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The Tennessee Titans came to the NFL Combine in Indianapolis this week still doing the dance of whether or not Zach Mettenberger will be their starting quarterback in 2015.
Mettenberger made six starts a year ago as a rookie and played relatively well for most of that time. He still has a lot to learn, but his evaluation was made tougher because of the terrible team around him.
Now, the Titans sit at No. 2 overall in the draft, and they are at least putting up the smokescreen that they would take either Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota with that pick. Either way, the Titans say they are doing their due diligence on both players to determine whether one of them could unseat Mettenberger as their quarterback of the future.
"I know we'll spend a lot of time with those guys over the next few months. We'll meet with them here and do our due diligence all the way through. They're very good players, and there'd be no reason for us not to. That'll start with meeting with them here at the Combine," Titans general manager Ruston Webster said.
As for Mettenberger's status, he is officially in a holding pattern while the Titans explore the two top quarterback prospects, even though there are signs that Tennessee would prefer to roll with Mettenberger and either trade the second pick or draft a potential difference-maker like defensive tackle Leonard Williams, defensive end Randy Gregory or wide receiver Amari Cooper.
"I've talked to Zach multiple times. For me the thing to do is just shoot him straight and kind of tell him where we are, and not necessarily what we're thinking, because I don't know totally, but be straightforward with him about the process, because I know he's going to be reading (about it)," Webster said. "I was not able to give him a commitment. I don't think we're in a position to commit to anything. He knows we like him. He knows we value him and we'll just kind of go from there. But we like the player. We like Zach, but I'm not ready to commit to anything, including the player we're gonna pick at No. 2 right now."
Like Webster, Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt was being careful not to give away their strategy for what lies ahead in the draft.
"We're in a position this year where we get an opportunity to get that position settled for us, and it's an important thing," Whisenhunt said.
But Whisenhunt at least sounded as if he is open to Mettenberger getting a full shot to be the starter going forward.
"I think Zach is aware of what's in front of him, potentially for himself. I think he knows what he has to do as far as working and preparing. We've talked about it," Whisenhunt said. "He understands what this process is all about.
"Zach, obviously, is very motivated by where he was drafted (sixth round in 2014), based off the way he looks at himself as a player, and I like that. If you think about where he was when we got him, from an injury perspective, the ACL and how he battled this year and the things he did, you have to give him credit. He did a nice job of that. This whole process going forward, we're open about what we're trying to get done. He understands what's on the table, and I think communication is an important thing."