For the Tennessee Titans and their staff, it’s all or nothing this year and they’re going all-in on Jake Locker. This offseason has, and will continue to be focused on fixing the Titans holes on defense and surrounding Locker with as much talent as they can, both through free agency and the impending 2013 NFL Draft.
After the recent signing of veteran QB Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Titans went on the record as saying that Fitzpatrick knows his role and Jake Locker has the starting job. There is no QB competition.
And that’s the way it should be. Locker should be able to come into camp and build the team up around himself. He’s a leader, and thanks to the Titans giving him an amazing mentor in Matt Hasselbeck, he should be more than ready to take over and lead this team to the playoffs.
Locker was given the keys to the franchise last fall, but after an early injury and lackluster play upon his return from said injury, people have been quick to jump off the Locker bandwagon just as quickly as they got on. That’s just the way sports fans are now-a-days. If you aren’t winning, you’re a horrible loser who’s not cut out for the NFL, let alone playing patty-cake with the angry fans grandmother.
Luckily, coaches don’t share that same type of enthusiasm.
People seem quick to forget what a healthy Locker did in spare time during his rookie year. Then again, those of us that defend Locker’s play are just as quick to bring it up, as it’s what little ammo we have to throw at the non-believers. There are still reasons to have faith in him though; more reasons than just his rookie play.
A lightened, simplified playbook should be Locker’s best friend in 2013. All too often receivers were confused about their routes and positioning on specific plays in 2012. The QB and receiver hardly ever seemed to be on the same page. Offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains has made it his mission to make things simpler for both positions. Much of Locker’s success lies in his hands.
A resurgence in the Titans run game should also strengthen Locker’s play, considering the fact that in 2012 he was often faced with getting the Titans to the first down marker after a run or two had netted the Titans negative yards. Shonn Greene has been brought in to split carries with Chris Johnson as a secondary back, a position that he flourished in for the New York Jets behind then starting RB Thomas Jones. Johnson also flourish splitting reps with a bigger back during his rookie year, making a pair better known as “Smash & Dash.”
Hopes are that WR Kenny Britt will also show up after a disappointed 2012 season. Britt is entering his contract year and has shown flashes of Hall of Fame type play, but hasn’t consistently produced at the level thanks to injuries and off-the-field issues. The Titans will look to Britt and Wright to give Locker some reliable targets.
I’ll save my breath on this one and just say, “Don’t forget the new O-line!”
I’ve been a Locker fan from the start, but I’d like to think I know to pull back and admit to being wrong about a player. I’m not ready to do that with Locker. I think his best play is yet to come and that he’ll be feeding critics back their own words this year.
Here’s to hoping I’m not just struggling to take off my horse blinders.
You can find me on Twitter @JustinLStewart