Tennessee Titans: Zach Mettenberger
He’s hit on 68.6 percent of his passes at 9.88 yards per attempt with two touchdowns and two interceptions, four sacks and 97.2 passer rating.
The Titans are pleased.
But their quarterback depth chart has not changed.
“Zach is (getting) more comfortable," coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “I still think at times he struggles with some things. Which is not uncommon for a young player. It’s been invaluable, the amount of reps that we’ve gotten him and how he’s performed. I think it’s been fantastic.
“He’s done a good job, he’s really made some plays for us. I think some things that really stand out about Zach is he’s got a good pocket presence, he’s made some accurate throws. It was nice to see him throw balls only to our team last night. He’s taking advantage of his opportunities to improve. That’s good to see.”
But with all of that, Whitehurst remains the guy the Titans will turn to if Locker goes down.
I asked if it’s in the realm of possibility that Mettenberger would be the backup on Sept. 7 in Kansas City.
“Unless it was an injury situation, no,” Whisenhunt said. “Charlie’s had a very good preseason, too, and a very good camp. And I’ve said Charlie was the two coming in. I don’t think that’s going to change. I think we’re very lucky that we’ve got a group of quarterbacks that we feel comfortable with.”
A good percentage of fans won’t like that.
I know it’s hard not to get caught up in a shiny new thing. And watching Mettenberger throw is fun. He's got a tremendous arm and has anticipated pretty well. But Whitehurst has been better than I expected and it makes sense, if you’ve got to insert a cold backup without much practice work, for it to be a guy who’s got more experience in, and understanding of, the team’s offensive system.
If the Titans need a long-term sub then Mettenberger should be considered, and I expect he will be, particularly if that need comes later rather than sooner.
For a game-day insert, Whitehurst is the right choice at this point.
Things can evolve to be different, but not based on Mettenberger’s work against mostly third-teamers in August.
Whisenhunt’s been intentionally -- and I would argue, unreasonably -- vague about playing time plans in advance of preseason games. He left open the possibility Mettenberger will start the preseason finale against Minnesota at LP Field Thursday night.
I can’t see it.
While Jake Locker is in a good spot, he talked after the game in Atlanta about how the offense still needed to communicate better. The offense isn’t at a point where it would not benefit from the starting quarterback and offense getting a bit more work together.
We don’t know if Whitehurst’s finger will allow his return or be best served by another game off.
Either way, Mettenberger will play a lot on Thursday.
And then he and Whitehurst won’t play for a good while if things break the way the Titans are hoping they will.
But Whitehurst has not practiced since injuring the pinkie on his throwing hand on Friday night against the Saints in New Orleans.
He was vague about what’s wrong with it in a way his coach will surely appreciate.
“It’s just sore right now, it is pretty sore,” he said. “It’s not broken. There is some stuff going on, but hopefully it’ll be quick.”
As for his status for Atlanta, he said: “I can’t really say either way, but I think you guys can figure that out.”
Without Whitehurst the Titans will go straight from Jake Locker to rookie Zach Mettenberger.
It's a pinkie on a backup quarterback and he said it won't be a regular-season issue. In the meantime, more Mettenberger, which is a good thing.
Jason McCourty was the Titans spokesman as the entire team took the Ice Bucket Challenge for Tim Shaw, who recently revealed he has ALS. Video from the team’s website.
Shaw said he’s not afraid to die, writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “God built this body to play seven years in the NFL,” Shaw said. “I never missed a game. I never had a surgery. Tell me that's not a miracle in itself. I believe God has built this body in a way to withstand something like that and fight something like this. That is my No. 1 driving force. If I didn't believe that, I would be a mess."
Fade passes to Justin Hunter look nearly unstoppable, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Zach Mettenberger is getting extra work while Charlie Whitehurst lets an injured finger heal, and that’s good for the rookie, says Wyatt.
As he coaches the Titans' tight ends, Mike Mularkey says he’s doing what he does best now, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.
