Locker’s Challenges

Photo: The Tennessean

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.

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Tags: David Carr Jake Locker Peyton Hillis

  • Rob

    Okay, the premise of the article is okay but there’s some major overdramatizing in the middle there….
    1. Locker has never really been talked about in any widespread way as being “Washington’s Tim TeTebow” fact is he’s much more polished as a passer… Like chalk and cheese… And his style of pplay is NOTHING like Tebow’s, besides the fact that he’s a physical QB. So yeah, they’re both physical, they’re both great kids, and they both love football. That’s where the similarity ends.
    2. As to the Gruden thing… You failed to mention that Gruden LOVED Jake Locker, and the only criticism he had on him was not his tendency to run, it was his tendency to, as you pointed out, hit the defender and get that first down no matter the cost. But you’ve misrepresented that in saying in the play Gruden criticized Locker could “step out of bounds”… Seeing as the play happened in the centre of the field… That would be one mega step. Locker doesn’t knowingly put his body totally at risk for just an extra yard after the first down marker either… He would’ve done that to ensure he got the first down, which speaks to his winning mentality. So, to sum up, Locker only had one fault, putting his body on the line to get the first down – something you’d hope your QB would do if he had to, but wouldn’t do needlessly. I don’t think Locker intends to spend his NFL career trying to truck linebackers,
    3. Locker panics and runs. Totally wrong, and you haven’t seen enough of his film if you think this. locker only runs when he feels he can make a positive play with his legs, or he scrambles to BUY time downfield, not waste it. He usually has 3 reads too. If his line crumpled, nothing happens downfield and he has no running lanes, Locker makes the best play and throws the ball away. He did this 66 times last year. Give him back just a third of these and his % is over 60.

    Locker’s shown some very good composure in the pocket, and he’s made some bad, rushed decisions. But these have usually ocurred when his pocket shuts down rapidly on him, or if he feels like it’s going to. I totally don’t get the suggestion that even with a good line he could still be jittery and break down and get sacked or try to truck someone unnecessarily.

    Locker’s “Challenges” going into next season when (and if) he gets to play are simply 1) to prove the naysayers that he can be an accurate passer, and 2) To win the titans as many games as he can. That’s the beauty of Locker under centre, you know you’ve got a guy who can handle the pressure, and will do whatever it takes to get the best result for his team – even if that means staying off the injured list.

    If I had a single drive to decide whether I lived or died, I’d have Jake Locker over any college level QB out there… newton, Luck, Gabbert, Dalton, Pondee, even Peyton in his spring chicken years.

    Oh, and Gruden didn’t MAKE locker do anything, just sayin’. He chose to take notes and I believe he took down the phrase “You’re ability to run is a weapon and a resource, you’ve gotta make it last for the next 10 years of your career”… Or something like that.

  • Brandon Clark

    On Tebow
    Locker was Tim Tebow in more of an intangible manner. He meant to Washington what Tebow meant to Florida. They are not of similar playing styles, I agree. I’ll clarify next time I make a comparison.

    On Gruden
    You’re correct. Gruden did love Locker. However, this helps no argument either way because Gruden loves everyone he interviews, especially those at his QB Camp. The irony is that he never like young QB’s when he coached and he really only developed Rich Gannon (Raiders).

    Stepping Out Of Bounds
    There were more than one play where Gruden discussed the hitting of players with Lockers shoulder. In the play I referred to, a safety came from the top and Locker took a step up to hit him about a yard to the side of the out-of-bounds line. It was as I described. Past the first down, extra hitting with his throwing shouler. Simply a critique. I’m pretty sure I know the one you’re referring to. The pocket broke down and Locker went forward into a LBer, right between the hashes. Going out would have been humanly impossible, you’re right.

    Locker Panics and Runs
    I’ll have to re-word this. Lockers running ability is a gift that is both effective and fun to watch. However, I was referring to running a little earlier than he should. The word panic wasn’t used to describe a mental breakdown where he was incapable. I simply meant that he was too used to his line breaking down and ran a little too early. Running early kills the play development downfield, which I referred to.

    Lockers Decisions
    You’re right he does good and does bad (you would expect this of a rookie), but the good normally outweighs the bad. In a projection to a team more equipped to win, Locker would more than likely succeed. I have very little doubt about this, however it is a projection so I cannot say for sure.

