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The Titans' revamped offensive line struggling with protection, injuries

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans revamped their offensive line during the offseason from one end to the other, and they might wind up being worse.

The Titans have allowed 35 sacks, better than only four other NFL teams. Tennessee was better than just five teams last season giving up 49 sacks. Despite all of new general manager Ran Carthon's changes, injuries have forced the Titans to start seven different combinations on the line through the first 10 games.

That number will grow Sunday when Tennessee (3-7) hosts Carolina (1-9) because of an injury to starting right tackle Chris Hubbard. Titans coach Mike Vrabel said the constant changes have been a part of the issue.

“We know that’s part of this league,” Vrabel said Tuesday. “That’s just kind of what happens throughout the course of the season. Not to say that it’s not challenging, but we’ve tried to get guys ready to go. Try to ask them to prepare starters.”

Vrabel said those players have to be ready when the opportunity comes. Jaelyn Duncan, a sixth-round pick out of Maryland in April, got his most work yet in last week's 34-14 loss in Jacksonville, coming in at right tackle after Hubbard hurt his arm.

That was the first time Duncan had played right tackle in anything other than practice. Vrabel said Tuesday that veteran Andre Dillard, still in the concussion protocol, and Duncan will be working at left tackle with Dillon Radunz flipping back to right tackle to start this week.

If Duncan starts, he would join left guard Peter Skoronski as the second rookie starter on Tennessee's line.

“I’m willing to work wherever I get put at," Duncan said.

Duncan benefitted from the experience of working through play calls, the silent cadence and execution in a road environment, Vrabel said. The rookie also has plenty of little things to work on, including holding blocks longer.

“Every block matters, even though you did your job for the majority of the play,” Vrabel said. “It’s a good lesson to learn out there, seeing the guy’s finishing and being involved in the play, and you can help that.”

The protection has worsened. Ryan Tannehill was sacked 19 times starting the first six games of the season. Rookie Will Levis has been sacked 10 times in his four starts — three of those on the road.

Two-time NFL rushing champ Derrick Henry also has struggled to find holes with linemen constantly working on the chemistry and communication needed in games.

Veteran right guard Daniel Brunskill, one of three free agents Carthon signed in the offseason to revamp the line, said linemen got used to switching around a lot during training camp. He sees these challenges as part of the job of being an NFL lineman.

"In the (meeting) room, you build chemistry and you just got to keep working and learning how everybody speaks and how everybody works together and just keep working like that,” Brunskill said.

NOTES: Levis was not seen in the open portion of practice Tuesday after speaking to reporters before practice. He had his left ankle taped up and was on last week's injury report with a foot issue. The Titans practiced Tuesday with Vrabel giving the team Thursday off for the Thanksgiving holiday. ... Dillard was in a yellow, no-contact jersey. WR Treylon Burks (concussion protocol), CB Kristian Fulton, and Hubbard also were not seen. S Terrell Edmunds (shoulder) and CB Roger McCreary did not stretch with the team or take part in the open portion of practice.

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AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl