Titans' O line to get help cleaning up penalties
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Ken Whisenhunt let his Tennessee Titans try to clean up their penalties on their own to no avail, so now the first-year coach will have officials at practice when they return from their bye.
Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger said they learned of the coach's plans Tuesday, which include a player flagged for a penalty in practice being replaced.
''The days of, `My bad' it's really got to be over with this team,'' Mettenberger said. ''We have to own up to our mistakes and make sure they don't happen again.''
The Titans (2-6) are among the NFL's most penalized teams with 63 penalties for 580 yards, and some of the biggest repeat offenders have been on the offensive line where the Tennessee invested so heavily with two high-priced free agents in left guard Andy Levitre and right tackle Michael Oher and two first-round draft picks in rookie left tackle Taylor Lewan and right guard Chance Warmack.
Offensive linemen account for 25 of the penalties with Levitre flagged the most with six followed by Warmack (five), Oher (four) and center Brian Schwenke (three). Lewan has four penalties, though a couple came before the season-ending injury to veteran left tackle Michael Roos (three). Lewan, who was flagged for a face mask in Sunday's 30-16 loss to Houston, says he thinks bringing officials in is a great idea.
''It's a little needed at this point,'' Lewan said. ''We're penalized quite a bit, and we can't have that.''
On paper, the line should be the strength of the Titans' offense.
Levitre was signed to a six-year, $46.8 million contract in March 2013, and the Titans gave Oher a four-year deal for $20 million this March. Warmack was the 10th overall draft selection out of Alabama in 2013, while they selected Lewan at No. 11 overall out of Michigan. Lewan has started three straight since Roos had season-ending knee surgery.
Whisenhunt has explained some of the offensive struggles by saying it can take time to mesh new players like Oher and Lewan, while the other three linemen also have had to learn a new offensive scheme. But the first-year coach said Monday he counted nine penalties on their last 22 drives, digging the offense into downs with distances that few plays can erase.
Schwenke, a fourth-round draft selection out of California in 2013, said he hopes officials helps them wipe out the penalties.
''For the most part, say 99 percent of the time, you can control your penalties whether it's a bad technique or like a choice that you made like a bad decision,'' Schwenke said. ''I feel like individual players control that. And when you're held accountable during practices, you're pulled someone else going in ... you got to fix it or there's going to be consequences.''
Stopping penalties can be as simple as letting go of a defender once a lineman's hands slide outside to avoid holding. Jumping offside requires a tighter focus. A short memory helps - to a point.
''You don't want to have a short memory with things that happening over and over,'' Schwenke said. ''If it's a pattern that you need to fix something, you can't forget about it. You have to fix it.''
Levitre said the offensive linemen have a lot of pride in their group and want to show it on game day.
''It hasn't really been shown yet, but I think we still have it in us to go out and prove that we have a good offensive line,'' Levitre said.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and www.twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker