NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Zach Mettenberger has had a full week to review his first career start in the NFL – a 299-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Houston Texans. Now he gets set for his second start Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.
The Ravens have dominated at home of late, going 42-10 at M&T Bank Stadium since 2008, including a 3-1 home record this season. Mettenberger said there's one point of emphasis in particular as he gets ready for his first road game in a tough environment.
"Just communication -- you have to put a big emphasis on that, making sure all 11 guys in the huddle are on the same page," he said. "The crowd noise is going to make it hard to communicate in the huddle and at the line of scrimmage."
On a rainy day in Nashville, the Titans took practice inside the team's practice bubble with head coach Ken Whisenhunt bringing back speakers to emulate crowd noise they'll hear Sunday. Of all the difficult transitions from college to the NFL, Mettenberger says his experience at LSU has him ready for a hostile road crowd.
Titans Online looks back at the first career NFL start for rookie QB Zach Mettenberger. (Photos: Donn Jones, AP)
"Not to disrespect any teams, but I don't think 70,000 [fans] can compare to 100,000-110,000 [fans] so it's just not the same," he explained. "It's still very intimidating some places and you have to be on top of your communication."
The Titans brought officials to practice to help clean up the team's propensity for committing penalties over the first half of the season. The offensive line has been a major culprit of the high penalty count and is working to clean up the miscues.
The officials were college officials from the SEC conference and also served as replacement officials during the referee lockout at the beginning of the 2012 season. Whisenhunt said the officials didn't stop practice for flags, but will follow up with a full report of who committed fouls during practice. He also mentioned there will be a penalty to those called for infractions, but didn't specify exactly what the punishment would be.
Mettenberger said having the officials around for the week helps set a tone of accountability that the Titans are in need of.
"Guys know they can't make mistakes," he said. "We're not going to allow false starts and we're not going to allow holding. We threw flags for both of those today. We're making it known that we're not going to allow mistakes. That's a culture we've got to start putting on everyone."
The next eight games serve as a golden opportunity for Mettenberger (as well as others) to solidify their roster spot in 2015, however the rookie QB is keeping his focus on the present.
"One start is not much different than two starts," he said. "By no means am I a seasoned vet at this game. I'm just taking it in stride and it's going to be a great learning experience. The ultimate goal is to go in there and get the win."
Once getting the nod as a starting NFL quarterback, the rookie label becomes irrelevant. Everyone on the 53-man roster expects a certain level of production in order to earn the respect as a team leader. Mettenberger said he's working at becoming a focal point in the Titans locker room, but knows it will be a week-to-week process.
"You've got to earn it," he said in regards to gaining respect of the team. "You have to show you can play. I think I've shown that to some extent, but you're only as good as your next performance. That's the motto you have to live by in this league."