Tennessee Titans: Ben Jones Determines Offense’s Success in 2016


After having arguably the worst offensive line in professional football in 2015, we see why new center Ben Jones will determine if this unit will progress or take another step back in 2016.

September 14, 2014; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Raiders defensive tackle Antonio Smith (94) against Houston Texans guard Ben Jones (60) during the second quarter at O.co Coliseum. The Texans defeated the Raiders 30-14. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When Jon Robinson was first named as the new general manager of the Tennessee Titans, his first huge move was trading for Philadelphia running back DeMarco Murray. A move that went under the radar that happened shortly after as center, Ben Jones was signed away from division rival Houston.

Many people were so keen on the Murray acquisition, nobody really got to fully understand how important Jones’ arrival is.

In 2015, the Titans were content with having former fourth-round pick Brian Schwenke man the center position (Who’s season was cut short due to injury). The big unit up front started last season up beat as they protected rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota who went on to toss for four touchdowns in a rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After that, however, things weren’t going so smoothly for the offense in two tone blue.

Related Story: Why Marcus Mariota Will Earn His First Pro-Bowl

The offensive line was anything but consistent or reliable after the regular season debut. Mariota was hit on a regular basis and because of that missed four games. The offensive line gave up a league leading 54(!) sacks in 2015. Part of it was a lack of talent, but a lot of it was the unit not gelling together what so ever. Missed assignments happened far too often and because of that there were many shifts among the line all season long.

Yet, Mariota was able to have an impressive debut season with little talent around him. Mariota is ready to lead this team and take them far as he can , he just needs average protection, at the very least. His lightning quick release and great football IQ allow him to make reads and get rid of the ball quickly. With that type of aerial attack, the line doesn’t have to be great, just on the same page.

That all comes from the pivot spot of the offensive line. Yes, tackles Taylor Lewan and Jack Conklin will also have a significant say in protecting the face of the franchise, but none as big as  Jones. As the center of the offensive line, you must be able to make reads just as well as your quarterback. Being able to read the front seven and communicating that to the rest of the line is a huge gig that comes with being the center, but must be executed properly if an offensive line is to succeed, especially in today’s NFL with all the different schemes and ways to hide blitzes.

Jun 14, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones (60) stretches before practice during mini-camp at St. Thomas Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV/ The Tennessean via USA TODAY NETWORK
Jun 14, 2016; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans center Ben Jones (60) stretches before practice during mini-camp at St. Thomas Sports Park. Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV/ The Tennessean via USA TODAY NETWORK /

Having a veteran in that position is ideal, which is why Robinson decided to bring in a seasoned pro rather then select one from the deep pool of interior lineman the draft had to offer. Jones was the starting guard for Houston before the team decided to let go of veteran Chris Myers. When the former Georgia Bulldog stepped in at the pivot, he performed exceptionally well, helping lead the Texans to the play-offs.

There are also two other traits Jones brings to the table that Tennessee hasn’t had in the center position since perennial Pro Bowler Kevin Mawae was there, consistency and durability. Playing any position along the interior, Jones has showed he can compete anywhere you put him, but what most people forget is, Ben Jones has played in 64 consecutive games. Stability and consistency at the center position is huge for a young quarterback and offensive line.

Ever since Amy Adams-Strunk decided to rescind the interm tag off of head coach Mike Mularkey, you’ve heard an interesting phrase that he’s has been preaching for his offensive game plan, ‘exotic smash-mouth’. It was a term Mularkey coined from his time in Pittsburgh when he was coaching the likes of Kordell Stewart and eventual Hall of Famer Jerome Bettis. It’s an offense that is based around running the football, physically.

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There’s no doubt Robinson has put a running back combination in place to accomplish that physical brand of football he wants to build in Murray and reigning Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry. The question is how well will the offensive line create lanes for their talented staple of backs.

With those kind of bruisers in the back field, most of the run plays will come from between the tackles. Ben Jones is a nasty run blocker, whose intensity can easily be spread to the players around him, especially former first round pick, Chance Warmack. Once you get Warmack going in the run game, the opposing defensive line knows they are in for a long day. The other guard spot is being contested by a few drive blockers as well, including Quinton Spain and Jeremiah Poutasi. Jones’ tenacity is something every offensive coordinator wants at the center position, and is what also makes him a great leader, according to his old head coach Bill O’Brien in a piece via TitansOnLine.com wroter Jim Wyatt.

I’ll be disappointed if this offense doesn’t at least produce near 2,000 yards on the ground. With this bulky offensive line led by a nasty, scrappy player in Jones, Henry and Murray should find lanes to run through. Not to mention Mariota’s ability to take it 80-plus yards, if he has to.