Sep 29, 2013; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (4) drops back into the pocket against the New York Jets during the second half at LP Field. The Titans beat the Jets 38-13. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports

Jake Locker Hip Injury Won’t Spell Doom for Tennessee Titans

Enough is enough with the doom-and-gloom mentality.

The Tennessee Titans lost Jake Locker for at least one month after he was carted off with a hip sprain during a 38-13 victory over the New York Jets. His earliest return date has been speculated for the Nov. 3 matchup against the Jeff Fisher-led St. Louis Rams. That means that Ryan Fitzpatrick would start games against the Kansas City Chiefs (4-0), Seattle Seahawks (4-0) and the San Francisco 49ers (defending NFC champions).

How unfortunate that this injury occurred during the roughest three-game stretch on the schedule. Some fans have already written off these next three games as guaranteed losses. That would put them at 3-4 with five of their final nine opponents including the St. Louis Rams (Titans vs Fisher), Indianapolis Colts (2x), Denver Broncos and Houston Texans. To reach 10-6, the Titans must win at least three of those games plus the Jacksonville Jaguars (2x), Arizona Cardinals and Oakland Raiders.

It’s funny to realize how, just two weeks ago, fans were calling for Fitzpatrick. At the least, people such as me were starting to express serious doubt about Locker’s long-term potential as an NFL starting quarterback. Locker’s accuracy and pocket awareness weren’t improving. Missing Kenny Britt on that quick slant was a gut-wrenching moment because most quarterbacks would’ve delivered the death blow to the arch-rival Texans.

Fast forward two games. Locker responded with one great performance and one above-average performance with an incredible comeback drive against one of the NFL’s worst defensive backfields. Now he’s irreplaceable. There’s no chance that Tennessee wins “big games”—as Titan Sized assistant editor John Sciarretta puts it—not without Locker. Not with Fitzpatrick. The Titans are in a more hopeless situation than trying to get that second red coin without falling off the block in Super Mario 64 Dark World (it really is hopeless, at least for this guy).

Here’s my question: why can’t Fitzpatrick win one, even two of these matchups?

Fitzpatrick is a nine-year veteran who came over from the Buffalo Bills. He was their starting quarterback for about the last 3.5 seasons. While he isn’t great, Fitzpatrick is serviceable enough to win games. The Titans have a much better supporting cast than those Bills defenses that surrendered more rushing yardage than some teams allowed passing yardage. Remember how Chris Johnson would explode against them the last two seasons?

This isn’t some inexperienced quarterback who’s trying to win behind the supporting cast of the Cleveland Browns. Wait—didn’t Brian Hoyer win his first two games in that same exact predicament? The Browns No. 3 quarterback found himself in a much less favorable predicament. Yet, the Browns are finding ways to win road games (Minnesota Vikings) and versus the preseason favorites to win the AFC North (Cincinnati Bengals).

Not having Locker is no excuse to lose all three of these games. In 2010, the Pittsburgh Steelers lost Ben Roethlisberger after he was suspended for the first four games of that season. Then their No. 2 quarterback went down. Despite the situation, the Steelers started 3-1. Two of those wins came against teams who’d finish that season with 10-plus wins. They almost beat the Baltimore Ravens for an unblemished 4-0 mark.

Why did the Steelers win? Defense. Their defense kept them from drowning too early in the season. When Roethlisberger returned, he helped lead his team to an AFC Championship win.

None of these three teams are consistently explosive on offense, especially the Chiefs. While the Chiefs are much better than last year’s version, their opponent’s strength of schedule is 3-13. A road game against a Fitzpatrick-led Titans team is the biggest challenge they’ve faced to date.

No more pessimist talk: losing Jake Locker won’t spell doom for the Titans’ 2013-14 season. Fitzpatrick is more than capable of playing .500-ish ball with this roster. It’s not as though the Titans lost an All Pro quarterback on a pass-heavy offense. Fitzpatrick has won meaningful games including a head-to-head matchup against New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. There’s a much bigger talent discrepancy between Bills and Patriots than Titans and either of these next three opponents.

