The start of the Tennessee Titans Organized Team Activity period marked the beginning of offensive line coach Mike Munchak's 13th year with the team.
While Munchak has been a familiar face on the team's front office staff for over a decade, the same cannot be said about the players he has coached. The Titans have had the same five-player starting lineup from the previous year just once since 1997.
Despite working with different personalities and skill levels, Munchak has molded average players into top-caliber linemen, including Jacob Bell, who earned all-rookie honors in 2006, Michael Roos, who earned his first Pro Bowl appearance last season, and, most notably, Bruce Matthews who was elected into the Hall of Fame two summers ago.
Munchak not only has knowledge of the offensive line, he has experience. Before his 13 years on the coaching staff, he spent another 13 years as a player on the Houston Oilers, before retiring in 1994 and earning Hall of Fame honors five years later.
Munchak also had his jersey retired by the Oilers, a feat only four other players have accomplished in their lifetime, after earning nine Pro Bowl appearances in his playing career.
With all of his experience, accolades, and proven track record, it is no surprise the strength of the Titans squad is the running game and pass protection. For the past three years, the Titans have recorded more than 2,000 yards rushing, making them the fifth-best rushing squad during that span.
In addition to group success, the Munchak-coached offensive line has given individuals great numbers as well. During the last six seasons, five different players have rushed for over 1,000 yards, including Eddie George, Travis Henry, Chris Brown, Lendale White, and Chris Johnson.
The running game has been a staple of the Titans throughout the Jeff Fisher and Mike Munchak era, but as time goes on, more and more defenses are changing their game plans to combat the ball-control style of offense used in previous years.
The Titans, now under offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger, will move to a more down-the-field style of offense which will utilize the passing game more than usual. In order to do this successfully, the offensive line must protect the quarterback and give the wide receivers time to get open.
Last season, the five starters did just that. Munchak's group allowed just over ten sacks on the year and had a stretch of five games without allowing their quarterback Kerry Collins to get sacked. That type of consistent play has been expected from the Munchak-coached line and should be expected once again this season.
In 2009, for just the second time since 1997, the team will have the same starting line from the previous year. On top of that, they will return the same two running backs to the backfield in Chris Johnson and Lendale White. This carry-over from last year should help the Titans maintain their dominance both on the ground and through the air, ultimately leading to another AFC South championship