It only took three seasons before the Tennessee Titans moved on from the Mike Munchak era. Should they show the same attitude toward former 2011 first-round draft pick Jake Locker?
Earliest indications are that the two men who have the most power in whether Locker returns as the 2014 starting quarterback—incoming head coach Ken Whisenhunt and CEO Tommy Smith—have both expressed strong support for the oft-injured quarterback. These are some of the comments that each of those individuals have made in regards as to whether they’re confident that they have their franchise quarterback.
“Absolutely. I do like Jake … and I think Ken is going to be very good for Jake. Jake is a competitor. He is a smart guy. I think he has the ability. He is the quarterback. That’s what I have told him every time I see him. And that’s the way it is.”
“From what I’ve seen, Jake exhibits a lot of qualities that you can get excited about. I think one of the strengths that we’ve done is trying to tailor what we do to fit the player and until we get on the field with Jake and see some of the things he can do, we don’t know. You don’t know which direction it’s going to go, but I’m excited about what I’ve seen as far as those qualities that he’s exhibited. I think the arrow is definitely going up, and I’m looking forward to working with him on the field.”
Injuries have forced Locker to miss 14 of his last 32 starts. During his rookie season, Locker was the No. 2 quarterback behind Matt Hasselbeck. Locker missed games during three of his four collegiate football seasons at the University of Washington.
Durability is a primary concern. How can a team develop a quarterback when he can’t stay on the field? Despite that, the team shouldn’t panic. This team had a 4-3 record when Locker started games. Ryan Fitzpatrick was 3-6, all of those wins coming against teams drafting in the top five. The team responded better with Locker and he appeared to have taken a huge step in his progression before he suffered a knee and hip injury versus the New York Jets.
The team hopes to have Locker for spring OTAs. Locker is recovering from Lisfranc surgery. His three-year career totals include 3,974 yards with 22 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. Not bad for someone with 14 career starts. What’s encouraging was that he showed noticeable improvement whenever he was playing and healthy.
Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was able to overcome nagging injuries. Can Locker do the same? He’ll have one more chance to do it. Unless there’s a clear-cut franchise quarterback at No. 11, the Titans shouldn’t panic and draft someone they’re not fully confident in. Worse case scenario is that Locker can’t stay healthy / regresses in 2014, forcing the Titans’ hands during the 2015 NFL Draft.