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Titans Creating Competition on Offensive Line

Posted Apr 27, 2013

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 spent the rest of the day addressing a defense that allowed a league-high 29.4 points per game last year. The Titans selected LSU end Lavar Edwards in the fifth round, Nevada cornerback Khalid Wooten in the sixth round and Nebraska safety Daimion Stafford in the seventh round.

Titans coach Mike Munchak, a Hall of Fame guard in his own right, made it a priority to improve a line that didn't open up enough running room for Chris Johnson or provide enough protection for quarterback Jake Locker last season. The newcomers will have the opportunity to play for offensive line coach Bruce Matthews, another Hall of Fame guard.

"I think what helped (Matthews) and I become better players is the competition that you have when you have great players around,'' Munchak said.

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.

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 Matthews.

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 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, but their only draft pick at that spot was the 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 one of four Southeastern Conference players selected by the Titans. 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.

"That's where the best players seem to all be,'' Titans general manager Ruston Webster said. "I think that's played out throughout the draft, not just with us.''

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.

Stafford had 96 tackles and four interceptions for Nebraska last season to earn first-team all-Big Ten honors from the league's media. The hard-hitting Stafford will get a chance to learn from veteran safeties Bernard Pollard and George Wilson, who signed free-agent deals with the Titans this offseason.

"I do bring the wood,'' Stafford said. "That's probably one of the best things I like to do, is punish somebody with the ball.''

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