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Titans still hesitant to rule Mettenberger out for season

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NASHVILLE — The Zach Mettenberger experiment may be over for the 2014 season, though Tennessee Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt refuses to admit so.

Mettenberger aggravated his sprained right shoulder in Sunday’s loss, as a porous and makeshift offensive line, combined with the Titans’ inability to help protect by altering their pass-rush schemes, allowed Mettenberger to absorb five of the eight sacks allowed in an embarrassing 36-7 loss to the Giants.

The Titans started the game without starting tackles Taylor Lewan (ankle) and Michael Oher (toe), as they were forced to go with journeyman Will Svitek, who has been a turnstile at left tackle, and right tackle Byron Stingily who was forced out of the game early with an ankle injury. The loss of Stingily gave way to Terren Jones, who was making his NFL debut and promptly got a penalty on his first play.

It added up to a recipe for disaster on Sunday as the Titans looked completely hopeless with Mettenberger suffering a sack by Giants rookie Devon Kennard may have ended his season.

Mettenberger had suffered the injury on Nov. 30 against Houston and the Titans knew the injury could have been exacerbated if he rushed back to the lineup.

“Obviously we didn’t do a good enough job (protecting him). Our plan is what it is. We had some chips in there. We did better with them at times,” Whisenhunt said. “Regardless of what you attempt to do, there are still going to be times when they’re singled up.”

“The biggest issue that we had is we threw the ball too much yesterday. That’s the biggest problem we had. If you’re going to throw it as much as we did, you’re going to expose yourself to those things.”

And yet they trotted Mettenberger out behind an inexperienced unit with poor protection schemes. The result was predictable, as now Mettenberger may be done for the year. Multiple reports indicated that he would miss the season’s final three games, though Whisenhunt backed off that notion for now.

“He aggravated the sprain of his shoulder. It’s pretty sore today. I would say that he is doubtful to play this week, but we’re going to take it week to week and see how he progresses. I know he wants to get back and play, so we’ll see as it goes,” Whisenhunt said.

The question now becomes if Mettenberger is out, as expected, for the rest of the season did he convince the Titans he can be their quarterback for the 2015 season. Whisenhunt said that determination would not come until the offseason.

“We’ll go back and look at a lot of things. He’s done a lot of good things for us. I’ve been pleased with how he’s progressing,” Whisenhunt said. “It’s been tough, a tough stretch of weeks that he’s had to deal with, and he handled it very well.”

“I think it’s something you have to go back and take it from his first game to where he was at the last game and look at a number of different things — checks, protections, communication, footwork, decision-making all those kinds of things.”

REPORT CARD VS GIANTS

–PASSING OFFENSE: F — The passing numbers weren’t great — Zach Mettenberger was 14 of 24 before getting hurt again — but that’s not the reason for this grade. The offensive line allowed eight sacks, including one that was a strip sack for a touchdown and another that probably ended Mettenberger’s season.

–RUSHING OFFENSE: F — Jake Locker, mopping up for Mettenberger after his injury in the fourth quarter, was the Titans’ leading rusher with 28 yards. That about says it all for the status of the running game.

–PASS DEFENSE: F — The Titans knew they needed to stop Odell Beckham and were torched by the Giants rookie, who had 130 yards and a touchdown while hauling in 11 receptions.

–RUSH DEFENSE: F — Andre Williams, whom Giants fans had been complaining about not producing enough, ran for 131 yards, including a 50-yard touchdown against the NFL’s worst run defense.

–SPECIAL TEAMS: F — Ryan Succop, who was probably shocked that the Titans were even in field-goal range, missed a 42-yard attempt. The return units brought nothing to the table in the way of big plays. The best thing that can be said is that at least the coverage units didn’t give up much.

–COACHING: F — Continuing to be inflexible and stubborn, even as the players on the field are incapable of executing the game plans and putting your possible quarterback of the future in harm’s way behind a sieve of an offensive line is just plain bad. Ken Whisenhunt and his staff aren’t earning many accolades in year one.


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