The Titans ended on a good note thanks to key free agent addition Matt Hasselbeck and several standout rookies on defense. Coach Munchak should be pleased with his team and staff for doing as well as they did with minimal talent on the roster. The injury to Kenny Britt along with Johnson’s inability to be CJ2K put a dent in Thorchak’s armor, but with another strong offseason and he will surely have an exciting and dangerous team. Let’s review each position to get a clear indication of how our team is standing. This may also open some light to how our team will attack free-agency and the 2012 NFL draft.
Matt Hasselbeck, while not elite, has been the best quarterback this team has had since Steve McNair’s prime. He has been a true pro on and off the field. The 36 year old quarterback was the biggest free agent the Titans added last season. Hasselbeck signed a 3 year/ $20 million dollar deal with the Titans and it has certainly paid off. He had a strong year, throwing for over 3,500 yards while tossing 18 touchdowns. Vince Young, the guy who turned on his team, never came close to those numbers in a single season. He commanded respect from the first day at the facility. Hasselbeck’s actions will have a huge influence on fellow quarterback Jake Locker, who was the second quarterback chosen in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft. Locker holds the keys to this franchise and his development will be the factor that rises us to the top, or puts us back under the rug.
Aside from Blaine Gabbert, other rookie quarterbacks have shined in their starting roles. Cam Newton broke records, while Andy Dalton led his team to the playoffs. Jake Locker was highly recruited out of high school and was a standout player for the Washington Huskies. Though he hasn’t had a big role in the offense yet, he has shown great patience and leadership. In his limited action against a couple playoff caliber teams Locker showed an incredible arm to go along with his athleticism. He threw four touchdowns and no interceptions. That is a solid foundation for him to be proud of going into next season. If Locker stays the course there is a strong possibility he will be the starter when week 1 comes around. Hasselbeck isn’t getting any better, but this will prove to be a great position battle in camp and the preseason.
The bond between Locker and Hasselbeck is much more than whatever you would call Vince Young and Kerry Collins’ relationship. I am not concerned about this battle stretching into the media and ruining the locker room. I do expect Locker to win the position, but the decision may not come until the third or fourth preseason game. His big play ability just can’t be ignored. There is another quarterback on the roster in Rusty Smith. He is no threat to Locker or even Hasselbeck, for that matter. He will forever be a clipboard holder. Smith remaining on the roster was a surprise to me throughout the season, but I fully expect him to remain at the bottom of the food chain while delivering a random laugh for fans and players at Baptist Sports park.
I can not stress enough the importance of Jake Locker’s progression to this franchise. He has shown flashes of greatness, but his inconsistencies will be the determining factors in what he is doing on game day next season. If he becomes what Mike Munchak wants him to be, then this position is in good shape for the next ten years.