Welcome to the weekly Tennessee Titans mailbag. Thanks for coming.

Paul Kuharsky: Statistically, he has. His passer rating of 92.2 is 8.8 points better than Zach Mettenberger and 21.3 better than Jake Locker. Charlie Whitehurst played a solid game Thursday night in Jacksonville. He’s proved a lot to himself and to others, me included, but he’s a backup. Mettenberger is more exciting because he’s more promising and has more upside.

Paul Kuharsky: We will run through them. But keep in mind a bad team is bound for some regression to the mean. Six of these 10 teams had a new coach in the draft pick’s rookie year. There are way, way more factors than the No. 1 or No. 2 pick in the draft to how a bad team does the following season. And while some guys (such as Andrew Luck) had a huge bearing on their team’s record as a rookie, others were non-factors (Jadeveon Clowney barely played this season).
2014: Houston drafted Jadeveon Clowney, plus-5 wins so far; St. Louis drafted offensive tackle Greg Robinson, minus-1 so far.

2013: Kansas City drafted offensive tackle Eric Fisher, plus-9 wins; Jacksonville drafted offensive tackle Luke Joeckel, plus-2 wins.

2012: Indianapolis drafted Luck, plus-9 wins; Washington drafted quarterback Robert Griffin III, plus-5 wins.

2011: Carolina drafted quarterback Cam Newton, plus-4 wins; Denver drafted linebacker Von Miller, plus-5 wins.

2010: St. Louis drafted quarterback Sam Bradford, plus-6 wins; Detroit drafted defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, plus-4 wins.
Paul Kuharsky: The offensive line is what jumps out. But I’m going to go a little unconventional. I think Ken Whisenhunt has to be more flexible. Even in his second season the team won’t be fully loaded with guys who can do what he wants. And even with such a roster, when teams counter his gameplan, we've not seen indications he's the sort of coach who will counter back outside his preferred avenues. What if a draft pick or free agent doesn’t pan out to projections? I'd hope going forward after he assesses 2014, he will adjust, bend and reconsider things far more regularly.

Paul Kuharsky: I haven’t monitored other coaches’ whining and complaining to give you a fair rating. I don’t find Whisenhunt does a disproportionate amount. He’s done a poor job, but there's no way to win in this area when you're 2-13. Friday on the radio, people were complaining about him not caring about losing (which is crazy talk). You see him doing things I would say show he cares, and you hit him for that. Win two games of 15 games in an NFL season, you suffer on all fronts.

Paul Kuharsky: I do not see them drafting Marcus Mariota. He’s not Whisenhunt’s style of quarterback, and I don’t think he’s going to change that up. Jameis Winston has serious baggage and maturity issues. But I’ll play along. If one of those guys lands in Nashville, he’d have to have a chance to start if he played the best in camp and the preseason. The clock on him begins ticking the moment Roger Goodell announces his name from the draft podium.

Paul Kuharsky: None.

The idea that, with a game left in the season, they have any sort of verdict about what they are doing at quarterback next season is way off. They will review Mettenberger’s work and decide from there. Free agency doesn’t open until March 10, which is when the trade market reopens. The draft starts April 30.

Easy dot-connecting puts Jay Cutler in Tennessee. It's too easy and far too early. They'll discuss him and all their options at some point. Hopefully they can see what's clear: He wouldn't solve their problems.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Receiver Nate Washington has one game left on his six-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.

He's been a good player and a good leader for the Titans, but it's highly unlikely he's re-signed by a team looking to reshape its roster as he'll turn 32 in August.

Kendall Wright played Thursday night in Jacksonville with a broken bone in his hand after missing two games. He said he was on the field, in part, because he wanted to play with Washington.

"My hand is still broke, but I just wanted to be out there with my brothers, man," Wright said, via Jonathan Hutton of Titans Radio, who also co-hosts my weekday radio show in Nashville. "Like Nate, this is his contract year, I don't know if he's going to be here next year.

"I did it for him and my brothers, I just want to go out there and play for them and do what I can to help. It's still broke, it's still swollen, but that won't keep me off the field."

Wright led the Titans with 73 receiving yard on four catches.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It’s silly to say the Tennessee Titans have the first pick in the NFL draft as of today. Tennessee has played one more game than the other contenders, so they have the lead.

Two other two-win teams still have to play this weekend, and we’ll see where it goes from there.

Terry McCormick of 247 Sports runs through all the scenarios and says the Raiders can’t get the top pick if they tie for the worst record in the league.

Strength of schedule is the tiebreaker. The team that played the weaker schedule gets the higher pick at the top of the first round.

So for the Titans to land the No. 1 pick, they need to lose against Indianapolis next Sunday. Presuming Tampa Bay loses its final two games -- at home against Green Bay and New Orleans -- the Titans to need lose ground in strength of schedule.

