That forgotten Titans player
The “nobody” on the depth chart. The guy that plays well in preseason and is “never heard from again” until next summer. This silence makes fans wonder why. It makes fans curious. There was Kurt Warner and there was Priest Holmes. There’s been plenty of “nobodies” that went on to become… somebody. It’s not that he’s forgotten, but you almost have to be reminded that he’s there just the same. NFL fans love these nobodies- love em!
The Titans had a nobody is Antonio Andrews. During this information age, Andrews wasn’t exactly a surprise. He ran for a zillion yards at Western Kentucky and was an intriguing undrafted free agent. When Andrews became the Titans featured running back, some fans asked “who?” but yet, for the most part, he was a known commodity. Maybe also as a result of guys like Kurt Warner, it’s almost difficult to be a nobody in today’s world. Everyone is looking for the darling undrafted free agent. Then everyone is looking for the sleeper in fantasy football. Next, you can add-in dynasty fantasy football folks that are looking for the deep sleepers. Andrews’ one year of prominence would have been a bigger deal if it happened 20 years ago.
Amidst this giant confusing pile of contradictions, the Titans still have another nobody and I’m predicting that 2017 will be his year.
2017 NFL Free Agency: Who’s left; taking a look at some of the top remaining free agents
2017 NFL Draft: 2017 NFL Draft Complete Results: Rounds 1 – 7
Josue Matias was a four-year starter at Florida State. Four years starting for a nationally prominent program that plays the best of the best in college football, and yet he went undrafted. 2015 began with Matias being on two prestigious lists- the preseason Lombardi trophy and preseason Outland trophy. These lists indicate players that may turn out to be the award winners. They may not, but it’s basically a “keep an eye on these guys” list.
During the 2015 preseason, the second offensive line group was effective. The first group would struggle mightily and when the subs came in, it was a total contrast. Suddenly the Titans had time to pass and ran effectively. David Cobb and Zach Mettenberger were two players that greatly benefitted from the far better offensive line. It gave the impression that they were better than the starters, since the starters struggled to run behind the first unit’s offensive line.
The first offensive line group had three drafted players that never panned out- Jeremiah Poutasi, Chance Warmack, and Brian Schwenke. The group also had Andy Levitre for whom the Titans signed as a key free agent, but he didn’t play well for them. None of them are with the team. Oh and somewhere in the corner is Taylor Lewan waving “don’t forget about me!”
The second group had Quenton Spain. Spain has become an excellent starter; statistically one of the best guards in football. One of “Munchak’s boys” in Byron Stingily. He would be cut and then go play for Munchak with the Steelers. Byron Bell whom would play four positions on the offensive line that season, replacing each of those castoffs. At center was Fernando Velasco- a journeyman center with decent, if not impressive, ability. He was a typical backup that could come in and be effective for a time. Everyone played. Everyone on this second unit got promoted to the first unit in some fashion.
Oh I forgot the right guard. That was Josue Matias. He didn’t get promoted. He was impressive in preseason. He caught my eye, not Spain. No one got past this guy and when they did run…whew did he move the defensive lineman! The season was horrific. The Titans would allow roughly ten million sacks as they clinched the worst record in football. As each of these replacements got called up, I waited for Matias to be inserted. Near the end of the season, they were giving the quarterback some time and they were opening some holes for the running back. The replacements were far better and replacing the starters at a clip of about one every two or three weeks. Soon Matias would be promoted and….nope the season ended without him getting a snap.
I was annoyed. I wrote of it. I vented. When one lineman is a human turnstile, it creates this begging that almost becomes a demand to put someone else into the game. When JJ Watt is dominating it hurt. When linebacker Whitney Mercilus was such an effective rusher up the middle that people began to list him as a defensive lineman(yep, look it up)…ooh that stung. Then Ken Whisenhunt was fired and there was this hope that my frustration would be replaced with far better talent evaluation.
Last spring, Matias played tackle and guard as did Quenton Spain. Each of them played both in college. Since Blake Bell was such an effective sub in 2015, it was a common thought to imagine him supplanting one of the starters. Would it be Warmack? Spain? Would the rookie Jack Conklin be ineffective? Bell was thought of like a sixth starter or sixth man in basketball. The Titans drafted a guard named Sebastian Tretola He made the most amusing prospect quote ever when he said that Mariota robbed him of his Heisman trophy. Whether it was a silly quote or not, he drew attention and fans wanted to know how he was doing. Matias…how much press is there really about backup linemen? He went back to being a nobody.
Bell got injured, but the Titans staff and players made plenty of comments that gave the impression that they would be fine without him. It wasn’t that his play wouldn’t be missed, but that they had it covered.
Then guess who got injured? (There should be a Josue Matias popup book) Matias was injured and suddenly the Titans had to act. They traded their supposed prized wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham to Philadelphia for backup tackle/guard Dennis Kelly. DGB was struggling during the offseason activities, but he was also still widely thought of as an upcoming talent. He was a second round pick and led the team in receiving as a rookie. He was a huge man that could run fast and seemed to have a bright, bright future. Teams don’t usually quit on a player like that. DGB wouldn’t do well in Philadelphia and his career seems to be fizzling out quickly, but look back at some May and June fantasy football lists. Pick up a “fantasy rag” or pro football preview. People certainly expected him to be an integral part of the Titans offense. Since when do teams trade away an integral part of their offense for a backup lineman? Has that ever happened before in NFL history? How good does that backup lineman have to be to give the team the impression they had better do something drastic and replace him?
I had written that I expected Matias to replace Chance Warmack. The Titans didn’t seem pleased with him and his preseason play did nothing to change this impression. The Titans did replace Warmack, but with waiver wire pick up Josh Kline.
In 2017, Tretola has made some sort of declaration that he plans to challenge the starters and win a spot in camp. While I doubt he wins a spot, I love how this guy speaks. He is so fiery and fun. The Titans drafted Corey Levin in the seventh round. Levin is a mauler of a guard and his college highlights have received some attention. He also went to Chattanooga, so he is considered a local “boy” as well.
Guess who is forgotten?
I am predicting Matias steals Kline’s spot and starts in 2017. I haven’t forgotten that during a time when the line looked like garbage, he shined. To now have impressive teammates playing alongside him, his job will be so much easier. He should bust his way up to the starting lineup in 2017.
Another odd moment, just because
Last summer someone somehow let the word out that Matias was waived. I was all “there is no way they waive him! They made this trade clearly showing how valuable they felt he is. There is no way!” I wrote and wrote. When are NFL transactions wrong? People wrote me how it’s pretty cut and dry isn’t it? See here, ESPN has him waived. Also here, the Titans website has him waived too. I was insistent. He IS still on the roster. I noticed this transaction wasn’t on the NFL website and inquired with the team. He absolutely is on the roster and under contract. How’s that for a nobody or forgotten man?