Ken Whisenhunt said one bad game in New Orleans won’t determine the fate of cornerback Coty Sensabaugh, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.
The Titans should finally face a No. 1 quarterback this week with Matt Ryan in Atlanta, says Glennon.
Positive plays outnumber negative ones for Zach Mettenberger against New Orleans, says Roland Bardon of Pro Football Focus. Coty Sensabaugh and Andy Levitre graded poorly.
Shonn Greene practiced and news on other injuries from Wyatt.
Derrick Morgan is a member of the All Make-or-Break Team from Robert Mays of Grantland.
Titans Radio play-by-play man Mike Keith sees a total belief in Ken Whisenhunt from the team.
Thanks for your participation.
Paul Kuharsky: The fumbling is a problem. Ken Whisenhunt said it's one of a number of things a rookie running back needs to sort through. I think Sankey is a guy who will learn from and resolve mistakes quickly. I liked the way he answered questions about a pass-protection flub in his first game and improved in that area in his second chance.
Paul Kuharsky: Where? At this point, good as Taylor Lewan's been, Michael Roos and Michael Oher have been taking care of their business and not leaving the door cracked. An injury anywhere but center and Lewan would be the guy. Otherwise, there doesn't look to be a spot for him to start.
Paul Kuharsky: Definitely carrying three. In games, at least early on, Charlie Whitehurst is the guy they'd want taking over. The game-day No. 2 won't have had much work during the practice week. If Jake Locker is out for an extended period, they could turn to Mettenberger given a chance to game plan for him and give him a full practice load. Mettenberger did some good things for sure. But let's not forget that Whitehurst has been doing good work -- better than many of us thought him capable of.
Paul Kuharsky: The Titans and the NFL have not chiseled it in granite that it has to be Maikon Bonani or Travis Coons. Coons has been pretty good. His trajectory was my biggest concern and it's improved a lot of late. He said they were working on quickening his approach and once they got that down he got back to his typical swing. They will have alternatives to the winner if they want them.
Paul Kuharsky: I'm not really sure what you think the scope of possible answers to that one is. They need to play better. There needs to be a better rush in front of them to help them play better.
Paul Kuharsky: I think Jake Locker is better. I think it's a better offense with a better scheme and better coaching, all of which will help him. Better enough? I don't know that. He still makes more bad choices than a QB you are hanging your hat on should.
Paul Kuharsky: I thought the one pass interference on Jason McCourty was a bit shaky. But overall I didn't have a huge argument with the officiating. It's on players to follow the rules and concern themselves with what's going to be called, not to count on the officials easing up.
Jake Locker played well in preseason game No. 2, with 8-of-11 passing for 75 yards, a touchdown and a passer rating of 121.5 in two possessions, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
To which I say: An encouraging showing, particularly with the first drive for a touchdown after the defense gave up a score to open the game.
The Saints had more, but the Titans did their part to bog down the game with penalties, says Wyatt.
Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger played extra and put up big numbers back in Louisiana, says John Glennon of The Tennessean.
Taylor Lewan played a good game at both tackles spots, but drew two penalties, says Glennon.
Travis Coons had a productive night and is putting serious pressure on Maikon Bonani, says Wyatt.
Shonn Greene didn’t seem worried about his knee injury, says Wyatt.
Justin Hunter discusses his big night. Video from the team website.
Postgame quotes via the team’s website.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham continued to dunk the ball over the goalpost even though it’s now a penalty. ESPN.com's Mike Triplett’s story.
The Tennessee Titans turned the ball over five times at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and didn't do close to enough to offset the giveaways against the New Orleans Saints.
Tennessee lost 31-24 Friday night in New Orleans, despite the hosts' handing away 184 yards on 22 accepted penalties, including eight of the Titans' 28 first downs.
Penalties were the biggest story of a lengthy game, and the Titans made their own large contribution in that department, with 10 for 111 yards. The Titans didn't have a takeaway on defense or special teams to make up for their turnover troubles.
