For the majority of Tennessee Titans fans, the name Dillon Radunz ignites a never-ending debate over how Tennessee’s coaching staff curiously handled his rookie season. A second-round selection of the Titans in the 2021 NFL Draft, the former North Dakota standout spent the majority of his debut campaign practicing at both left guard and right tackle while often being inactive on game day. Radunz spent a ton of time working (and watching) from the sidelines while the Titans received less-than-desirable play from starting right tackle David Quessenberry. After multiple failed attempts to secure the right tackle position following Jack Conklin’s departure, Radunz may finally reveal himself as the long-awaited answer as a player with a ton of upside, and more importantly, youth for an aging Titans offense at a position that’s felt cursed in recent years.
When drafted, Radunz was expected to represent a do-over for the Isaiah Wilson disaster. Instead, more question marks surfaced as even clarity regarding Radunz’s future position remained in the dark. The storyline has dramatically shifted this offseason, as Radunz is expected to serve as Tennessee’s starting right tackle in 2022.
“His approach has been a little more mature,” Titans Offensive Coordinator Todd Downing recently said in relation to Radunz’s offseason. “Radunz is primarily working at right tackle,” offensive line coach Keith Carter said in an answer that finally delivered much-needed clarity.
Radunz isn’t expected to encounter any legitimate competition for the starting right tackle job this summer, barring an unexpected free-agent acquisition. Titans General Manager Jon Robinson drafted former Ohio State offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere with a third-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, but Petit-Frere hasn’t earned first-team reps throughout the offseason. Given Tennessee’s cautious approach with rookies (Radunz’s rookie season is a terrific example), it’s safe to assume Petit-Frere is being groomed for the future, particularly with an aging (and expensive) Taylor Lewan at left tackle or as a Plan B at right tackle should Radunz fail to impress.
The team also signed versatile lineman Jamarco Jones this offseason, but Jones has worked almost exclusively at left guard. The Titans talked themselves into essentially red-shirting Radunz last season because they had a veteran they trusted in Quessenberry. They no longer roster that fallback option. Quessenberry signed with the Buffalo Bills in free agency and veteran swing tackle Kendall Lamm was released from his contract in a cap-crunching move. Quite simply, the job belongs to Radunz.
Radunz appeared in 12 regular-season contests last season, mostly as a swing backup or special teams player. Reps worth analyzing were few and far between. Radunz started just one game when a Covid-related emergency situation arose on the morning of a Week 16 Thursday night primetime contest against the San Francisco 49ers. It thrust Radunz into an unexpected situation against a fierce 49ers defensive line. Radunz found himself squaring off against sack-artist Nick Bosa. Radunz handled himself so admirably that Bosa was eventually seen lining up over the right tackle with more consistency as opposed to revisiting Radunz’s left side. It wasn’t a perfect showing by any means, but it was good enough to leave Titans fans questioning why he hadn’t taken the field earlier. Radunz returned to the bench the following week, but his time has now arrived.
Radunz is an exceptional athlete at the right tackle position that possesses the dynamic traits necessary to thrive in Tennessee’s wide-zone-based offense. It was straightforward to understand why Robinson identified Radunz as a potential draft target following his athletic showings throughout the pre-draft process. The 6-foot-6, 304-pound Radunz (NFL Combine numbers) measured in with 34-inch arms, recorded a vertical jump of 32 inches, a broad jump of 112 inches, ran the 40-yard dash in 5.16 seconds, and recorded an unfathomable 7.26 in the three-cone. All results range from great to elite.
Paired with starting right guard Nate Davis, there’s every reason for Radunz to take the desired step forward for Tennessee. The onus is squarely on Radunz to prove capable of nailing down the starting job at right tackle for the foreseeable future. With a Pro Bowler in Lewan at left tackle, it’s safe to assume plenty of opposing defenses will identify Radunz as the preferred matchup for their star pass rushers. It should provide Radunz with plenty of opportunities to swim or sink this fall.
Radunz’s physical brand of football is a perfect match for the approach preferred by Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel. Radunz was often described as a better run blocker than pass protector at North Dakota State, which matches up with Tennessee’s run-centric offense with Derrick Henry in the backfield. Radunz was a mauler for the Bisons. At North Dakota State, Radunz was a finisher that loves playing through the whistle. His lateral mobility makes him an ideal blocker in a Tennessee running scheme that prioritizes beating the defender to your landmark and getting to the second level.
Tennessee’s offense has experienced a major culture and personnel shift this offseason. A youth movement has officially begun, and it’s expected to welcome more changes in 2023. Robinson and Vrabel are expecting Radunz to be a part of a long-term solution going forward as sweeping changes will continue to revamp an aging offense. The talented Radunz is a prime breakout candidate for the 2022 Titans.
- Oct 02, 2023
- Oct 02, 2023