The Eagles were run roughshod over by the Packers last week, and while 53 points was unexpected, getting beat by the big plays of the Packers' passing game wasn't. With Thanksgiving in Dallas less than a week away, they need a bounce back game. Luckily, the Tennessee Titans can offer that quick fix.
In his first season coaching the Titans, Ken Whisenhunt has picked up where he left off in Arizona: churning through bad quarterback after bad quarterback and unsurprisingly struggling to score points. After rotating through Derek Anderson, Max Hall, Kevin Kolb, John Skelton, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer over three seasons with the Cardinals, he's already started three quarterbacks this year alone: Jake Locker, who was replaced due to injury by Charlie Whitehurst, who was benched for rookie Zach Mettenberger. Through all that change since their Week 1 upset of the Chiefs, they've won one game. Against the Jaguars. By two points. The Titans have a respectable defense, but on offense they are a mess. They've failed to run for more than 85 yards in seven of their games, including five straight. They've run the fewest plays in the league, thanks in part to having the second most three and out drives. They're 28th in the league in 20+ yard passing plays and 23rd in sack rate. None of this should suddenly turn themselves around on Sunday, because Zach Mettenberger, who has turned the ball over at a higher rate than Nick Foles has, isn't the answer at QB.
Billed as a strong armed passer who can make all the throws after one decent season throwing to Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry at LSU, Mettenberger hasn't shown that arm strength in the NFL. In his short three game career, his best game was Monday night against the Steelers, who were not coincidentally the worst defense he has faced. Mettenberger completed 15 of 24 passes for 263 yards and left a lot of yards on the field with his short throws.
This was clear on the Titans first play of the game.
That's a ten yard out route. Every QB in the NFL should be able to make that throw. Instead it's a touchdown for the Steelers. This was a recurring problem for him.
Again, no pressure in his face and he under throws a ten yard out route. The tight end shouldn't have to come back and dive to catch that, it should hit him in stride.
With a 10 yard out being difficult for Mettenberger, a 15 is of course difficult as well.
Here he at least completes the 25 yard pass, but does so with really poor placement of the ball. He has plenty of time in the pocket and in the route to hit his receiver in stride and allow him to turn up field for a bigger gain, if not a touchdown. Instead there are no yards after the catch.
These are poor throws that resulted in no yards after the catch. Other times he gave his receivers no yards or less after the catch because of bad decisions.
Rather than take the easy dump off to a wide open Dexter McCluster who has space to run, basically the entire reason he's on the team, he gets Jackie Battle's bell rung, making the throw under pressure.
Then on the very next play, another hospital pass. Mettenberger puts the ball behind his receiver, which sets him up to get his clock cleaned by two defenders.
Of course, we've seen this story before, backup QB comes in and shreds the Eagles defense for 300+ yards. This season at least, it hasn't burned them. Kirk Cousins couldn't pull out the win and neither could Austin Davis. Mettenberger shouldn't be the one to buck the trend.
With an opportunity for a 25 yard pass, Mettenberger sets his feet and... throws the ball short, causing his receiver to come back to the ball, out of bounds.
None of this will make the Eagles defensive backs, who have been burned deep all year, suddenly better. But for a week at least, they shouldn't get lit up and put the offense in a hole. Mettenberger struggles to throw the ball deep, and struggles to give his receivers yards after the catch, two areas that Eagles DBs have struggled with.