Here are some other thoughts on the Titans' second preseason game:
- Receiver Justin Hunter was the offensive star, with a great leaping catch on the left side of the end zone for a 4-yard touchdown from Jake Locker. That one looked a lot like the sort of practice catch Hunter has been making regularly. Hunter also grabbed a pass in the middle of the field from rookie QB Zach Mettenberger and took advantage of a falling defender by taking off into space and coasting the rest of the way for a 64-yard score. He finished with four catches for 111 yards.
- The penalties provided a couple of side benefits for the Titans. Kicker Travis Coons got to follow up a made 45-yard field goal with a make from 50 yards after the first three points were waved off by an illegal formation call against Tennessee's Karl Klug. Saints tight end Jimmy Graham's insistence on dunking the ball over the cross bar after his two scoring catches meant two kickoffs Marc Mariani got to field and return in his bid to beat Leon Washington for the returner job. Mariani took those two a combined 55 yards, though 21 were chopped off the second because of a return team penalty.
- A week ago, Mettenberger lost a ball he held too low against the Green Bay Packers, and it happened to him again in New Orleans, when Cameron Jordan swiped a ball away from him at the Superdome. Mettenberger entered the game ahead of schedule after No. 2 Charlie Whitehurst suffered an injury to his throwing hand, and the rookie finished 20-of-25 for 269 yards with two touchdowns, an interception, the lost fumble and two sacks. His TD throw to Hunter was in the second quarter. Chase Coffman caught a 1-yard scoring pass right at the end, when Mettenberger's laser bounced off Marini and Coffman plucked it out of the air.
- Rookie running back Bishop Sankey was nifty on a couple carries, as he took five handoffs for 31 yards and had at least one very good snap in pass protection. But he lost a fumble a week after a botched handoff counted against the quarterback trying to give it to him. It's been something we've seen at practice too. He's got to get that resolved right away. In addition to Mettenberger and Sankey, running back Shonn Greene and receiver Derek Hagan lost fumbles.
- Per a tweet from Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, Ken Whisenhunt didn't seem concerned after the game, even with injuries to Whitehurst, Greene (knee) or right tackle Michael Oher (arm).
Better tackling is a necessity for the Titans, says John Glennon of The Tennessean. "Last week's start was really more about fitting gaps (properly) and tackling, so that's the area of focus," Ken Whisenhunt said.
The things Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean and most of us will be looking for Friday night as the Titans play in New Orleans. It’s really time for some more kicker developments.
Vince Young landed a job at the University of Texas, says Wyatt.
Can guys who showed up last week do it again, asks David Boclair of the Nashville Post.
In the mind of Will Brinson from CBS Sports, a worst-case scenario for the Titans includes neck beard-growing contests between Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger as they vie to replace an injured Jake Locker.
- Receiver Justin Hunter continued to make things difficult on cornerbacks on jump balls. He went up and got one over Coty Sensabaugh from Jake Locker. He jumped over rookie Marqueston Huff for another. He skied to the crossbar in the back of the end zone to pluck another with Sensabaugh nearby.
- Charlie Whitehurst had to call “ball” on one throw up the right side for Michael Preston, who turned but wasn’t ready and watched it sail through his hands, though he had some room on Micah Pellerin.
- Locker threw a duck that found the ground quickly when it looked like he was aiming for Nate Washington with Blidi Wreh-Wilson in coverage. Locker seemed to be trying to stop himself from throwing it, but the motion was well underway and it came out of his hand. Wound up harmless.
- Other red-zone TD catches besides Hunter’s: Marc Mariani from Whitehurst and Chase Coffman stretching at the back line from Zach Mettenberger.
- Linebacker Zaviar Gooden didn’t get his head around on a Whitehurst throw for Taylor Thompson, but Gooden got his arm up to hit the ball for a breakup.
- While the Titans have been very reserved with their kickers, Brett Kern punted for the second day in a row.
- Whitehurst was "sacked" when the he dashed left and ended up swallowing the ball. It looked like the play was supposed to be a handoff to Bishop Sankey but was unclear who made the mistake. Sankey made some nifty moves on a couple of carries.
