NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans used the 11th overall pick this season to select Michigan product Taylor Lewan as the franchise's left tackle of the future. Now in Week 6 of his rookie season, it appears the future is now for Lewan.
Starting left tackle Michael Roos is likely to miss a good portion, if not the remainder of the season with a knee injury that will require surgery. That opens the door for Lewan to make his first career NFL start Sunday vs. Jacksonville at LP Field.
Lewan challenged both Roos and starting right tackle Michael Oher during training camp, with the veterans ultimately claiming the jobs. From there it was a game of patience for Lewan, who knew at some point his time would come.
"This is why I was drafted here is to play football and not ride the pine," he said. "It's unfortunate to see a guy who has so much history here playing at a high level go down. It's not the way I wanted to win the job, but it's an opportunity for me to start my own thing here at left tackle."
Roos is in his 10th season as a Titan after Tennessee drafted the tackle in the second round of the 2005 draft. Ever since draft day Roos has been the mark of stability on the Titans offensive line, starting in 148 out of a possible 149 regular season games during his NFL tenure. Only an emergency appendectomy in October of 2012 has ever kept Roos out of the lineup.
In fact, no NFL offensive lineman has made more regular season starts than Roos since 2005.
With a decade of experience under his belt, Roos has had plenty of knowledge to pass along to his rookie counterpart.
"He's taught me so much," Lewan said of Roos. "Based on how this career of mine goes, I'll probably be indebted to him a long time. He's definitely helped a lot. I'm just excited about the opportunity."
Lewan has jumped around the offensive line throughout training camp and the beginning of this season. He's played both tackle spots, while also making frequent appearances at left guard. The understanding of different responsibilities around the o-line is something Lewan says will benefit him on Sunday.
"You get a better idea of the offense and what guys are doing," he said. "Even if you're unsure you can use the process of elimination where, 'ok if the guard is doing this then I need to do this.' It definitely helps slow down the game."
The Titans have used Lewan sparingly in each of the first five games this season – usually in the fourth quarter or on special teams. His aggressive style of play has already earned him his fair share of yellow laundry thrown his way. That includes a personal foul on an extra point against Cleveland last week.
'Toeing the line' is how Lewan put it in regards to his personality on the field – the balance of having an edge without negatively impacting the team.
"You need to play with fire and I'm a firm believer that you need to play with a little nastiness, to have a defensive mentality on the offensive side of the ball," he explained his philosophy. "[That said] there's a time and place for everything. You can't get penalties and affect your team in a negative way. If you have 11 guys affecting the team in a positive way then you're going to win a lot of games.
"I haven't changed my personality ever and it's gotten me this far," Lewan continued describing himself. "I do some unorthodox stuff, I'm a little different than most offensive linemen as far as personality, but I'm not going to change who I am as a person."
Lewan treats his media sessions with the comfort of a seasoned veteran, giving in-depth breakdowns about his responsibilities within the offensive line, sprinkled with whatever humor he feels like throwing in. No one will ever accuse the Titans first-round pick of taking himself too seriously.
Amidst the jokes about his heartfelt pregame playlist (consisting of Jack Johnson and John Mayer in order to "touch the heart") and his analysis about the various facial hair on the team, Lewan made it obvious that starting on Sunday will bring emotions he's missed since playing at Michigan.
"That's how it was in college during my senior year after being a four-year starter. It's the excitement of the game that keeps you playing it," Lewan said as if recalling his college glory days. "A lot of guys enjoy practice, but it's not a game. Having the opportunity to go out on the first series and take all those snaps is nerve-wracking, it has to be. Roos told me even 10 years in that he still gets nervous. I can't wait for that feeling."
The Titans selected Michigan tackle Taylor Lewan with the 11th overall pick of the 2014 NFL Draft.