Titans fans who want their team to draft No. 1 need teams the Titans have played to lose and teams the Bucs have played to win.

But some games involving those teams are a bit more complicated than others.

Here’s McCormick’s rundown of those games on the rest of the Week 16 schedule.
Eagles at Redskins: Titans fans should pull for the Redskins, having played both teams, with the Bucs having played only the Skins.

Browns at Panthers: Titans need the Panthers to come out on top in this one, as both have played the Browns, but the Bucs face Carolina twice a year.

Ravens at Texans: Pull for the Ravens, Titans fans. A loss by division rival Houston counts double.

Vikings at Dolphins: Vikings. Minnesota was on Tampa Bay's schedule this season, but neither the Titans nor Bucs faced the Dolphins.

Chiefs at Steelers: Another key game. The Titans played both teams; the Bucs only played Pittsburgh. A loss from KC helps Tennessee.

Colts at Cowboys: The Titans benefit more by having the Cowboys win, adding two Indy losses to their strength of schedule.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Derrick Morgan has a strong game for the Titans in Jacksonville on Thursday night, where Tennessee lost its ninth consecutive game this season.

 The outside linebacker sacked Blake Bortles twice, forcing a fumble on one of them that the Titans couldn’t recover.

The press box stat crew also credited him with six tackles, a pass defensed and an additional quarterback hit.

Morgan now leads the team with 6.5 sacks in his first season as a linebacker in a 3-4 as opposed to an end in a 4-3.

"I just have to thank God for my success, but it just stinks not getting the win," Morgan said, per John Glennon of The Tennessean. "We had ample opportunities to rush the quarterback and that was big for us, being that's what we love to do. But it doesn't amount to anything when we don't get the win."

Morgan is not the singular force the Titans hoped he’d grow into when they spent the 16th pick on him out of Georgia Tech in 2010. When a team picks a pass rusher that high, he needs to be a guy who has to be accounted for and can make rushing the passer easier for everyone else.

Instead, he is the type of player who could be very good playing opposite such a guy.

His contract expires after this season, and he will be an interesting player on the free agent market.

The Titans will already be looking for outside linebacker help for the other side. Will they want to replace both starters?

Another 3-4 team could like what it’s seen, or 4-3 teams could like him in a scenario where he moves back to end.

Adam Schefter discusses how Jacksonville hurt its draft stock by winning and Tennessee won by losing. Herm Edwards and Mark Dominik talk about the thought process of a coach and general manager at the end of a losing season.
The Tennessee Titans have 14 players on injured-reserve after adding running back Dexter McCluster (knee) to the list on Thursday before the loss to the Jaguars.

Of the 14, nine were starters when they suffered the injury that ended their season.

The Titans haven't put quarterback Zach Mettenberger on IR, but they could have after he was knocked out of the Dec. 7 game against the Giants with a re-injured right shoulder.

With all those guys out, we saw a receiver who was promoted to the roster Thursday get two snaps (Rico Richardson), a tight end who was added Tuesday play 16 snaps (Matthew Mulligan) and an offensive lineman added on Dec. 9 play all 67 snaps at left tackle (Jamon Meredith).

A look at playing time for the Titans against the Jaguars:

Offense, 67 snaps

RT Meredith, 67
LG Andy Levitre, 67
C Chris Spencer, 67
RG Chance Warmack, 67
LT Byron Stingily, 67
QB Charlie Whitehurst, 67

TE Delanie Walker, 64
WR Nate Washington, 61
WR Derek Hagan, 43
WR Kendall Wright, 42
RB Leon Washington, 30
WR Kris Durham, 23
RB Bishop Sankey, 23
TE Mulligan, 16
RB Shonn Greene, 14
TE Chase Coffman, 7
FB Jackie Battle, 6
G Eric Olsen, 4
WR Richardson, 2

Defense, 59 snaps

ILB Avery Williamson, 59

S Michael Griffin, 58
CB Coty Sensabaugh, 57
S George Wilson, 57
OLB Derrick Morgan, 57
CB Jason McCourty, 57
DL Jurrell Casey, 52
ILB Wesley Woodyard, 37
DT Sammie Hill, 37
CB Marqueston Huff, 32
OLB Kamerion Wimbley, 29
DE Ropati Pitoitua, 26
S Daimion Stafford, 24
OLB Quentin Groves, 23
DL DaQuan Jones, 16
DE Karl Klug, 14
DL Al Woods, 13
LB Justin Staples, 1

Battle, Stafford, Staples, and Brandon Harris led special teamers by playing 20 snaps, 80 percent of the special teams work.
Reading the coverage of the Tennessee Titans ...

