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Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt named rookie Zach Mettenberger the team's starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Houston Texans at LP Field.
Jake Locker has missed the past two games with a thumb injury, and the naming of Mettenberger could signal the end of Locker's days as the Titans' No. 1 quarterback.
"We are going to go with Zach at QB this week," said Whisenhunt, who said the decision was made Tuesday. "We were still waiting to see where Jake's hand was going to be as far as whether he was going to be the backup or not depending on if he could do that. We feel good after two good days of practice with Jake that he can do that. So that's the order in which we're going to go from this point.
"Unfortunately that (news) got out before we had the opportunity to announce that, but that's the direction we're going. We feel like it's an opportunity to see what Zach can do just like a number of our younger players that have already started to contribute, and we're looking forward to seeing where we go from here."
Mettenberger was a sixth-round selection in this year's NFL Draft, but he had a strong preseason, completing 69.1 percent of his passes for 659 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 97.6.
Whisenhunt said the Titans plan to stick with Mettenberger, even when Locker gets healthy.
Mettenberger said it's his team now.
"No matter who that guy is at the quarterback position, it's his team," Mettenberger said. "I've got to step in and take control. I've done that this week, being vocal, making sure we're in the right calls, being on the same page. Absolutely, this is my team now."
Mettenberger has played in just one regular-season game, completing 2 of 5 passes for 17 yards and one interception.
This past week, he was the backup to Charlie Whitehurst, who started Sunday's game against Washington. Whitehurst was 17-for-26 for 160 yards, two touchdowns and one interception in a 19-17 loss to the Redskins that dropped the Titans' record to 2-5.
"I think over the last couple weeks, (Mettenberger) has gotten the opportunity to get reps in practice to go with guys that are playing," Whisenhunt said. "There is no question he is a talented young player. And maybe it'll give us a spark. Offensively, we haven't exactly been lighting it up. So that's part of it in consideration."
Locker, who was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, is now the backup.
"It's not easy, it's frustrating, it's disappointing," Locker said. "There are still nine games left in the season. I will be Zach's backup, and there is a responsibility with that that I don't take lightly. Be prepared for the game and try to help Zach, in any way I can, have success."
Whitehurst has been dropped to No. 3.
The winds of change appear to be blowing in for the Tennessee Titans even as they prepare for Sunday's visit by the Houston Texans.
The Titans, 2-5, traded away seldom-used linebacker Akeem Ayers on Tuesday to the New England Patriots, tossing in a seventh-round pick in exchange for a sixth-rounder from the Pats next year.
Ayers, a two-year starter and a former second round pick in 2011, fell from favor with the Titans new coaching staff, was relegated to a backup role. When that backup role, according to Coach Ken Whisenhunt, did not include a key role on special teams, it meant that Ayers was the odd man out behind veterans like Shaun Phillips, Kam Wimbley and Quentin Groves.
"I think, really, a big part of it was special teams. When you're in that type role, you've got to be able to contribute special teams-wise. We needed that, and we just didn't feel like we were getting enough from that area," Whisenhunt said.
However, the statistics don't necessarily bear that out. In one of only two games active, Ayers managed three special teams tackles to lead the team.
There was a report from NFL.com that the Titans were listening to offers for receiver Nate Washington and 247Sports.com reported that other players, such as safety Michael Griffin, could possibly be available.
While a fire sale is unlikely - those sorts of things just don't happen in the NFL like in baseball - the Titans do seem to recognize that they are in a situation where changes are needed.
At 2-5, the Titans look like they are headed for a sixth straight season of being out of the playoffs and have a fanbase that is growing restless and frustrated with a team that has not won a playoff game since the 2003 season.
SERIES HISTORY: 25th regular-season meeting. Titans lead series, 15-9. Tennessee dominated the series in its early days, but since then Houston has ruled of late. In fact, one of the Texans' two wins a year ago came at the Titans expense.