    Locker vs….
    That’s an interesting argument. I’ll come back to that

    Gruden got them to take a lot of notes and I never saw it as coming across negatively. He was there to mentor them. Locker came across at the top of my list as far as how well he paid attention and studied.

    I gotta say, I love your comment. The reason I write is for the conversation and thanks to you, I’ve had one.

    If you would like to write here on the site, let me know. We are currently looking for more Staff Writers, which would mean that you would write once a week, about 300 words minimum. A good idea for a first article would be something akin to what you just wrote or maybe why you would take Locker over Manning, Luck, or others.

    If you’re interested, send me an email at:

    I’d love to have your opinions on the staff. If you’re not interested, please keep commenting. You’ve got good thoughts and I’d love to hear them.

    I hope I countered all your points, let me know if I missed anything.


  • Rob

    Actaully Brandon, I do remember the play you are talking about now and I do agree to an extent… But context is important. I don’t see Locker as the type to needlessly risk his body, he knew how critical he was to the huskies – he’s mainly doing these sorts of things on third downs. That said, he has got carried away and ducked in field and all that, but he’s scored some spectacular, long rushing touchdowns and I think poorer college opposition probably encouraged him a bit – I hope he won’t be doing that regularly, but maintain I’d like to see him bury himself into a defender to get that first down in the final drive of a playoff, for example, where the game’s on the line.

    Actaully, I remember disagreeing with Gruden about the shoulder thing… You’ll forgive me that Im Australian and that my background is rugby, but for mine, getting low and making the shoulder (even the throwing one) the point of contact is probably the best thing he can do in that sort of situation. Standing taller could up open his ribs, much more fragile, to the tackle plus he’d injured his ribs last year (from a sack, funnily enough, not a run). But yes, a slide before the defender is close, or a step out of bounds, are the safer options and i hope he takes them if he can.

    I’ll moderate my Locker-love for the minute, because as much as I do, I’m not totally convinced he’ll be an elite QB but I’m positive that just like he was with the huskies, in those final drives to win clutch games Locker will always perform above and beyond. He’s clutch, we all know that, and a leader, as we all know, but he’s got some growing to do inside the pocket. Hopefully having a tight end and receivers that can catch will open things up for him, and he won’t be forcing balls into those marginal windows, or have to be looking for running lanes. But I don’t think he is inaccurate … They guy spins a great ball and has an elite arm, and giving him back a small section of the drops and throwaways last year would put his accuracy well over 60… And if it had been we’d be looking at him in a Carolina uniform. Even at 8, with All the controversy and surprise that accompanied it, as the 2nd QB taken he was a steal In this class and the Titans are very fortunate.

    Asva final note, his mechanics were always praised and people have found fault in his footwork, but every QB has footwork issues in unexpected situations (B Favre’s footwork is often horrible but he still makes the big-time plays) it’s most important that the Titans give him a steady platform.

    Let’s just hope it pans out!

    • Brandon Clark

      Your rugby background does help make your point.

      Rob, I gotta say I agree with everything you said, including the comment about him being elite. I see his ceiling being on the second tier of QB’s. The one that is one step down from Brady and Manning.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Rob

    …and as for writing, thank you for the offer Ill certainly consider it, but I’m a bit bogged down for the next few weeks then I’ll readdress it? Thanks for the conversation, too, Brandon. You usually don’t get comprehensive responses to comments like that and it’s good to get the chance to knock an opinion out.

    I think we pretty much agree. Also, if you get a chance watch the Gruden reaction to Locker getting picked. He doesn’t love -everyone- (remember Clausen? Right call there from Gruden…) and Locker was clearly his favorite player this year. Last year it was Tebow but I think the Gruden-Locker man-love surpassed anything we’ve seen yet!

    • Brandon Clark

      Sure, email me anytime about it. I have about 3 or 4 people that should be freeing time up over the next few days to start writing here. We are going to do columns starting in the next few weeks, so you would have your own day, plus posting whenever you randomly wanted to.

      Clausen….good point. I liked Clausen and I haven’t totally given up on him. When you combine Clausen, the development of Matt Moore and a steady running game, Newton makes absolutely zero sense. I understand taking what you feel is the best player available, but the QB position is a different ballgame. I guess we’ll see

      I’m still amazed that Gruden brought John Daly (the drunk golfer) to talk to Mallett….

    • Brandon Clark

      thanks for the comment on the conversation

      If you see anything interesting written on here, I’ll be answering any comments I can, time permitting