"In losing their ninth game in a row, the 2014 Titans are assured of owning the worst single-season record since the franchise moved to Tennessee in 1997," writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Leon Washington, who is from near EverBank Field, gave his touchdown ball to one of his sons in the front row of the crowd, writes Wyatt. "I was hoping we could win," Washington said. "I was going to ask coach if I could walk home. But we didn't pull it out."

Ken Whisenhunt claimed the Jaguars were holding on Blake Bortles' successful scrambles, writes Wyatt. Whisenhunt didn’t like the late pass interference against Coty Sensabaugh, either.

Charlie Whitehurst had a career night in the loss, writes John Glennon of The Tennessean.

The Titans have now allowed more than 400 points for the sixth time, writes David Boclair of the Nashville Post.

Jaguars reporter Mike DiRocco's Jacksonville game ball goes to Blake Bortles, who threw for 115 yards and one touchdown. Tennessee's game ball goes to Charlie Whitehurst, who threw for 287 yards and one touchdown.
Some additional thoughts on the Tennessee Titans following their 21-13 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Jacksonville:

Successful homecoming: Running back and returner Leon Washington grew up right near EverBank Field. He has played way more than I expected he would on offense this season, to the point I’d say he’s a Ken Whisenhunt favorite. He was a key part of the success the Titans did have on Thursday.

Washington caught an 8-yard pass from Charlie Whitehurst for the Titans' touchdown.

The third-down back got more action than usual, in part because Dexter McCluster was placed on injured reserve with a fractured kneecap earlier in the day.

The Titans looked to Washington seven times on third down, with three handoffs and four passes. He converted five of his seven chances, finishing with a team-high seven catches for 62 yards.

Third down: The Titans own the worst third-down offense in the league but converted seven of 15 chances, thanks in large part to Washington's efforts. It was the second-best third-down game for the team this season and the best since Week 5 against Cleveland. It wasn't enough to stop the team's losing streak, though.

Fourth-quarter run defense: The Titans came into the game having allowed a league-high 147 carries in the fourth quarter for 495 yards. That’s what happens to teams that trail as often as the Titans do.

Jacksonville picked up on that and was able to run in the final quarter to build and sit on its lead. Jordan Todman went for a 62-yard touchdown to grow the Jacksonville lead to 21-10 with 9:13 left in the game. The Jags ran 10 times for 92 yards and four first downs in the final period.

Beaten by the rookie: Blake Bortles went without throwing an interception for just the second time all season. The rookie quarterback also had his second-best running game of the season, with five carries for 50 yards.

Bortles converted a third-and-9 and a third-and-14 with runs, and the Jags turned both drives into touchdowns.

The third-and-14 play resulted in a 12-yard run, but Titans inside linebacker Avery Williamson was flagged for defensive holding of Marcedes Lewis. The play gave the Jaguars a first-and-goal at the Titans' 1-yard line, from where Toby Gerhart scored to give Jacksonville its first lead, 14-10.

Even a ground attack ranked 25th in the NFL had its way with Tennessee.

Mic’d Up: Receiver Nate Washington wore a microphone for NFL Network. He told the offense, “Just because we scored on the first drive doesn’t make us great; we play a full 60 minutes.”

Unfortunately for the Titans, the remainder of those 60 minutes produced two Ryan Succop field goals, a 50-yarder and a 23-yarder.

Rapid Reaction: Tennessee Titans

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18

A few thoughts on the Tennessee Titans' 21-13 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field:

What it means: The Titans lost their ninth straight game and split with the Jaguars for the sixth consecutive season. Tennessee has been the victim in five of the Jaguars' last 22 wins. The Titans are now in sole possession of last place in the AFC South and are the first team in the NFL to reach 13 losses, making them very much a player in the race for the top pick in the draft.

Stock watch: Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh is down. He started the second of three games to end the season with Blidi Wreh-Wilson on injured reserve. Running back Toby Gerhart dragged Sensabaugh around at one point. Sensabaugh fell at the feet of receiver Marqise Lee after one catch, failing to touch him, and he dived and missed in pursuit of Lee after another big catch. When Jordan Todman ran for a 62-yard touchdown, Sensabaugh was chasing a guy to whom the Jaguars had faked a reverse. Later the Jaguars got a crucial, time-killing third-down conversion thanks to a (questionable) pass interference penalty against Sensabaugh.

End the trend: The Titans scored a touchdown on their opening possession for the first time in 18 games dating back to a Dec. 18, 2013, loss at Denver. It was their first touchdown on offense in three weeks after they failed to find the end zone on offense in losses to the Giants and Jets.

Game ball: The Titans sagged significantly in the middle of the game, and so did quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. But his early work and late work added up to a better-than-decent night for the quarterback -- 24-of-35 for 287 yards and a touchdown with a 102.9 passer rating. He was sacked four times.

