NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Tennessee Titans didn’t ask for patience heading into 2014, the first season with Ken Whisenhunt and his staff at the helm.
They probably should have.
At 2-6, the Titans rank as one of the NFL’s worst teams. They have not crafted an identity. They do not execute well with any regularity. Any question they may answer, they offset by creating more questions.
Young guys have gradually taken on bigger roles -- some because of injury, some as coaches have looked for more production. Rookies such as left tackle Taylor Lewan and inside linebacker Avery Williamson are playing well, but the Titans need a lot more of them.
After seven games, the Titans turned to a rookie quarterback in Zach Mettenberger as a means of looking more toward the future than the present.
Midseason MVP: No one has played better for Tennessee than tight end Delanie Walker, even while defenses have begun to key on him effectively. Walker is tied with Kendall Wright for the team lead with 35 catches and four touchdowns and leads the Titans with 475 receiving yards. Walker has embraced the new scheme, been solid for three different quarterbacks and excelled despite major injury issues for the team’s two other key tight ends. When Whisenhunt has spoken of no one playing well, he often has gone out of his way to note that Walker is the exception.
Biggest disappointment: The Titans have invested a great deal in their offensive line. The group has not provided consistent pass protection or run blocking, and it is at the root of the Titans’ penalty problems. The six offensive linemen who have played considerably have committed 26 penalties on offense. The Titans spend way too much time in need of more than 10 yards for a first down, which is a big reason why they are the NFL’s worst third-down offense. Jake Locker's inability to stay healthy and seize the quarterback job also has hurt the team.
Best moment: Walking off the field at Arrowhead Stadium with a surprise win over the Kansas City Chiefs on opening day rewarded the team for its offseason buy-in and proved the schemes of Whisenhunt & Co. could work. The Titans ran for 162 yards and Locker played a crisp and efficient game with two touchdown passes. The defense was only on the field for 22:16 and gave up just 245 yards.
Worst moment: Having blown a 25-point lead against the Browns on Oct. 5, the Titans were still in position to ice the win if they could convert a fourth-and-1 from their own 42 with 3:09 left in the game and a 28-22 lead. Whisenhunt called for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst to sneak to the left. The quarterback stayed upright instead of burrowing, and the Browns got a big push and easily stoned him, getting the ball back on downs. Four plays later, the Browns scored a go-ahead touchdown, and the Titans had completed the worst regular-season home collapse in NFL history.
Key to the second half: It’s going to be about growth and progress, and the primary place the Titans can measure that is at quarterback. With Mettenberger now the starter, Whisenhunt has his style of quarterback leading the team. Can the tall, strong-armed pocket passer show he’s the team’s quarterback of the future? Or will he leave the sort of doubt that might force the team to draft a QB in the early rounds in the spring?