Aug 23, 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker (10) drops back to throw against the Arizona Cardinals during the first half at LP Field. Mandatory credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports
Perhaps you’ve already heard, but apparently this is going to be a make-or-break year for Tennessee Titans starting quarterback Jake Locker. Last year was Locker’s first year as a starter and I personally believe that it is still too early in his career to evaluate him fully and fairly. A few days ago, fellow Titan Sized contributor Bret Fitchpatric wrote an article comparing Locker to the 2011 draft class. This prompted me to take a look at how he measured up to perhaps the most highly touted first-year starter of 2012, Andrew Luck of the Indianapolis Colts.
ESPN’s Ron Jaworski recently ranked Luck the highest of the 2012 first-year starters and the 10th overall quarterback in the NFL. Conversely, Jaws ranked Locker last of all 2012 first-year starters and 31st overall. It is no secret that Luck is widely regarded as the best 2012 first-year starting quarterback.
But are Locker and Luck really that far apart? Let’s compare how they performed in 2012…
Since his days as the starting quarterback at the University of Washington, Locker has been criticized for what analysts call “poor accuracy.” Usually, the “accuracy” trait is determined by a quarterback’s completion percentage.
In 11 games last year, Locker posted a completion percentage of 56.4 percent. Not great. It’s not terrible, but it’s not great. Typically, 60 percent is considered “good.”
So Andrew Luck, who is supposedly much better than Locker, must have posted a pretty good completion percentage, right? Don’t get too hasty with those assumptions. In fact, Luck completed just 54.1 percent of his pass attempts in 2012, a full 2.3 percentage points worse than Locker.
Jake Locker only played in 11 games last season, 10 of which he played with an injured shoulder, so it is to be expected that Andrew Luck annihilated him in passing yards (4,374 for Luck to 2,176 for Locker).
Obviously, it is an unfair comparison to look at the shear number of yards. Locker played in five fewer games and only threw half as many passes as Luck (Luck attempted 627 passes, Locker attempted 314). Is Luck a better quarterback because he played in a system that had him chuck the ball around more than twice as many times?
Instead let’s look at passing yards per attempt. In 2012, Luck averaged 6.98 yards per attempt, while Locker averaged 6.93. That’s .05 yards, which equates to 1.8 inches per attempt. Clearly, the two quarterbacks are quite even in this category.
We have reached a category that clearly belongs to Luck. Luck’s 23 touchdowns in 16 games clearly bests Locker’s 10 touchdowns in 11 games. One could argue the difference in offensive systems or the fact that the Colts were a far superior team offensively last season. I think it’s best to concede this category to Luck.
One of the most important jobs for a quarterback is to protect the football. Who did a better job of it in 2012, Luck or Locker?
Locker turned the ball over 13 times (11 interceptions, 2 fumbles) in 11 games last season. Luck turned the ball over 27 times (18 interceptions, 9 fumbles) in 16 games. Locker’s turnover rate? 1.18 turnovers per game. Luck’s? 1.68 turnovers per game. That’s a pretty substantial increase in turnovers—a full turnover more every two games for Luck.
In today’s NFL, it’s important for a quarterback to possess mobility, whether it’s to escape the pass rush or to pose a threat for opposing defenses. Locker carried the ball, either on designed run plays or broken scrambles, 41 times last year for 291 yards. That’s an average of 7.1 yards per carry (YPC) with 1 touchdown.
Luck rushed 62 times for 255 yards, a 4.1 per carry average, with five touchdowns. Locker clearly bested Luck at rushing between the 20’s, obliterating Luck’s YPC mark. Luck, however, had six goal line carries from which he scored all five of his rushing touchdowns.
Based on these statistics, it is safe to say that Locker is the better ball-carrier of the two. Locker put up more yards on less carries in less games.
Of the five categories we looked at, Locker came out ahead of Luck in completion percentage, turnover rate, and rushing ability. Luck bested Locker in touchdowns and, technically, in passing yards, although when you adjust the numbers for a fair comparison, that last category is pretty close to a draw. Overall though, it would seem that Luck is not, as many believe, miles ahead of Locker as an NFL quarterback.
I’m not trying to convince you that Locker is a better quarterback than Luck. I just don’t see the enormous gap between them that most people seem to. I think Jake will prove the doubters wrong this year and blossom into the Titans franchise QB.
Agree? Disagree? Tell me if I’m wrong on Twitter @JGra_TitanSized