The Tennessee Titans will open up the season with an ocean-sized gap in the offensive line with Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan slated to serve a four-game suspension. Forget about being super. Quarterback Marcus Mariota will have to be downright magnificent to make up for his blindside being exposed.
Of all the times to get suspended…
All-Pro defensive end Myles Garrett will be licking his chops when the Cleveland Browns host the Titans in Week 1.
Long-winded veteran pass rusher Justin Houston will be grinning ear-to-ear when the Indianapolis Colts’ criminally underrated defensive front visits Nashville in Week 2.
Four-time Pro Bowl defensive end Calais Campbell will be exorbitantly pleased when the Titans visit the Sunshine State to play the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 3. Former All-Pro pass rusher Vic Beasley will be salivating for an opportunity to break the game when the Atlanta Falcons roll out the carpet for the Titans in Week 4.
Unfortunately for the Titans, Lewan won’t be around for any of it after being denied an appeal for violating the NFL’s policy for performance-enhancing drugs. There was talk of the banned substance that ultimately led to the suspension, ostarine, mistakenly being ingested. Lewan even went as far as posting the results of a polygraph test on his Instagram.
But none of that matters now. The whats, whys and hows sailed off into the sunset the moment Lewan’s suspension was upheld. All that remains now is Mariota leading a team without his most trusted protector watching his back.
Trust is paramount, especially for Mariota, who is on an expiring deal and facing real quarterback competition for the first time since being drafted to the Titans.
The former No. 2 overall pick of the 2015 NFL draft hasn’t played 16 games in a single season due to a long injury history. That thought alone was enough to give the Titans cause for reflection before mortgaging the franchise in a blockbuster contract extension. So they went out and traded for former Miami Dolphins starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill instead.
Nothing is ever coincidental when it comes to the business side of football. Tannehill was brought in as both an insurance policy and a possible replacement for Mariota. Playing well and staying healthy is imperative if Mariota has any hope of landing one of those superfluous quarterback contracts that take unproven players like Jimmy Garoppolo from backup to making $27.5 million per year.
Of all the times to get suspended, Taylor…
A year after the Titans made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history—a whopping five-year, $80 million mega deal—and he won’t even be around for the first quarter of the season.
Never mind the fact that the AFC South isn’t the doormat division it used to be. The Jaguars got rid of their Blake Bortles problem and brought in Super Bowl LII-winning quarterback Nick Foles. Deshaun Watson will likely take another step forward in his third year with the Houston Texans. And assuming Andrew Luck returns at some point, the Colts were a playoff team last year.
Now is not the time to be taking risks with Mariota’s blindside.
Perhaps the only silver lining is the fact that the Titans were made aware of the suspension on July 24, which has given them plenty of time to prepare for life without their best pass-protector. Of course, that’s completely on the opposite end of the spectrum of what life would have been like with him in it—a life where Magnificent Mariota could have just been super.