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The Tennessee Titans will soon have a quarterback controversy on their hands, whether they want to admit it or not.
As the 2014 season circles the drain with Sunday's loss to the Washington Redskins that dropped the Titans to 2-5, some of the questions about the quarterback position have shifted from when will Jake Locker return and is he the long-term answer under center to when will rookie Zach Mettenberger get a real look from the coaching staff with an audition for 2015.
Locker's problems have not been so much his play - though that has been inconsistent at times - as it has been his penchant for injuries. Locker has already missed his third game of the season, one with a wrist injury and his second in as many weeks with a bruised thumb.
Locker has now missed 17 of 39 starts since being named the Titans starting quarterback in 2012. He is scheduled to throw on Tuesday to determine if he will be able to practice this week and perhaps return to the lineup on Sunday against the Houston Texans.
The problem is, however, that time is running out for Locker, who is in the final year of his contract after the Titans declined his fifth-year option earlier this year. With his missed time, journeyman backup Charlie Whitehurst has been running the offense with modest success, but nothing that has translated into anything overly impressive. Whitehurst is a serviceable backup, but it doesn't go much farther than that. And what is worse is that Locker may have unwittingly placed his future in the hands of Whitehurst with all his missed time in the past few weeks.
With the Titans a train wreck at 2-5, it would probably take Locker playing lights out and playing in all the remaining games now to change the team's mind about his future in Tennessee.
By the same token, Mettenberger, the team's sixth-round pick, flashed a lot of promise in the preseason, and while that is a far cry from regular-season success, if the Titans slip completely out of contention in the coming weeks, they owe it to themselves to give the former LSU star a shot over the final few weeks of the season. That way, they know if he can be a potential starter beginning next season or if they have to go back into the draft or look somewhere for a free agent or trade pickup to find their starter in 2015.
For now, Whisenhunt is sidestepping the Mettenberger talk.
"That seems to be a question you guys are saying more than I am. I'm focused on trying to prepare our team each week," Whisenhunt said.