"Behind Enemy (Side)Lines" is an ongoing series with the opposing team's beat writer. This week, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean gives insight on the Texans upcoming opponent, the Tennessee Titans.
1. The big news out of Nashville is the quarterback situation. What's the latest on Zach Mettenberger?
"It's going to be the first time the Texans get to see Zach Mettenberger. It's going to be really the first time the NFL gets to see him other than mop-up duty against the Indianapolis Colts back in Week 4 when the Titans were blown out of that game. He did play a lot in the preseason but up until this week, he had been the team's No. 3 quarterback. He would bump up to No. 2 on weeks when Jake Locker was hurt. Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans coach, was pretty adamant he was going to stick with Locker, give him a chance when he's healthy. With a 2-5 start, they needed to find what they had in Mettenberger. They decided they'd waited long enough and they might as well turn it over to the young guy. So, he's going to get his first start against the Texans on Sunday. It's going to make a game that probably a lot of people here were not looking forward to too much, at least something to get excited about."
- Is there something that head coach Ken Whisenhunt saw in Mettenberger, either on the field or off the field that led him to this decision maybe earlier than planned?*
"Well, I think it's a combination of a couple of things. For one, like a lot of people, including Jake Locker, he's just frustrated by Locker's inability to stay healthy and be there week in and week out. Locker missed three games this year. Sure, they could have given him another chance to prove himself but you're kind of running out of time in wanting to find out about Mettenberger as well. Behind the scenes, Mettenberger has been a hard-working kid. He's one of these guys that gets to the facility early in the morning. He's kind of a football junkie, he's looked good on the practice field when given a chance. He's got a little bit of a swagger about him.
"When they got him in the sixth round of the draft, they felt like they got a steal, that he's a guy that was a second, third-round talent. They feel like they got a quarterback of the future in Mettenberger.
"Instead of putting him on hold and waiting until the season plays out in games where you're really not going to find out a lot about him, they want to put him in at a meaningful time of the year and now they are really going to find out what they have in him."
3. With the uncertainty at quarterback, what are the Titans expectations now moving forward for the rest of the year?
"They hope Mettenberger establishes himself – he's clearly going to go through some growing pains. It's hard to just throw a guy in and expect him to be turnover-free right out of the gate. I think they expect Mettenberger to work through some adversity. Their expectation, again when you're 2-5 and you've got a schedule coming up like the Titans have, while coaches never want to admit it, you're playing to find out what you've got in guys on the roster for the future. I think it's almost a pipe dream to think you're going to get back into the playoff hunt.
"They want to see Mettenberger perform well. They want to see him handle adversity. They want to see some of the young guys like Taylor Lewan, Bishop Sanke, and a couple of other rookies they have in the lineup now, they want to see those guys gel and work together and put down a foundation moving forward. Yes, they want to win some games along the way. Yes, they want to win some games to make November and December mean a little bit more but right now I think it's also about finding out what you got in your young guys."
4. Rookie left tackle Taylor Lewan may be facing J.J. Watt, Jadeveon Clowney or both this Sunday. How has he looked so far?
"He's settled in well. He's a guy who has a reputation of being a hothead, a guy who plays through the whistle and he's shown some of that when he came in relief of some of the injured starters early on during his rookie season. He showed that during the preseason. Once he got the starting job – he stepped in for Michael Roos a couple of weeks ago – it seems like he settled down. I think he has an understanding that he can't do things to hurt the team from a personal foul or unnecessary roughness matter. So he's handled it well.
"The offensive line here, to be frank, has been a mess. They've made all kinds of mistakes and committed way too many penalties and just looked really out of sync at times. Taylor Lewan has been the exception in the past couple of weeks. He's been penalty-free. He's done a good job of protecting the quarterback. On an offensive line that has struggled, he's certainly been one of the bright spots for them."
5. How different does the Titans defense look under new defensive coordinator Ray Horton?
"It looks a lot different from a scheme standpoint because they are playing a 3-4 compared to a 4-3, which what they played from 1999-2003. This is really the first time they've been in a 3-4 defense. They do more of a hybrid defense where they show different looks so they're not exclusively 3-4 but they are playing it a big chunk of time.
"It looks different in how they line up and to be honest, they still have some of the same problems they've had going back to years past. They've had trouble getting to the quarterback on a consistent basis. They had a six-sack game against the Jaguars a couple of weeks ago, but they have not provided a consistent pass rush with this defense. They've had some issues in the secondary allowing too many points and not getting stops when they need to. This is a different scheme with a different coordinator but some of the same problems linger."
The (3-4) Texans travel to LP Field to take on the (2-5) Tennessee Titans on Sunday. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. CT on FOX KRIV-26 and SportsRadio 610.