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VOL. 38 | NO. 46 | Friday, November 14, 2014

How’s Mettenberger doing? Same as other rookies

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For those who are still watching the Tennessee Titans and hoping that something can go right before the 2014 season is up, it could be a long wait.

After dropping to 2-7 with Sunday’s loss at Baltimore, the Titans get to show the nation how far they have decayed this Monday night when they host the Pittsburgh Steelers at LP Field.

Perhaps the best the Titans can do is to show improvement and maybe offer some hope that things will improve in the future.

The key to that, of course, and most of what bears watching over the final seven games, is the progress of young quarterback Zach Mettenberger.

Named the starter just before the bye week, Mettenberger is going through the typical growing pains of a rookie quarterback, and the Titans are right there suffering with him. Not that they weren’t suffering before.

When Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt made up his mind that Jake Locker wasn’t going to be his guy moving forward and made the move to Mettenberger, he did so in order to see if the rookie could show the aptitude and skillset necessary to play the position credibly at the NFL level.

Through two starts, the results have been mixed.

Mettenberger struggled in the first half of the opener before settling into a rhythm in the second half.

On Sunday, it was the reverse.

Mettenberger came out sizzling in the first quarter, only to falter once the Ravens made defensive adjustments and the Titans failed to counter.

The result was five sacks, many the result of him holding the football too long, and just 81 yards passing after the first two drives of the game.

“I think that’s something that he’ll get better at as he gets more comfortable with the position,” Whisenhunt offered. “He did a nice job in a lot of things.

“I thought early in the game he really made some good throws,” he added. “I think a little bit that was underrated was how he handled that environment, especially early, to have the ball for a 15-play drive and a nine-play drive, make some throws on third down and handled the pressures the way he did, I felt there’s a lot of positive in that.”

Try as he might to take positives away from the rookie’s performance, what is obvious is that breaking in a rookie quarterback on a non-contending team is going to be a very bumpy road.

Mettenberger is the fourth rookie quarterback from the 2014 draft class to ascend to the starting quarterback role this year, and the numbers for all leave much to be desired, most notably the win column.

In addition to the Titans, the Jaguars, Raiders and Vikings are now commanded by rookie quarterbacks. The combined record of those teams in the games started by the first-year quarterbacks is 4-19, and were it not for Teddy Bridgewater in Minnesota somehow being 3-2, the tally would read 1-17.

So while Mettenberger learns what it takes to be an NFL quarterback, the short-term prognosis for the Titans doesn’t look very promising.

But if you’re looking for something, anything, to be encouraged about, Mettenberger’s numbers since taking over as the starter look on par with Bridgewater, Jacksonville’s Blake Bortles and Oakland’s Derek Carr.

In two games as a starter and one mop-up appearance, Mettenberger has three touchdowns and three interceptions, while posting a passer rating of 78.3 and a completion percentage of 61.6 percent.

By comparison, Bortles has eight touchdowns and a league-high 14 interceptions in seven starts. He has completed 63.3 percent of his throws and has a 72.2 passer rating.

In Oakland, Carr has posted OK numbers, but has yet to win in nine starts. He is completing 61.1 percent of his throws, with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions and a passer rating of 78.3, which is identical to Mettenberger.

Like Mettenberger, Bridgewater has a smaller sample size (five starts) than Carr and Bortles. He has hit on 60.3 percent of his throws with three scores and five interceptions. That’s good for a 74.9 passer rating.

What that says is that Mettenberger is still very much an experiment for the Titans, but at least is holding his own and comparing rather favorably early on with the other quarterbacks from 2014 class, all of whom have much higher draft pedigrees than the former LSU standout.

So while there are still more questions than answers right now, the early returns – despite the many shortcomings - would have to be considered at least somewhat encouraging.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com and is a blogger for 247 Sports NFL Insider.

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