What’s next: The Titans host the Indianapolis Colts at LP Field on Dec. 28 to wrap up the season. Tennessee lost at Indianapolis 41-17 on Sept. 28.

Blake Bortles to start vs. Titans

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles will start in Thursday night's game against Tennessee at EverBank Field.

Bortles worked out on the field between 4 and 5 p.m. and coach Gus Bradley, general manager David Caldwell, and team medical personnel were happy with the way he was moving around on his sprained right foot and pronounced him fit to face the Titans.

Bortles suffered the injury during the Jaguars' 20-12 loss at Baltimore last Sunday. It came when he was chased down by linebackers Pernell McPhee and Terrell Suggs for a 10-yard loss midway through the fourth quarter. That was the seventh time Bortles was sacked. He limped off the field but remained in the game and was sacked once more on the Jaguars' final drive.

The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Bortles has thrown for 2,676 yards and 10 touchdowns with 17 interceptions and needs just 143 yards and four touchdown passes to surpass Bryon Leftwich's rookie records in those categories. Leftwich threw for 2,819 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2003.

(Read full post)

NFL Nation Game Day Live: Titans at Jaguars

December, 18, 2014
Dec 18
Follow along below for the latest coverage from our NFL Nation reporters on this week’s Thursday matchup between the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- NFL teams have an average of 12 interceptions, and the Titans are right in line with that.

Their take-away troubles come from their failures to strip the ball and recover it.

The Titans have forced thee fumbles all season, and they’ve recovered four because DeMarco Murray dropped a ball for them.

Bad tackling is one reason the Titans haven’t forced more fumbles. Generally, the first guy to the ball is supposed to make the tackle, the second guy can focus more on trying to strip the ball. When the first guy is failing/flailing, that process is a lot more difficult.

“It’d be interesting to see the teams we play, I didn’t go back to look at it, how many fumbles do they have?” defensive coordinator Ray Horton said.

The Titans have played a lot of teams with high-quality running backs. But their teams have fumbled on par with the league averages.
  • An average team has fumbled 19 times, losing 9.
  • The Titans’ opponents have fumbled an average of 19.2 times, losing 9.9.
  • An average NFL team has forced 12 fumbles and recovered nine.
  • The Titans have forced three and recovered four.
Never mind the opponent.

The Jacksonville Jaguars recently beat the New York Giants, who beat the Tennessee Titans. There is no transitive property in the NFL, and A beating B and B beating C rarely ensures that A will beat C.

But Tennessee has also lost to Washington and the Jets and has lost eight consecutive games overall.

The Titans and Jaguars have split their series for five consecutive years and the Oct. 12 Tennessee win in Nashville came down to a last-second blocked field goal for the home team. The Titans haven’t scored a touchdown on offense in their last two games.

They'll break that streak on Thursday Night Football, but still lose.

Weekly disclaimer: Unpredictability is the single biggest reason for the NFL’s popularity. No matter how closely I watch the Titans and how many people I talk to, predicting games, in my eyes, isn’t far off from throwing a dart.

Jaguars 20, Titans 10
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Zach Mettenberger may be the Tennessee Titans' answer at quarterback.

But he didn’t do enough in six starts to make it a sure thing.

Sorting through the position will be among the team’s biggest issues during the offseason.

With Jay Cutler benched in Chicago, speculation is rampant that the Bears will move on, trading or cutting him.

And the Titans are consistently listed as the top potential landing spot.

A common reason used to connect those dots is that he went to Vanderbilt in Nashville.

Allow me to share this newsflash: Where a guy went to college or may have a house has zero influence on the local team deciding whether to employ him.

Cutler is tempting on at least one level: He sure can throw.

But his inability to lead, the fact a second team would be giving up on him, and his poor performance should offset that. He leads the NFL in turnovers with 18 interceptions and six lost fumbles.

Here’s one popular thought among fans:

The tweeter left out Matt Hasselbeck.

Here’s my response to Zinser and others saying similar things.

At the prime position on the field, better than bad isn’t good enough, and it doesn’t solve long-standing problems. You trade one set of issues (Mettenberger is unproven and somewhat immature) for another (Cutler is a turnover machine with an unappealing attitude, to put it nicely).

The Titans lack leadership. Bringing in a veteran quarterback who’s consistently failed in that department wouldn’t take the team in the right direction.

The Titans aren't thinking about what to do at quarterback in 2015 until they finish 2014. My strong sense from inside the building is that they aren't expecting to be interested in the Bears' problem child.

Upon review, perhaps Ken Whisenhunt winds up thinking he could fix Cutler.

That would be a mistake.

I understand the temptation of Cutler’s skill set. That is not so appealing as to prompt them to overlook all his other characteristics.