Tennessee Titans Preseason Week 1 Review: Locker Takes the Lead

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistAugust 12, 2012

Locker was solid against Seattle
Locker was solid against SeattleSteven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

The Tennessee Titans lost to the Seattle Seahawks on August 12th in the first week of preseason football. Titans fans should not worry at all about the final score.

Here's a rundown of what actually matters from the game.


Jake Locker Looked Like He Deserved to Start

I'm not going to claim that Locker is definitively a better quarterback option based on just a few throws in the first half of the first preseason game.

What is clear is that there isn't much of a difference between Locker and Matt Hasselbeck. After the game, coach Mike Munchak told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean:

I don’t know if there was a big gap. Obviously Jake doesn’t have the experience Matt has, so I think that gap you can never really close if you are a young quarterback. But I think overall, as the season progressed last year, we thought that Jake was coming on real strong.…So yeah, he has closed the gap and they are obviously both doing well. We are happy with both of them and at some point we’ll make a decision.

Experience only matters if it is going to lead to better play. From what I saw last night, Locker looked in command and comfortable. We can explain away Hasselbeck's rough night, but ultimately that's not relevant.

Locker is ready to play. That's what matters. He reads defenses, controls the huddle and generally looks like a competent quarterback. It's true that he needs to do what he did last night for a couple of more weeks. But if he does, the Titans have to make a decision.

If Locker can go out the rest of the preseason and look like he deserves a chance to play, the Titans would be foolish to stick with Hasselbeck a down longer than necessary.

If the competition is close, Locker should win. With Locker, there's no ceiling for the Titans. He's the future and the future is now in Tennessee.

Hasselbeck should only start if he's clearly the best option. Right now, it's hard to make that case.


Chris Johnson Looks the Same...As Last Year

This is it for Johnson. I believe he's at a crossroads in his career.

Obviously, no firm conclusions can be made from a few runs, but so far it looks like he's traipsing down the wrong path.

Johnson was tentative on his runs and indifferent in his pass routes. That's the same kind of frustrating performance he regularly turned in last season.

Javon Ringer was markedly more impressive than Johnson. If Johnson doesn't pull it together, he'll see his snaps decrease. Ringer was boom and bust against the Seahawks, but at least he looked like he was running hard.

There's no sense in jumping to conclusions based on a few plays, but the early returns are disturbing.


Kendall Wright is Smart and Good.

Wright learned an important lesson early in his first professional game. As a ball bounced off Nate Washington's hands, Wright stood nearby as the pass was batted around and eventually picked off. He'll learn quickly that you can't quit on passes in the NFL, even if they aren't intended for you.

In the second half, he was in the same position as a ball careened of the hands of a teammate. This time, Wright was locked in and dove for the errant pass, nearly picking up a completion. He didn't make the catch, but the important thing is that he learned his lesson.

That kind of in-game adaptability is a great sign for the young wideout. He had a good rhythm with Jake Locker, and a great game.

I suspect that Locker to Wright will be a common refrain for a long time in Nashville.


Titans Defense Was Impressive

Playing against a well-functioning West Coast offense is annoying. Matt Flynn hit short pass after short pass, and there was little the Titans could do to slow him down. They just had to sit back and be content to make sound tackles.

That's exactly what they did.

They gave up a number of short completions, but limited the yards after the catch. Then, at the right time, they ramped up the pressure or stepped in to make a pick.

It was a sound and patient approach. The line got heat on Flynn, and the result was stops early for the Titans.