The Tennessee Titans traded up to the No.8 spot in April's NFL Draft to select offensive tackle Jack Conklin in the first round with the intention that he would at some point become the teams right tackle to booked for the foreseeable future with left tackle Taylor Lewan. It wasn't supposed to happen this soon, however.
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey and general manager Jon Robinson entered the Titans OTA's with the thought that Conklin would work behind veteran tackle Byron Bell and earn his place with the first team offensive line, but a gruesome dislocated ankle injury to Bell in the team's very first full roster OTA sent Conklin from the second team to the starting line-up ahead of schedule.
While Mularkey and Robinson will tell you they had every confidence in Conklin, they deferred to the veteran Bell initially because of his veteran status and to keep some of the pressure off their prize rookie until he had the opportunity to get his feet wet in the NFL.
As it turned out, Conklin dipped his toe in the water before being shoved head first into the deep end, but to talk to the first round pick, that doesn't bother him.
On Wednesday TItanRedZone sat down with Conklin for a one-on-one where the rookie shared his thoughts on Bell's injury and where he is in the early stages of his rookie season.
"It's going great with the guys they have in there in Ben (Jones) and Chance (Warmack) and Taylor (Lewan) and (Quinton) Spain, they're a good group," said Conklin. "They're helping bring me along with a lot of talking up front and they're making it a bit easier on me just being able to to step in with those guys who've played in the system so long, so it's been good."
"There's a lot to learn, you know, and it's not the way I wanted it to happen," continued Conklin. "I was brought in here to make a difference and it's my job now to take this and make something out of it."
As a rookie, Conklin admits there is a lot to learn as he is now three weeks into the off-season program. .
"I think being a rookie it's just, you know, I'm the fresh legs in there," Conklin said. "You know all those guys are seasoned guys and my job is to move fast in there and not look like I'm a rookie. My goal when I come into practice is no matter what I've got to move fast, move fast and while something might not go right, as long as I'm going hard on every play then I'll do the job I want to do."
Touted as a big, aggressive, mauler leading up to the draft, Conklin admits that is his strength in being physical, but spoke of what he needs to improve most going into this season.
"I think right now it's truly getting down the playbook, then after that to start working harder on technique next. So right now it's really just when I go up to the line, knowing what I have to do so that I can focus in more on this step was better than that step and I can read the defense and see what the safeties are doing."
It's a learning process for every rookie, but for a rookie offensive lineman who is stepping into a starting role on a team whose line has been one of the worst in the NFL over the last two season, there could be even more pressure.
"No, I don't feel any more pressure than I put on myself to come in and play at the level this organization expected of me when the picked me," concluded Conklin. "I put pressure on myself to produce and as long as I do that, that's all I want because no one expects more of me than I do myself."