- Whitehurst threw an interception to Huff in a ball intended for Isaiah Williams.
- DaQuan Jones is working as the second nose tackle, and Al Woods is also in the loop there behind starter Sammie Hill. Antonio Johnson has been out for a while in recovering from a knee scope. Jones and Woods can play inside or out, while Johnson doesn’t bring the same versatility. He’s likely in trouble.
- Travis Coons hit field goals of 38 and 44 yards at the conclusion of two-minute drill work by the offense. Whisenhunt said Maikon Bonani's groin was bothering him a little bit. Coons hit both field goals on a better trajectory with room to spare. He told me he was hitting the ball a bit lower than usual as he worked with snapper Beau Brinkley and holder Kern to speed up the snap, hold, kick process. Now that they’ve made progress on that he’s getting his natural swing back and getting more height on his kicks.
- Whisenhunt said he will allow players to go home after they return from their trip to New Orleans for Friday night’s game. That ends camp in one way. But Whisenhunt said while the Titans will structure next week like a normal practice week, that they will still work ones against ones and rotate people in competitions. For him, camp really ends when the first round of cuts come and as the team focuses on planning for an opponent.
- That likely means the practice rules change next week and you won’t be seeing any more of these practice reports. Hope you enjoyed them and they gave you some insight.
- The offense played a lot better than it did on Monday, with Jake Locker throwing three red-zone TD passes a day after he was shut out. There was still some sloppiness. Jackie Battle dropped two passes, and Taylor Thompson dropped one. Shonn Greene had a fumble, though he didn’t run the customary punishment lap which may have been because it was ruled to happen after the whistle (though there isn’t really a whistle).
- In seven-on-seven work Charlie Whitehurst connected with Michael Preston on a deep ball over cornerback Ri'Shard Anderson. I’ve noted before that Whitehurst has put a lot of air under a lot of his deep stuff. This one was more of a line drive.
- Kendall Wright continues to look amazing. It looks as if his confidence is as high as possible, and anything thrown near him is practically a sure thing. I hit him several times on Instagram.
- Justin Hunter also had several good catches, beating Jason McCourty on a go route and going up easily over Tommie Campbell in the back right corner of the end zone in red zone 1-on-1s.
- Bishop Sankey ran more authoritatively than he did a day earlier, when he fumbled a couple times. He had two live goal-line chances from the 2-yard line. The first was debatable -- I wasn’t sure he got in, he said he’s biased but admitted it needed a tape review. He was stuffed pretty quickly on a second snap.
- Both sides were feisty. Bernard Pollard and Nate Washington had an extened back-and-forth hollering at each other, as did Daimion Stafford and Leon Washintgon. Washington told Stafford, “You can’t hit me” to which Stafford replied “You’re too little.” That exchange was repeated several times. Linebacker David Gilbert, back after a stretch out with a shoulder injury, flung tight end Chase Coffman to the ground to start a fight that spilled over. The Gilbert-Coffman dustup wasn’t anything beyond ordinary but leaked into a couple different shoving matches.
- Right after that scrap, Anderson picked off Zach Mettenberger in the back right corner of the end zone. Anderson's been making some plays, but also gets beat. He seems like an all-or-nothing type at this point.
- Derek Hagan caught a mid-range pass near the numbers on the right side in between a lot of defenders. I feel like he’s consistently good at finding that space on that play or ones similar to it.
- It was a horrific day for the offense, which came out flat and had mistakes in every area you can think of. There were multiple drops, fumbles, interceptions and bad snaps. Ken Whisenhunt downplayed it as one bad day, and of course it was, but the degree of badness was alarming. Said receiver Derek Hagan, who dropped a pass near the end of practice “It was bad, we didn’t get anything going at all. It was a crazy day. Nobody was catching the ball, bad blocking, missed assignments. Just an overall bad day.”
