The Titans now have a shiny new quarterback in Jake Locker. What challenges will he face as he starts his NFL career?
Locker was the “savior” of the Washington Huskies leading them to their first bowl win, 2010 Holiday Bowl vs Nebraska, since 2002 and was largely considered to be their version of Tim Tebow. Locker’s initial challenges are accuracy issues, injury possibilities, and ’David-Carr Syndrome’.
The number one challenge he faces stands to be his accuracy. Largely looked upon as being inaccurate in college, will that inaccuracy transfer to the NFL or was it only his WR’s at Washington? Locker’s career accuracy is 53.68%. It’s up to him and the coaching staff to develop his accuracy issues into something great. All signs point toward Locker working as hard as anyone to be the best he can be, but you have to wonder how much something like accuracy can really improve.
ESPN aired a special leading up to the draft where Locker was interviewed by former Buccaneers Head Coach, Jon Gruden. Gruden played a tape of edited clips of Locker at Washington, and while reviewing plays, Gruden would go over things Locker did both right and wrong while teaching him what he could have done better. The most significant moment of this, to me, came when Gruden pointed out that Locker would lower his shoulder and plow over the defender when he could have stepped out of bounds. This showed both the toughness and the risk of Locker’s style of play. One play in particular that Gruden showed had Locker only gaining one extra yard far past the first down marker while hurling his upper body into the defender. It was awesome, however it was also dangerous. Gruden played it over and over and asked Locker what shoulder he leaned with. It turned out that it was his throwing shoulder. Pointing out that the throwing shoulder needs to be protected over anything else, Gruden made Locker take notes to protect himself.
Locker’s mentality of punishing the defense is amazing, however as a starting quarterback in the NFL, Locker will need to learn that it is ok to step out of bounds when running in order to protect his body. Locker will have a much better offensive line in Tennessee than he did in Washington which will lead to his running not being a necessity and him not being in as many opportunities to hurt himself. Make no mistake about it, Locker is a very, very tough football player, but the position of QB remains the most important and the entire team will eventually rely on Locker’s health. He will have to learn to step out of bounds to preserve himself for future plays.
Locker may or may not have what I call the ‘David-Carr Syndrome’. This obviously refers to former Texans quarterback David Carr, who was taken first overall and never really had the opportunity to be a Pro Bowl level quarterback. Unfortunately, both of the starting tackles got injured as his rookie season began leaving Carr stranded behind a leaky line that allowed him to be sacked a still NFL-record 76 times. Locker threw behind a horrible line at Washington and it’s possible he could play with the affects of that for the rest of his career. The difference, however, between Carr and Locker are that Carr would get shaken prematurely and force the ball somewhere it should have never been thrown which often resulted in a negative play. Locker played his entire career behind a terrible line and coupled with his running ability, Locker learned early that if he wanted to make plays, he needed to run. The negative of this style is that it would kill the opportunity for a play to develop downfield. This leaves one question: Will Locker be too shaky even when behind a good line, which the Titans have, and run too early?
As with any rookie QB, there will be growing pains, but rest assured, Jake Locker has the capability of being a very special QB in the NFL and his development will be very fun to watch.