Rookie Zach Mettenberger created some comic relief for the blogosphere, sending out a red-headbanded selfie in conjunction with his being named starter several weeks back. J.J. Watt notably crushed him following his odd flirtation with headline-grabbing, but it didn't exactly wipe Mettenberger out for the year. Despite the team's numerous flaws, the rookie's holding his own.
Mettenberger may be 0-3 as a starter, but his numbers have steadily improved since his debut, now completing 61 percent of his throws, to the tune of five touchdowns and four picks. For a sixth-round wonder leading a team that languishes in relative obscurity, Mettenberger hasn't been a total wash. He did his part in nearly knocking off the Steelers on Monday night.
Fact is, the Titans have had to rely on the passing game in large part due to falling behind so early in games. Tennessee gives up 25 points a game, with opponents clearing 30 points on three occasions, so it's hard to get the run going. Rookie Bishop Sankey's managed just 91 carries, although he only recently overtook the starting job from Shonn Greene.
The Titans have gone five straight games without clearing 100 rushing yards as a unit; Sankey leads the team with 395, a mere 39.5 yards per game. The Titans 925 rushing yards as a whole rank 26th in the league. Sankey averages 2.57 yards gained after contact, so another issue has been poor blocking.
It's fair to say that the Titans don't exactly have any fantasy studs on the roster, with possible exception of a tight end that often gets overlooked in August by brand-familiar fantasy-players. Delanie Walker has missed time with a concussion in recent weeks, but was good enough to catch 38 passes for 512 yards and four touchdowns in his first eight games of the season.
For wideouts, a solid trio is comprised of veteran Nate Washington (who caught an 80-yard touchdown pass Monday night), as well as youngsters Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter. Wright's the go-to, with 403 yards and four scores, while Hunter (the player selected before Zach Ertz in 2013's draft) is quite a deep threat, hauling in 21 passes for 368 yards and two touchdowns.
Ray Horton can be counted among the league's most unconventional, yet brilliant, defensive minds. A long-time disciple of defensive deity Dick LeBeau, Horton employs mind-blowing blitz schemes, sending pressure from anywhere and everywhere. There's nothing conservative about Horton's methodology; he may lack a Troy Polamalu in Tennessee, so he institutes his own cover band instead.
The Titans have accumulated 29 sacks in ten games, led by Jurrell Casey's paltry four, but there's 15 different defensive players that have recorded at least half a sack. That total includes five different defensive backs, led by Michael Griffin's three from the free safety spot. Confusing a quarterback and rendering him uncomfortable has been Horton's bread and butter.
OPEN THE FLOODGATES
While it's true that the Eagles running game has struggled against a pair of allegedly-poor run defenses the last two weeks (Green Bay and Carolina), Tennessee is coming off of allowing 204 rushing yards to Le'Veon Bell. That marks the eighth time this season an opposing team has gained 100 rushing yards, and the third time they've topped 200.
The Titans give up 4.38 yards per run, which is far from terrible. Tennessee's giving up about 41 percent of third down attempts, so the third-down running option has proven effective against the defense. The fact that opponents are averaging almost 33 attempts is a bad sign for Horton's crew, that not a lot of mind is paid to them outside of the blitz.
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