Chris Johnson and this defense can carry the load. Fitzpatrick will supply what’s needed.


SOURCES: Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean

Tags: Featured Jake Locker NFL Popular Ryan Fitzpatrick Tennessee Titans

  • P. Loew

    Thanks for this article Josh. My sentiments exactly. Though I’m bummed that Locker is out, I am curious to see how the Titans offense responds with a slightly different QB style. I believe that the Titans and Chiefs are very similar teams but–even minus Locker–we have the edge because we have a superior running game. Like Paul Kuharsky, I think CJ will gash their D-Line and, if we get him back, Greene will ware them down. No disrespect to the Chiefs–they’ve got a good team–but I think we’ll win this one. I say Titans 30; Chiefs 16.

    • ……ChiefsFan……

      Have you been paying attention? There is no way the Fitzpatrick led Titans are hanging 30 on the Chiefs D, no way, no how, not happening. I’m not saying the Titans cannot win, just saying 30 is not gonna happen. This should be a low scoring game, probably both teams under 20. My prediction is KC 17, Tenn 10. GO CHIEFS!!!!!!!

      • P. Loew

        Yeah, I’ve been paying attention. Like I said, ‘no disrespect; you guys have a good team’, and a great defense in particular. The Jets were suppose to have a great defense too and I’m sure you’re aware of what happened there. The Chiefs are better on D–IMO–and have a substantially better offense, despite what all the haters say; that’s why I gave the Chiefs 3 more points than the Jets had and the Titans 8 points less than we racked up last week.

        Seriously, I heard a lot of Gag Green fans saying we couldn’t hang 20 on those slouches. The Chiefs are legit contenders and Alex Smith is no slouch. There I said it and I believe it. I stand by my prediction–Titans 30; Chiefs 16. We’ll see you guys in the playoffs and we’ll beat you then too.

        • ……ChiefsFan……

          I guess we will just have to wait and see who’s guess is closer. Also, I don’t think AS11 will be handing you guys field position in the form of turnovers like Geno did. That is how Tennessee scored so many points last week. Right?

          • P. Loew

            Alex Smith was intercepted twice by a much maligned Giants defense so I think that bodes well for the Titans. But no, he won’t make the goofy decisions like Geno Smith did. The Titans defense is very opportunistic and intelligent; they are fired up overachievers. Alex Smith won’t be able to dink and dunk 80 yrds against them but that’s his game, he’ll have to because our offense will win the possession battle. The Titans D will force him to be more aggressive, he’ll stare down his receivers and our ball hawks will swoop in. It’ll be a close game until the 4th quarter, that’s when the Titans will gap it out. That’s my perspective as TitansFan.

  • John Sciarretta

    Time for Johnson to earn his money Sunday.

    • iknowlewis

      He earned his money after his first season…..I’m pretty sure the titans have made well more than 50 million off cj alone from 2009-2012 who was selling tickets

  • Justin Graver

    Great article. Keep in mind the Chiefs are allowing an average of 5.3 ypc. This is CJ’s softest matchup yet. He should be able to do work if Fitzpatrick can protect the ball

  • Nick Pitakos

    Fantastic article. I agree 100%. This defense will carry this team and keep us in games, no doubt about it. If the run game can improve, no reason this team can’t pull out some wins.

  • titansfan

    I agree wholeheartedly. I was not a supporter of Locker and still am not on the bus for him. I did not like the hit he took but that’s football. Fitzpatrick does has veteran experience. Better with the Titans new offensive line than the Bills. Give this guy the props he deserves. Heck….Matt Flynn has the Raiders winning and he was a back up for Aaron Rodgers! The Titans will shock everyone if they manage to beat Seattle in their house. How glorious would that be for a Titans fan?