Roos, Stewart are bookends on talented offensive line

 


Michael Roos (left) and David Stewart (right) make up two of the top offensive tackles in the NFL.
While the two players couldn't be any different, together, they are the bookends on a talented offensive line that should be together for many years to come. Not wanting to risk losing either of them, the Titans signed both players to multi-year contract extensions in the off-season.

"We should be in great shape at those edges for a long time," offensive line coach Munchak said. "They are two guys who are going to get so much better. Big bodies, so they can take the pounding pretty well...It's a very comforting thing when you see these guys out there on Sunday."

A native of Estonia, Roos grew up in the former Soviet Republic until age 10 when he left with his mother, brother and sister for a new life in the United States. He played football at Eastern Washington, majoring in finance and economics.  Roos is known as the technician with excellent technique, footwork and hand placement. A smart player, he knows what everybody on the field is doing at any particular time.

Stewart, who earned the nickname "Big Country" by his friends, grew up in Alabama, tending cattle and chickens while his father drove trucks and his mother worked as a nurse. He can easily manhandle defenders while protecting his quarterback or cleaning space in the running game.

Together, the pair helped the Titans produce the NFL's fifth-best rushing offense in 2007, averaging 131.8 yards per game, while helping LenDale White register his first career 1,000-yard season (1,110). They also ranked 10th in the fewest sacks allowed with 29. This year, they have helped the Titans rank fourth in the league with 154.5 rushing yards per game, while giving up only two sacks all season.

"Both of them are excellent players and guys that you can count on," said veteran center Kevin Mawae. "Dave Stewart is more of the mauler, kind of an in your face type of player that can outmuscle guys. We call him 'Big Country' and he plays country strong. Then you've got Michael, the technician of the two. They bring stability to our offensive line on the ends. I think our quarterbacks are comfortable knowing we have two very good tackles protecting their blindside."

Realizing they would soon be losing long-time left tackle Brad Hopkins and right tackle Fred Miller, the team set its sights on restocking the position in the 2005 NFL Draft. The Titans drafted Roos in the second round (41st pick overall) and took Stewart in the fourth round, giving the team its future tackles within the first 113 picks.

The 6-foot-7, 315-pound Roos started 15 games as a rookie at right tackle and every game since then on the left side. Stewart, meanwhile, has not missed a start since entering the starting lineup in 2006.

"I sat out and rode for a year just watching," Stewart recalled. "Injuries got me kicked in there and I had to step up. I was nervous as hell, especially that first game I got kicked in. I still get the jitterbugs every once in a while."

Roos said the environment is much better now than it was during his rookie season.

"It's a lot different than when I first got here," he said. "There are a lot of great guys in this locker room. There's no division. Everybody loves everybody. Everyone wants to work hard for everyone else and it shows on the field."

A quiet person off the field, Stewart can often be seen mixing it up on the field, especially when he feels his opponents have crossed the line.

"I don't' know what gets it started, but usually the guys that run their mouth the most are the ones that get me cranked up," Stewart said. "The other guys are just having fun out there playing the game pretty relaxed. But if a player is running his mouth, it usually gets under my skin."

That's not a good thing for a defensive lineman trying to take on the mammoth 6-foot-7, 318-pounder.

"He's definitely our enforcer," said Mawae. "David is the guy who is going to get in your face, give you an extra shove. Some may say that he crosses the line, but the guys on our offensive line will tell you that he takes it right to the edge. Every offensive line needs to have a guy like that. He's a Jon Runyan type of guy, someone who will go out there and just manhandle you." Running back LenDale White appreciates what both players do for him up front.
 
"They're phenomenal players that always know what to do. You can tell they study the game and are always in the right reads," White said. "As a running back, it's nice to know they have your back."

Added quarterback Kerry Collins: "When you have two guys that are athletic, smart guys, you know it's going to be rare when they let people go. They seem to always be in the right place at the right time and do a great job against some of the best pass rushers in the NFL."

Off the field, Roos and Stewart are good friends, having gone through the NFL combine together and then being selected in the same draft class by Tennessee. Both players say they'll continue working hard to improve, while helping the Titans win games.

"I consider myself very lucky," Roos said. "It's hard to believe that it was only three and a half years ago that we got drafted. It's definitely something that neither one of us takes for granted and it keeps you working hard."

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