside him. Both of them said they hoped before the draft they'd end up in Tennessee because they wanted to play for Munchak and offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, both Hall of Fame guards.

Warmack's ``just an absolute monster on the field,'' Schwenke said. ``He's a great player. I watched his film. I'm very excited. I never thought I'd get to play next to him.''

Schwenke says he has the type of mean streak that he considers an essential ingredient for a successful offensive lineman.

``Absolutely, the best offensive linemen have a little bit of nastiness in them,'' Schwenke said. ``I don't think you're going to find the best offensive lineman who's a nice guy on the field. It's not going to happen.''

Schwenke garnered the Titans' interest with his performance at the Senior Bowl. After looking at his game tapes, the Titans were even more intrigued.

``Eyeballing him at the Senior Bowl, he stood out to me,'' Matthews said. ``Like Munch said, coming back and studying tape, I agree he was the top center as far as we were concerned. I'm very pleased he was still available.''

Schwenke will get a chance to play immediately.

``The best five's going to play,'' Matthews said. ``If that means two rookies, that's great, it means those guys are developing and doing well.''

The defensive line also is an area of need for the Titans, who gave up a league-high 29.4 points per game last year. But they didn't drat a defensive lineman until their fifth-round selection of Edwards. The Titans believe Edwards' so-so production at LSU isn't an accurate reflection of his potential.

Edwards, who is 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, recorded 4 1/2 sacks while starting only six games last year for a talent-laden LSU line that included Cleveland Browns first-round draft pick Barkevious Mingo and Houston Texans third-round selection Sam Montgomery.

``You would assume because the numbers don't compare to those guys that we got a lesser player,'' Titans college scout Jon Salge said. ``That's absolutely false. We've got a guy here that if he were playing for another team with maybe a little bit less talent at defensive end, this guy would play a lot more. His numbers would be up. This guy would have gone much higher in the draft. We're absolutely thrilled to get a guy with this kind of skill set where we got him.''

Edwards was the fourth Southeastern Conference player the Titans chose among their first six picks. After taking Warmack in the first round, the Titans traded up to take Tennessee wide receiver Justin Hunter in the second round and chose Missouri outside linebacker Zaviar Gooden in the third round.

Wooten should team up with Connecticut cornerback and third-round pick Blidi Wreh-Wilson to add depth to the Titans' secondary. Wooten also can help out on special teams, as he returned kickoffs and punts at Nevada.

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