- Shonn Greene had a fumble that Zach Brown recovered. Bishop Sankey fumbled twice, the first recovered by Brandon Copeland and the second bounced back to Sankey.
- Kendall Wright streaked across the middle to collect a Locker pass, beating Jason McCourty. Michael Preston made a nice catch over Coty Sensabaugh up the left side from Charlie Whitehurst. Taylor Thompson had a couple more nice plays.
- Jake Locker made a bad throw for Nate Washington in the right side of the end zone in red zone work. Tommie Campbell may have pushed off, but he easily collected the bad throw.
- Whitehurst threw a terrible pick as he looked for Marc Mariani to his right. The line drive throw was easily caught by Blidi Wreh-Wilson who was practically halfway between quarterback and his target. Perhaps the worst play of all on a terrible day.
- Daimion Stafford had a nice breakup of a throw for Mariani, whose helmet popped off in the process. Ri'Shard Anderson broke up a Zach Mettenberger dart for Hagan. Wreh-Wilson had a too-easy breakup of a Locker pass for Dexter McCluster. The defense made some plays, for sure. But more of the offensive failures were self-inflicted.
- Justin Hunter wore a jersey that said “J A G” across the back instead of “Hunter.” He said Whisenhunt and receivers coach Shawn Jefferson talked to him after he forgot to convert a route Saturday night. Hunter didn’t know they’d follow through with the jersey, but they did. He said he’ll continue to work to be more than “just a guy.”
- Hunter made a nice play in the middle of the field, winning a contested ball from Locker by taking it away from safety Michael Griffin.
- Among the targets with drops: Delanie Walker, Preston, Washington (who had a chance to recollect the ball on the sideline but bobbled it until his feet were out), Thompson, Hagan.
- Guard Andy Levitre said he played one game at center for the Bills against Miami and was bad at it. Whisenhunt reminded a questioner that he’d said in the past he intended to work Levitre a little at center to prepare a contingency. Now with Chris Spencer (ankle) out, it was the right time. Levitre said he lost focus and snapped as if the quarterback was under center a couple times when he wound up rolling balls past Zach Mettenberger. Ultimately, they put starting center Brian Schwenke in with the third team to settle things down.
- Kickoffs: Maikon Bonani put one 9 yards deep and another 4 yards deep into the end zone. With less hang time, Travis Coons put one kickoff 4 yards deep. Coons also punted some.
There are a lot of things we didn’t learn much about out of the Titans' win over the Packers, mostly because of the monsoon, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. But there were still notes that help us begin to sort things out, like Charlie Whitehurst’s performance.
Should Derrick Morgan have had an interception against the Packers? Ken Whisenhunt said there was some debate, says Wyatt.
There isn’t a great deal of clarity yet on the injuries suffered by Colin McCarthy and Chris Spencer, says Wyatt.
Zach Mettenberger did some good things in the Titans' win over the Packers, therefore an inevitable buzz about how he could be the guy is underway, says David Climer of The Tennessean.
Brian Robiskie is making the sort of plays that earn him more of a look in the receiver race, says David Boclair of the Nashville Post.
The Titans got a long look at Bishop Sankey, who showed some of that versatility, says Boclair.
The Titans hosted a safety clinic for moms at LP Field. Joshua Love of the team’s website has a recap.
The Tennessee Titans are lowly regarded by plenty of fans and media nationally. But they have a lot going on that they feel those people have not paid attention to.
With Ken Whisenhunt and his staff at the helm, new schemes on both sides of the ball, a schedule that doesn’t include some of the powers they faced a year ago and a division with two other rebuilding franchises, they might have a chance to surprise.
."You say each and every year, 'Feels different, feels different, feels different,'" safety Michael Griffin said. "Just, you can see every day, people out there talking, we always have guys picking people up. Each and every day there is competition. There are little side bets here and there -- who’s going to win this period and things of that nature. The whole time we’re all trying to get each other better.
"Again, it just feels so much different in this locker room, and everybody has the same goals in mind, and that’s a positive around here."
