NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Coach Mike Mularkey’s off-season message for his team could be best summarized by two terms: “Consistency” and “Depth.” Now, only two weeks into 2016 play, both Tennessee Titan mantras might be challenged.
Starting right guard Chance Warmack sustained a torn tendon in his right middle finger during pregame warm-ups this past Sunday. Warmack played through the injury to help give Tennessee the 16-15 victory over Detroit, but the fourth-year veteran out of Alabama may miss an extended period of time if he opts for surgery.
“We’re discussing whether to repair it or not,” Mularkey said during his Monday press conference. “You can play through the injury, or you can have it repaired. We’ll go from there if that’s the case.”
The coach went on to say that, depending on the severity of the tear, Warmack could miss “a couple weeks to more than a month” if they choose to operate on the finger. “You can play with it, but you’ll probably have to play with basically a cast, a club in there, which is difficult to do at that position,” Mularkey said. “He played through it (Sunday). … I’m sure he had some issues with it, there’s no doubt about that.”
This was Chance Warmack in Pregame after he injured his hand pic.twitter.com/zBe2Mt4D9i
— Cory Curtis (@CoryCurtis2) September 19, 2016
For months leading up to this year’s draft and all through training camp, almost every other question asked to both Mularkey and first-year general manager Jon Robinson was about the offensive line. What efforts were being made to re-tool a unit that allowed the most sacks in the NFL last season (54)?
Thus far, the 2016 iteration of that group has performed admirably, despite such a small sample size.
According to Pro Football Focus’s breakdown of Titans v. Lions, four of the five top offensive grades belonged to rookie right tackle Jack Conklin (85.4), left guard Quinton Spain (84.7), left tackle Taylor Lewan (82.1) and center Ben Jones (82.0).
Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker rounded out the Top Five with a grade of 79.3
PFF is quick to point out that, on the three sacks that Detroit had on quarterbackvMarcus Mariota, Tennessee’s offensive line was not at fault for any. In fact, the failing was on the part of Mariota for holding onto the ball in the hopes of elongating the play. It would seem that the weak link in this front five is Warmack. Both he and Conklin were blown up on the play that resulted in a safety for Detroit.
The difference between the two? Conklin rebounded. Warmack did not.
Warmack looks bad on this play. Looks like he should have been to 2nd level to start. Trapping 3T with Spain. pic.twitter.com/H1nhwn3AhL
— Superhorn (@Super_Horn) September 19, 2016
If Warmack were to elect to have the surgery and miss time, Mularkey and Robinson have done plenty to shore up his position. Rookie Sebastian Tretola is listed on the official depth chart as Warmack’s back-up. The Titans shipped off Dorial Green-Beckham in mid-August for the 6-8, 321-pound Dennis Kelly and his versatility at both tackle and guard in anticipation of a scenario like this one.
Through the first two contests of this season, the offensive line showed promise. A shake-up at guard may ruffle the consistency of the group, if Warmack misses time.
The truth is… it may be for the best.
Since being the 10th overall pick in the 2013 draft, Warmack’s development as a player has yet to come to fruition. In addition, the Titans declined the fifth-year option on his rookie deal, making this season a contract year for Warmack and giving GM Robinson a potentially easy out.
However the situation pans out, both Mularkey and Robinson have ensured that competent fail-safes exist for this unit.
The Titans (1-1) host the Oakland Raiders (1-1) at noon CT Sunday, Sept. 25th.
Information from Pro Football Focus, The Tennessean and ESPN.com contributed to this report.