Titans' Young has more to learn; Jets' QB controversy
Posted: Saturday August 18, 2007 12:53AM; Updated: Saturday August 18, 2007 12:59AM
FOXBORO, Mass. -- Some preseason Snap Judgments while watching the Titans nip the Patriots 27-24 on Friday at Gillette Stadium. ...
Watching Vince Young get repeatedly pummeled and plastered by the Patriots' swarming defensive front seven in the first half, all I could think was the second-year Tennessee quarterback really was going to need the comfort of sleeping in his own bed after this one.
What a week or so it has been for the ex-Longhorn. The dubious distinction/curse of gracing the cover of Madden '08. The one-game suspension for deciding to blow off training camp rules and sleep at home. The half-hearted "apology'' he offered for his mistake, which sounded more like a thinly-veiled claim he was being singled out and made an example of.
And then Friday night, when both his preseason debut and his pass protection unraveled, rendering him the Patriots' personal piņata. Young was woefully short on his first pass attempt of the game, got sacked by New England defensive tackle Vince Wilfork on his second, and then things really disintegrated.
His night's work was unmistakably ugly: 5 of 17 for 102 yards, with four sacks, a 52.1 QB rating, and the galling reality of being turned away by a mass of New England tacklers at the goal line on a fourth-and-goal at the Patriots 1 with 27 seconds remaining in the first half -- his final snap of action on the evening. Subtract the short pass over the middle that he completed late in the second quarter to tight end Bo Scaife, who proceeded to chug 44 yards with it, and Young's passing yardage would have been even more modest.
Who cares, right? It's only a preseason game, and Young, the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2006, is just starting a follow-up season that promises to be even bigger and better.
Maybe. But I'm starting to get a nagging feeling that Young may be in for some second-time-around struggles this season, and Friday night provided us a bit of a preview of where they might come. For starters, in the pocket. Young looked like a sitting duck at times when he wasn't on the move away from the Patriots pressure, and it was avert-your-eyes stuff to see Rodney Harrison and then Junior Seau level him in the backfield. Harrison especially laid Young low, throwing a shoulder shiver into VY so violently that the force of the hit lifted the veteran Patriots safety off his feet.
Young's passing accuracy was another Achilles that we might be talking plenty about this year. It's hard to be precise when you're under so much pressure, but 5 of 17 won't cut it no matter what league you're playing in. And you can't claim that it was an aberration. He completed only 51.5 percent as a rookie, and a source within the league told me recently that one reason the Titans don't really need great receivers on their roster is because Young can't be counted on to put the ball in their hands anyway.
"He won't throw it where it's supposed to be,'' said the league observer. "He'll throw it late. Eric Moulds is their best receiver because he catches the ball. But with Vince Young, you need guys who can come back to the ball and be improvisational, because that's how he plays.''
The Titans know they need to use Young's supreme athleticism and ability to rescue a play when things are crumbling around him, but there are parts of his game that are far from polished. He might have wound up going to the Pro Bowl last season, but that doesn't mean he doesn't still frustrate Titans coaches by messing up a play call, bouncing a pass yards shy of his receiver, or misreading a basic look from a defense.
What I saw Friday night confirmed to me that Young is very much a work in progress. Those who think he has arrived as an NFL quarterback -- and that might even include Young himself -- could be in for a surprise this season. He's gifted, but that's not enough to guarantee his continued ascent. His biggest mistake would be to start believing the hype, and to buy into the notion that his hardest work is already done.