THREE REASONS FOR OPTIMISM
Whisenhunt had the connections and the interviewing skills to hire a staff that appears to be filled with strong teachers, including a few quality holdovers. Defensive coordinator Ray Horton is turning the Titans into a less predictable 3-4 and comfortably works his way into different sections of practice when position work is unfolding. I've watched these coaches teach and I've seen them connect with players.
Whisenhunt may field a complex offense that's hard to defend, but he's good at keeping things simple. I don't see any changes in how the Titans function that aren't for the better at this point.
2. The Titans don’t have players the fans are going to pick to captain their fantasy squads, but Tennessee should have a good array of quality weapons on offense. Kendall Wright topped 1,000 yards in his second season, and now the team’s best receiver will be sent on a wider variety of routes, not just inside slot stuff. He's been excellent so far in camp. Justin Hunter is doing better getting his legs under him and is catching the ball more comfortably. He got behind Atlanta's defense a few times in the recent joint practice and should be a constant deep threat. Nate Washington is showing he remains a versatile, productive guy.
Beyond the receivers, tight end Delanie Walker and running backs Dexter McCluster and Bishop Sankey will be good pass-catching options. When the Falcons gave the Titans a lot of room underneath, Jake Locker hit McCluster with a pass over the middle, and he had a ton of space to take. The Titans have invested a great deal in their offensive line over the past two seasons. They have one more tackle than they need after signing Michael Oher and drafting Taylor Lewan. There should be better protection for the quarterback and better holes for the running backs.
3. The 4-3 defense in recent years lacked a star pass-rusher on the edge who an offense had to fear every snap. The Titans still don’t seem to have that guy. They have to find him, but even if he doesn’t emerge from this group, the overall production out of the pass rush should be better. Who is rushing and who is dropping into coverage? In the 4-3, opponents pretty much knew. In this 3-4, it won’t be nearly as clear on a regular basis. Jurrell Casey, who notched 10.5 sacks as a tackle last season, will work as an end now. He's worked on speed rushes off the edge as well as his bread-and-butter quick power stuff in camp.
Sure, some good quarterbacks can diagnose who is rushing and who isn’t, no matter the front. But outside of Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck (twice), the Titans don’t face any A-list quarterbacks coming off big 2013 seasons this time around. They don’t see Seattle and San Francisco this season either.
THREE REASONS FOR PESSIMISM
1. Locker is a really likable guy who works hard, says the right things and desperately wants to prove he is the long-term answer for the Titans at quarterback. But in two seasons as the starter, he's missed 14 games while dealing with shoulder, hip, knee and foot injuries. He's practiced pretty well, but there are plays splashed in that can be killers on a Sunday afternoon.
Getting 16 games out of him is hardly a certainty for the Titans. Even if they do and he fits well with what Whisenhunt is asking him to do, he has not been accurate or poised enough when he has played. He sometimes tries to do too much and isn’t poised under pressure. Though he moves well and is very fast, putting him on the move puts him at more risk of another injury. Behind him are more question marks. Charlie Whitehurst has had no real success in just 13 games in eight seasons and often fails to step into his throws. Rookie Zach Mettenberger has a great arm but slipped to the sixth round for several reasons and is rotating with Tyler Wilson as the third-team QB. (Update: Wilson was released Wednesday.)
2. The offensive weaponry looks good, but for those five pass-catchers to give the Titans the nice smorgasbord of options, they need to stay healthy. Also, guys like Hunter (second year), Sankey (a rookie) and McCluster (first year with the Titans and Whisenhunt) need to show that their potential and practice play translate into NFL Sundays in a Tennessee uniform. Wright was the best player on offense last season and should grow more. Can the others become known quantities?
Who is the star of the defense? DT-turned-DE Casey is a strong, quick rusher who was healthy and productive in 2013. He is going to land a big-money contract -- either soon from Tennessee or on the market next spring. There are some nice pieces around him, but the Titans need veterans to have their best seasons and youngsters to emerge, all simultaneously. In Georgia, no defender stood out and regularly gave the Falcons more than they could handle.
