The Tennessee Titans have a big few weeks heading into the close of the 2014 season, and not because they are fighting for a playoff spot. Evaluation of individual performances is king at this juncture, and nowhere is that more important than at the Quarterback position. Zach Mettenberger has arguably been one of the better rookie QB's this season, and his growth from game to game inspires some hope for next year.
Mettenberger practiced today, and looks set to take on the New York Giants on Sunday. Giants fans can empathize with the Titans this season, as they have endured a horrific season up to this point, with the silver lining being Odell Beckham, and little else. Mettenberger should be able to get the ball moving against an unimpressive Giants defense, but he'll need to get the show started earlier than in past weeks, where the Titans bad starts quickly put the team out of contention.
The New York Giants haven't had many difference makers in the secondary, and Kendall Wright should have a key advantage against Zach Bowman. Justin Hunter being put on IR this past week leaves the Titans fewer options to stretch the field, regardless of his inconsistency this season. Nate Washington will be asked to play a more active role in the starting lineup, and will see a lot of Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie on Sunday. That match-up will be key in opening up the field for Mettenberger.
Delanie Walker should be able to take advantage of Giants linebacker Jacquian Williams, and his presence across the middle will be an important outlet for the young QB, and for keeping the chains moving. Walker was blanketed last week by the Texans, and needs to bounce back to lead the Titans offense this week.
The Titans won't win many games with the current configuration on the offensive line. That is no mystery. LT backup Svitek was abhorrent last week, and will be matched up with Jason Pierre-Paul this time around, which will be hard for the Titans to plan around. Andy Levitre and Chris Spencer similarly struggled at LG and C respectfully. Warmack had a better game against Houston than he has had in some time, but he has been below average on the season, which makes his top ten selection look fairly poor (regardless of how much of a no-brainer it was at the time). He has also been banged up this week, to make matters worse still. The offensive line, which was touted as a possible top five unit prior to the season, has held back the Titans mightily, and has made life difficult on Zach Mettenberger and Bishop Sankey alike.
They will need to get a quick start against the Giants to establish the ground game, which has been abandoned out of necessity for large spans this season. The Titans are hoping to evaluate Mettenberger after all, and it's tough to do that with him being drilled into the turf.
The Titans running game has been anemic this season, but much of that comes from the aforementioned offensive line struggles, and the Titans propensity to fall behind early. Sankey may not be the most explosive back in the league, but he is solid enough to get the job done, and his vision will be of great benefit when there are actually holes to hit. Against a heavy interior Giants defensive line, McCluster and Sankey will need to be sharp on outside runs and take advantage of the Giants over-pursuit with cut back lanes. Leon Washington will continue to serve as the pass protector on 3rd and long, and Shonn Greene will likely garner the goal line carries. Not exactly rocket science. But for all of Tennessee's specialization at the running back position, they need to see some improved results. They have a chance to get back on track against the reeling New York Giants.