Following the conclusion of the 2015 NFL draft earlier in May, it appeared that at least one member of the Tennessee Titans’ offensive line was firmly in the corner of second-year quarterback Zach Mettenberger rather than supporting the team’s newest addition—and second-overall draft pick this year—Marcus Mariota.
Left tackle Taylor Lewan, who visited Mettenberger following Round 1 of the draft, said to Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, “Mariota, I don’t know the guy and I am sure he is a great worker and from everything I hear about him he’s a great guy. But Zach is not the kind of guy who in conflict is going to flee. He’s going to fight it out.” Lewan added that he didn’t watch much of Mariota’s collegiate work at Oregon.
Lewan acknowledged that competition is ahead between the two quarterbacks and that “It’s going to be awesome watching two guys go at it.” He also said that “This shouldn’t sound like a beat-up-on-Mariota session because it is not; I have no issue with the guy. If someone is going to get drafted that early, he obviously has talent and should be respected.” Lewan’s comments were taken more as an endorsement of Mettenberger, mainly because he also said that Mettenberger still considers himself the Titans’ starter.
Because of this, it appeared that there was some division between players backing Mariota and those backing Mettenberger, or at least a level of skepticism about the Titans’ newest quarterback. But, according to Lewan, who spoke with John Glennon of The Tennessean on Friday, that is not the case:
“If people want to put stuff out there like that, that’s fine. I mean, in this locker room, I have nothing against Marcus at all. I’ve just known Zach for longer. So it’s not necessarily rooting for someone. I’m rooting for the best players to play on this team,” Lewan said. “If there’s a better left tackle on this team than me, then I expect him to play and I expect us to win. I don’t care about anything but winning games. So when it comes to the business perspective, I don’t care who the quarterback is.”
Mettenberger appeared in seven games for the Titans as a rookie, starting six. He completed 59.8 percent of his passes, for 1,412 yards and he threw eight touchdowns to seven interceptions, while taking 18 sacks. The Titans went 0-6 in the games Mettenberger started. He missed the final three games of the season with a shoulder injury.
It’s still possible that Mettenberger starts in 2015 ahead of Mariota, despite Mariota’s draft pedigree. At the very least, the incumbent is not going to make it easy for the rookie, with Mettenberger saying to ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky on Friday that, “I’m not going down without a fight to the death.” But as far as Lewan is concerned, he has no preference about which quarterback’s blind side he will be protecting. He was simply defending a familiar teammate while acknowledging that any change at the position won’t come easy, given Mettenberger’s commitment to doing whatever it takes to keep his job.
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