3. Forty-seven percent of the current 90-man roster has been in the league for two years or less. Youth is generally good, but it needs to be quality youth and it needs to be surrounded by quality veterans. The Titans lack experience in a lot of spots. There aren't kids in camp who weren't high picks but have forced their way up the depth chart to this point.
Maybe it’s a great mix of players and a good share of the inexperienced people can blossom together. But with new coaches and new schemes, it could be asking a lot for all that to happen in the first season.
- Locker said he feels more comfortable speaking up and being vocal, and he has shown himself to be more confident in how he carries himself. After one throw that looked to be too long for an undrafted rookie, Locker pointed to tell Julian Horton where he should have gone. He still has bad moments in practice, but the preseason has not started, and he is progressing.
- The Titans have moved running back Jackie Battle to fullback, where he can offer some needed versatility. He appears to have a sizable lead on incumbent Collin Mooney, who has had, at most, a handful of first-team snaps.
- Among long-shot late additions, veteran receiver Derek Hagan has been consistently good and Brian Robiskie is also gaining notice. He's competing for the fourth and fifth wide receiver spots with Marc Mariani and Michael Preston. Maybe they'll keep six.
- Sankey is learning quickly how to be a pro, and he has shown a bit of everything the Titans said they expected when they made him the first running back selected in the draft. His first day in pads he looked like an experienced NFL-caliber pass protector. He has good vision and makes good decisions on when to go and when to cut. He also catches the ball well, can run inside and outside.
- Weakside outside linebacker Shaun Phillips has not worked at all with the first team when Kamerion Wimbley has been practicing.
- Tommie Campbell was politely mentioned with Coty Sensabaugh and Blidi Wreh-Wilson as a contender for the starting right cornerback spot that opened when Alterraun Verner signed with Tampa Bay. But it’s a two-man competition, and Campbell has struggled horribly.
They did me one better, releasing Wilson to make room for defensive line addition Lanier Coleman.
The fact is, the Titans need Mettenberger to play as much as possible.
Starting quarterback Jake Locker has a big injury history. If he goes down for a bit, they will turn to veteran backup Charlie Whitehurst.
But if Locker goes down for an extended period of time, they need to be in position to try Mettenberger and see if he can show them he's a guy to go with long term.
Snaps for Wilson, who was signed off the Raiders' practice squad on Dec. 16, 2013, were doing nothing to help that process. He was playing poorly and didn't seem worthy of additional work to me. Or to them, it turns out.
- The Titans got no one injured Monday in a joint practice with the Falcons at their facility, always the best development to come out of a preseason practice. Defensive linemen Antonio Johnson and Mike Martin and tight end Dorin Dickerson came in with injuries and didn’t practice.
- The first fight turned out to be the only big fight. It came as the Titans and Falcons worked on punt returns and Coty Sensabaugh swiped a helmet off Robert McClain and a lot of players from both teams came onto the scene to get involved. It may have settled itself down, but Tommie Campbell came flying in to shove two Falcons, Bernard Pollard got involved and Ri’Shard Anderson came in with helmet in hand and swung it into Atlanta’s Ricardo Allen “We got it over and out of the way and moved on,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “We thought it might come, it came early and we settled down.” Whisenhunt doesn’t fine players for practice fights, but Anderson should be fined for a foolhardy and dangerous move.
- Later, Falcons center Joe Hawley got tossed by officials for his role in a smaller scrap with Michael Griffin.
- Whisenhunt was audibly upset when Falcons defensive end Osi Umenyiora hit Jake Locker’s arm on a pass. “He grabbed his arm, he hit his hand,” Whisenhunt said. “Osi apologized. He knows he can’t do that.”
- Marqueston Huff looked like he’s got the potential to be a quality gunner on punt returns. I saw him quickly burst between Kimario McFadden and Jordan Mabin to get en route in a hurry.
