KEY ADDITIONS: Charlie Whitehurst (Free Agency), Zach Mettenberger (Draft, 6th Rnd. 178 overall)
KEY DEPARTURES: Ryan Fitzpatrick (Released)
Only two Titans quarterbacks (Steve McNair in ’05 and Matt Hasselbeck in ’11) have passed for more than 3,000 yards in the last nine years. In the other seven seasons during that stretch, Tennessee’s offense ranked no higher than 21st in passing yards in the league. The team, however, appears to be ready to write a different script in 2014.
Coming off a season directing a Chargers offense that ranked fifth in total offensive yards, new Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt has a proven track record of getting the most out his quarterbacks. A healthy Jake Locker will be surrounded by offensive weapons at every skill position, including the likes of
Locker begins the 2014 season as the undeniable leader of Tennessee’s offense. The team’s first-round pick in 2011 led the Titans to a 3-1 start last season with six touchdowns and no turnovers, posting QB passer ratings of 74, 92.1, 96.6, and 130 in his first four games.
Locker’s performances improved each week, however a late hit incurred in Week 4 against the Jets left him with a hip injury that halted his progress and was expected to keep him out of the lineup 4 to 6 weeks.
Locker displayed toughness, returning to action after just two games. He battled through pain for three more games until suffering a season-ending Lisfrac injury in his foot during a week 10 at home against Jacksonville.
Despite pressure to perform in the final year of his contract in 2014, Locker has a clean slate with Whisenhunt, who has coached the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and most recently Phillip Rivers during his career.
Locker’s combination of size, speed, and arm strength is what landed him as the eighth-overall pick in 2011. His competitive nature and mobility have helped keep defenses off-guard during his first three NFL seasons, while his accuracy greatly improved a year ago.
Locker realizes what’s at stake. He has worked hard to recover from his foot injury and took part in every snap during offseason OTA’s. Now the future is in his hands as he gets ready to begin the 2014 campaign.
The team’s clear-cut #2 quarterback, Whisenhunt targeted Whitehurst during free agency, having a familiarity with the veteran QB from the time spent with him last season in San Diego. His knowledge of Whisenhunt’s offense while backing up Phillip Rivers has already paid dividends for Locker this offseason. And if the injury bug bites Locker again in 2014, Whisenhunt would trust Whitehurst’s knowledge and ability to step right in.
Primarily a backup throughout his career, Whitehurst does have big game experience on his resume. As a member of the Seahawks in 2010, Whitehurst was called upon in Week 17 to replace an injured Matt Hasselbeck and helped lead Seattle past the Rams 16-6 to clinch the NFC West title.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Mettenberger comes to Nashville after a stellar career and senior season at LSU. The QB compiled 3,082 yards and 22 touchdowns to finish as the NCAA’s fourth-ranked passer with a 171.45 rating in 2013. He led the Tigers to a 9-3 record, but a torn ACL in LSU’s regular season finale against Arkansas cost Mettenberger his final bowl game.
The rookie will compete for the third-string job with second-year QB Tyler Wilson. With a 6-foot-5, 224-pound frame and cannon arm, Mettenberger was regarded as one of the top quarterbacks in his draft class before the knee injury. Depending on his progression -- and Locker’s success -- Mettenberger has the potential to earn a more substantial role down the road.
The Titans signed Tyler Wilson late last season from the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. Oakland selected Wilson in the fourth round (112th overall) in the 2013 NFL draft but the QB never saw official game time as a rookie. Wilson entered the NFL after spending four years at Arkansas, becoming one of the most prolific passers in program history. Wilson set a school record with 7,765 passing yards. His 52 career passing touchdowns made him the fourth Razerback QB to exceed the 50 touchdown milestone.
Wilson will compete with Mettenberger for the third-string quarterback slot on the depth chart. Coach Whisenhunt has been pleased with Wilson’s work during OTA’s, giving legs to the upcoming competition between the two quarterbacks.