This is the question we’ve received most often in our mailbox over the last week. After Monday night’s performance, everyone is curious to know just how good Zach Mettenberger is.
Let’s start with is arm. He’s got a hose. Mettenberger can make any throw on the field and then some. This alone doesn’t make you a good quarterback, but it’s a nice asset to have. Take the play below against the Ravens, for instance. The Titans ran mirrored or identical routes to each side. Mettenberger first looked to the left sideline. He didn’t like what he saw.
Then, Mettenberger came all the way back to the right sideline and threw a far hash deep out-route for a 17-yard gain.
There are very few quarterbacks in the league who can effectively throw a far hash, deep out late in the play. There are very few quarterbacks who would even think of looking to one sideline, then coming all the way back to the other side of the field. Mettenberger can.
Mettenberger is a true pocket passer. He hangs in late and is almost oblivious to pressure. He doesn’t flinch if he’s going to take a hit. He doesn’t react to perceived pressure. He scans the field and feels the pressure, like a quarterback is supposed to. This is a skill found in mature signal-callers, and it’s hard to teach to players who don’t already have it by the time they get to the NFL level.
On the flip side, Mettenberger’s ability to hang in the pocket also gets him in trouble. He’ll sometimes hang in for too long, waiting for his deeper routes to develop. This is a good skill to have, but when it comes to managing the game, sometimes a quarterback has to know when to take what the defense is giving him and get the ball out of his hands quickly.
On the play below against the Ravens, the Titans had a first down from deep in their own territory late in the 3rd quarter of a one-possession game. With the corner bailing, Mettenberger had a wide-open throw to the flat.
The easy completion would have given the offense a little breathing room. This is when a quarterback has to manage the game and react to the situation. Mettenberger didn’t take the easy throw, though. Instead, he waited for a deeper route to the same side. This gave Baltimore’s pass rush a chance to get to him, and the result was a sack. Deep in their own territory with lots of yards to go and a rookie quarterback at the helm, the Titans played it safe and ran the ball on the next two plays before punting. The sack on first down resulted in a wasted possession. This ended up being a costly rookie mistake as the Ravens scored off of a short field on their next drive.
The things Mettenberger needs to work on are correctable, which is the good news for Tennessee. He definitely has all of the tools needed to play the position consistently from the pocket. It’s good that the Titans are giving him a chance to play so they can see what they have moving forward and so Mettenberger can continue to learn how to manage an NFL game. So far, all signs on the field are promising.