- On a very early snap in one-on-ones matching Titans defensive backs against Falcons receivers, Jason McCourty was right with Roddy White on a quick throw from Matt Ryan, got an arm in and watched the ball pop loose. Another pass for White with McCourty on him was overthrown. McCourty was very solid in that period. The rest of the defensive backs were not as good. Griffin drew two flags for contact. (Khalid Wooten made a nice play and had a near pick of a Jeff Matthews pass for Tramaine Thompson. I think Wooten is steadily improving though he's not playing against the high-caliber guys.)
- In one-on-ones, the Titans' offense connected on a big play early as Justin Hunter ran away from corner Robert McClain, collecting a throw from Charlie Whitehurst. Hunter caught another deep one from Zach Mettenberger.
- Locker didn’t throw deep much, as the Falcons seemed to be offering open stuff underneath far more often. Some plays worked great against it. Locker hit Kendall Wright out of the slot and Wright ran away from Josh Wilson for what would have been a touchdown. On another play, Dexter McCluster worked into open space in the short middle and had a ton of space from there. Whitehurst found room for some shots. One of them connected up the right side with Derek Hagan over corner Javier Arenas and safety Sean Baker.
- In many practices Locker still seems to have one moment that could be deadly. He held the ball and shuffled left as the pocket began to collapse and threw for Delanie Walker. But Desmond Trufant got to it and dropped what should have been a pick. “For any quarterback, there is always at least one you wish you could have back,” he said when I asked him about that specific play.
- Both of the Titans' kickers attempted field goals against the Falcons field goal defense from 33, 36, 39, 42 and 46 yards. Travis Coons made them all, Maikon Bonani missed his attempt from 46 wide right.
- Andy Levitre took three snaps in each team period before rookie Taylor Lewan replaced him. Levitre had his appendix removed on July 24. He still didn’t participate in the high contact one-on-one pass-rush drills.
- In one team period, the offense worked exclusively in “penny,” its three-cornerback, one-safety package.
- Falcons receiver Harry Douglas made a catch over Sensabaugh after the Falcons had the Titans jumping around before the snap. Derrick Morgan started with his hand down at left end, stood up and backed out, then returned to his initial position while multiple defenders shouted out multiple signals and waved each other around in what appeared to be confusion.
- Akeem Ayers made a couple plays, including batting down a pass from Sean Renfree. In one-on-ones he made a great spin move against tackle Lamar Holmes that got him to the quarterback. But in a seven-on-seven period, T.J. Yates threw to running back Devonta Freeman and Ayers had no chance against him in space.
- Avery Williamson impressively ran step for step with running back Josh Vaughan on a deep route and the pass glanced on the rookie linebacker’s helmet.
- Moise Fokou worked as high in the linebacker rotation as I can remember, pairing with Zaviar Gooden as the inside tandem with the second team at least some.
- On a snap where DaQuan Jones and Al Woods were the two defensive linemen, neither put a hand on the ground. The Titans played that one with everyone starting off standing up.
- On one snap of nickel where nose tackle Sammie Hill came off the field, the standing up, off-the-line outside linebacker Kamerion Wimbley actually lined up inside of right end Jurrell Casey.
- There were a bunch of penalty flags on both sides. The most popular offense was illegal contact by defensive backs. The second biggest was offside. More to come on that
- It’s always amazing to see how many guys know each other when two rosters of 90 and their coaching staffs combine. Titans linebacker Zach Brown saw Yates and exclaimed, “T.J, what’s up buddy?” Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter chatted with Hagan. Falcons owner Arthur Blank got off his cart to hug Titans tight ends coach Mike Mularkey, who used to be Atlanta’s offensive coordinator. A lot of it was pre-practice, a lot was during the kicking period when non-special teamers had time to chat. I watched Chris Spencer and Griffin talk with Devin Hester as Pollard shouted to the Titans, “Y'all be careful with making friends right now.”
- Find pictures at pkuharsky on Instagram.
- The Titans are off Tuesday, then have an open practice at 9:20 a.m. CT Wednesday.