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Return of Jack Conklin great news for Titans' offensive line

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Third-year right tackle Jack Conklin made his 2018 debut against the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 4.

He missed all of training camp and the Tennessee Titans' first three games as he recovered from a torn ACL he suffered during the divisional playoff game against the New England Patriots in January.

Conklin's return brings much-needed stability to the offensive line, and it excites Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to see the other half of his bookend bodyguards in the lineup.

"It's nice having him back. I think he does a great job also of creating holes in the run game and doing a great job in pass protection," Mariota said. "It's nice when you have all five of those guys that have played together. ... Honestly, when you have all five of those guys up front together, the chemistry that they've built these last couple years, it is a big thing for us."

The continuity Mariota hinted at is essential for the young offense as Tennessee (3-1) visits the Buffalo Bills on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET (CBS). Conklin exploded onto the scene as a rookie and was named a first-team All-Pro at right tackle and voted to the Pro Football Writers of America all-rookie team. He backed up his stellar first season with a solid 2017, until his injury happened in the playoffs.

Conklin had started every game since being selected No. 8 overall in the 2016 draft, so missing the first few games of the season was a painful experience for the 24-year-old offensive lineman.

"It's brutal. Seeing everybody out there, the guys that you battled with, going through it. You want to be out there grinding with the guys. The grind, the camaraderie, getting dog tired every day. You tear yourself down and build yourself back up every day," Conklin said when asked what he missed the most about not being on the field.

Now Conklin says he feels stronger and quicker than he has ever felt. His return restores the offensive line that has been together since 2016 to full strength.

Left tackle Taylor Lewan is the group's elder statesman. He came to Tennessee as the No. 11 overall selection in the 2014 draft.

Undrafted free agent Quinton Spain is an example of Titans general manager Jon Robinson's ability to find overlooked players who develop into starters. Spain signed with Tennessee after not being selected in the 2015 draft. The next year, Spain won the starting job at left guard.

The rest of the group arrived in 2016. Center Ben Jones came to Tennessee as a free agent in March. Conklin was the team's first-round pick that April. Right guard Josh Kline joined the Titans one day after being released by the Patriots that September.

The group came together like Voltron and formed one of the top offensive lines in 2016, paving the way for running back DeMarco Murray's AFC-leading 1,287 rushing yards.

This season's team has allowed only seven sacks, which ties the Titans with the Cincinnati Bengals for the 10th-fewest in the NFL.

The Titans have taken on a "for the boys" mantra because of how close the team has become, and Conklin's return made the bond stronger.

"It's the boys! I am really happy all of us are back together," Lewan said. "Usually, we are very reliable being all on the field at the same time. But these last four weeks have been a weird couple of games for this line. Hopefully, we will get an opportunity to keep going and stack some wins on top of each other. All of the boys are happy to be back together."