We'll start with the offense. After reading the reactions of Titans fans following the game against the Eagles, I can see that Mettenberger has been a polarizing figure so far. From a mechanical perspective he had a very good game, passing for 345 yards and 2 scores. While there are rookie mistakes to overcome, Mettenberger showed he has a solid foundation to build on, and indeed many of his throws yesterday were indicative of his high level of talent. While some may not agree (in the NFL it rarely happens regardless), but I look at Mettenberger as "the guy" going forward.
He made some nice reads against an Eagles front seven that was relentless (as they have been at home all year long). Without a running game or solid pass protection to lean on, Mettenberger was still able to step up in the pocket, avoid the rush when possible, and deliver accurate throws down the field. He also checked down when necessary, an area he struggled in just a few weeks ago. At the very least, he makes the Titans wideouts look NFL quality, and at his best he can put the offense on his back. While there is growth to be made, from a technique perspective he is doing things not done by a QB in Tennessee in many long years. Hopefully he continues to take the strides in his development that we've seen of late.
Elsewhere on offense, the let down was the offensive line, who continue to shoot the Titans in the foot. Outside of a few nicely blocked off-tackle scheme runs, the offensive line was putrid, and the Eagles were breathing down Mettenberger's neck all day long. Bishop Sankey did what he could, but a lack of blocking (and rushing opportunities) limited his impact on the game. Indeed Lewan's injury knocked out the only capable lineman out there, with Oher, Warmack, and Levitre posting yet another round of pitiful performances.
Out wide, Justin Hunter, Kendall Wright, and Nate Washington came to life, notching some excellent catches and providing open targets for Mettenberger. Justin Hunter's long TD catch came off a tipped ball, but that deflection was only made with the outstretched fingertips of the Eagles defender. Off hand it looked like a fluke; upon further review it was the correct read and a great effort from the defender. Somebody made the remark yesterday that it was "three inches from being a perfect pass".
Delanie Walker took full advantage of the Eagles linebackers, racking up copious yards after the catch on seemingly every play. He has been one of the few consistent bright spots on offense for Tennessee this season, and he looked well past his concussion issues from a week ago.
Most unsettling has been the utilization of certain players against their strengths during the season so far. Whisenhunt has been poor in employing his talent to best suit their strong points, and has been inflexible with his scheme's implementation. Add on a list of curious coaching decisions from the sidelines (questionable challenges, decisions to punt, rather than go for it, etc) and you have a scenario where the coaches have generated more questions than answers.
Where to begin? There were definite bright spots, but like it has been all season, they were few and far between. ILB Avery Williamson and SS Daimion Stafford posted solid performances, and Tennessee has been able to rush the passer when needed. The problems come with two fundamental aspects of the game; playing the run, and tackling. Both were sorely lacking against Philadelphia.
LeSean McCoy, much like Le'Veon Bell a week ago, proved unstoppable for the Titans, who have a glaring inability to put up resistance again opposing rushing attacks. McCoy was too quick to the edges for the Titans outside linebackers, and found openings far too easily on the inside. Further insult was applied with an intermittent dose of Darren Sproles, whose speed caused similar issues. Sammie Hill's struggles last week continued, leading to more playing time from rookie NT DaQuan Jones. In limited snaps the rookie looked solid, but poor gap responsibilities continued to plague the Titans throughout, making the efforts of Mark Sanchez, good or bad, superfluous.
Derrick Morgan and Shaun Phillips were solid in pass rushing roles, and along with FS Michael Griffin, dolled out some big hits. But even they were victim to not wrapping up correctly. The Titans were further thinned with injuries; losing Wimbley, Griffin, and Groves during the game. Added to injuries sustained on offense to Taylor Lewan (and possible concussions to Sankey and McCluster) and you have a worrying injury report heading into the Houston game next week.
The Titans were undermanned in the secondary, with Blidi Wreh-Wilson and Marqueston Huff inactive due to injury. In their place, Coty Sensabaugh and Brandon Ghee were over matched, despite Ghee coming up with an interception of Mark Sanchez.
The beginning of the game says it all. The Titans allowed a 107 yard kickoff return for a TD to open proceedings, and the coverage unit struggled to perform throughout the day. Ryan Succop was solid, and Brett Kern had a decent outing, but both the return teams and coverage units struggled. In contrast with last week when the Titans enjoyed excellent field position, the team similarly struggled when that factor was reversed. It's been a worrying trend all season, only worsened with the rash of offensive penalties that set back the squad even further.
The Titans obviously have a long way to go, primarily in fixing the defense and the offensive line. Ruston Webster has his work cut out for him, and the pressure will be on to bring in FA's who have a greater impact on team play. In the mean time, we can feel good about the strides made by Zach Mettenberger, but lament the glaring holes on the defensive side of the ball, and up front in the trenches. Whether this staff and front office have it in them to fix those issues in the next year or so is a different prospect entirely.