Although the speed of an offensive lineman rarely matters to most NFL teams, the Tennessee Titans are certainly an exception this year. For the many of you who may not know why, the first reason is Chris Johnson and the second reason is the $10 million the Titans paid him. When Titans general manager Ruston Webster chose not to release Johnson, he ultimately made a commitment to the running game and the quest to find offensive linemen who can get to the second level officially began.
During the regular season, Johnson frequently complained about his faulty offensive lineman who failed to hold their blocks and limited the franchise running back’s ability to break for long runs. Due to the Titans’ limited cap space of $19.4 million, they would be unable to afford the salary that the premiere free agent tackles Ryan Clady and Jake Long would command, especially since they have so many other needs. Therefore Webster is relegated to surfing the waiver wire, unearthing a diamond in the rough or selecting a offensive lineman with the tenth selection in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Many draftniks and experts had projected Alabama guard Chance Warmack to be the Titans’ selection due to his dominance on the gridiron, paving the way for two 1,000 yard running backs in route to a BCS National Championship. Although Warmack was impressive on film, his poor showing at the NFL Combine left a lot to be desired, especially from a Titans perspective when they need an athletic offensive lineman–not just a bulldozer.
Warmack’s pedestrian 5.35 second 40-yard run was not as problematic as his poor 10-yard split, which conjured memories of former Crimson Tide tackle Andre Smith due to their matching guts. Although Warmack is viewed as a gamer by many, the exceptional workout numbers of North Carolina guard Jonathan Cooper should make the Titans think twice before making their selection.
Cooper was considered to be a notch below Warmack, but his performance at the NFL Combine has certainly bridged the gap. The Titans need an offensive lineman who is athletic and one who can get to the second level without little delay. Cooper certainly fits the bill. This year, Cooper was a key cog in opening holes for ACC record setting rusher Giovani Bernard, who had 30 rushes of 40 yards but if you need proof, the highlight reel will certainly silent doubters.
Cooper clearly came to the combine like a man on a mission and you can be certain the Titans were not the only team in need of an offensive lineman that noticed.