Playing in his first game since tearing his ACL in Week 6 of last season, Tennessee Titans left tackle Taylor Lewan was welcome back to the starting lineup with a humbling butt-kicking courtesy of Arizona Cardinals linebacker Chandler Jones.
Despite having a bit of rust to shake off and drawing one of the tougher assignments in defending one of the NFL’s premier pass rushers, Lewan doesn’t appear to be getting a reprieve from head coach Mike Vrabel.
“That’s just not going to be good enough here or in the National Football League,” Vrabel said on Monday.
“I think any excuse that anybody can come up with…they would all be valid. Excuses are always valid. You can make a case for every excuse, but whatever it is…we are going to have to just do enough and prepare enough and perform enough so that we do our job in order to help the team and not live behind any sort of excuse.”
Jones had a career game on Sunday at the Titans expense, pressuring Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill on seven drop backs. The Cardinals pressured Tannehill on 17 of his 41 total drop backs.
Of Jones’ 28 pass rush attempts, the 31-year-old linebacker accumulated five sacks and four tackles for loss and caused two fumbles.
However, Tannehill’s tough day wasn’t the fault of Lewan alone. True, he did allow five QB pressures, two sacks and both fumbles. But the rest of the Titans offensive line — Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Kendall Lamm and Nate Davis — each gave up a sack as well, according to Pro Football Focus. Davis also allowed five QB pressures as well.
Things don’t get any easier this week as the Titans travel to Seattle, which totaled the sixth-most sacks in the NFL last year (46). On paper, the Seahawks present a tougher test than Arizona did in Week 1.
Seattle’s defense uses multiple looks and gets pass rush production from its safeties as well as defensive linemen and linebackers. Against the Colts, the Seahawks had 10 QB hits, five tackles for loss and three sacks.
“We have to improve; Taylor has to improve,” Vrabel said. “We have said this before: In this league, your best players have to play good on Sunday for you to win…
“We have to get those guys ready to go to get on the road, [and] it won’t get any easier as we go out to Seattle. We will have to get going here pretty quickly, make these corrections, flush it, and get ready to be focused on Wednesday with a game plan and go out and try to find a way to win.”
Follow Michael Gallagher on Twitter @MGsports_