NFL Preseason Schedule 2012: Jake Locker and Emerging Players to Watch in Week 2

Steven CookFeatured Columnist IVAugust 12, 2012

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - DECEMBER 18:  Jake Locker #10 of the Tennessee Titans throws a pass during the NFL game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium on December 18, 2011 in Indianapolis, Indiana.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

Football is finally back! Well, sort of.

The 2012 NFL preseason has been exciting to say the least, as we've been able to see the sport's biggest stars back in action and ready to quickly forget about last season, or in the New York Giants' case, continue onward.

Even though wins and losses may not end up counting for much in the record books, coaches have plenty of work to do in making their cuts and must do so in a fashion that is in the best interests of their team. 

It's far from insignificant for those out on the gridiron, as well. For some players, the preseason is giving them a chance to showcase their talents and gain a starting position before the season begins. While the biggest stars have their positions locked up, many guys have their jobs on the line. 

Let's take a look at some players who are emerging and worth keeping an eye on in Week 2 of the NFL preseason.


Jake Locker, QB, Tennessee Titans

The Titans' second-year quarterback has long been expected to contend for the starting spot, and he took major strides with his efforts Saturday night against Seattle.

Locker took over a game that was growing lethargic for the Titans, and moved the ball down the field with a series of impressive throws. He looks to be building some impressive chemistry with rookie WR Kendall Wright, who's expected to be a big-time contributor with the questions surrounding Kenny Britt's future. 

Hasselbeck has the experience factor, but it's unclear if he can still play at the level that the Titans need him to in order to contend for a playoff spot. The energy and speed Locker brings could be the difference between winning the division and picking early in next year's draft.

According to Titans beat writer Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean, head coach Mike Munchak stated that Locker was "closing the gap" on Hasselbeck for the starting job after his impressive performance. Hasselbeck's two interceptions couldn't have hurt his cause, either. 

Tennessee travels to Tampa Bay to take on the Buccaneers on Friday, and expect Locker to get a heap of playing time to further prove that he's the guy for this Titans offense.


Julio Jones, WR, Atlanta Falcons

Massive wideout target Julio Jones is entering his sophomore campaign in the NFL, and it looks to start off where his impressive rookie season ended. 

In just 15 minutes of action with the first-team offense, Jones amassed more than 100 yards and caught a stellar touchdown throw from QB Matt Ryan. The two look to be on the right track after connecting for six TDs in the last four games of 2011.

Jones has the potential to be one of the best wideouts in the league very, very soon. He showed the Falcons that they made the right move by trading up to get him last season, and he's doing more of the same so far in 2012.

His Falcons will face the Bengals Thursday night, and it'll be interesting to see how their first-team offense fares against a Cincinnati defense that surprised in 2011. 


Pierre Garcon, WR, Washington Redskins

It appears Robert Griffin III has found his ideal NFL target.

Okay, maybe it's a little much to assume that after two passes. But the Redskins gave up a lot of money to get Garcon, and he shined in his debut with his new team. 

Garcon scored the first-team offense's only touchdown in three drives, catching a short pass from RGIII, making a few moves and putting on the afterburners for a 20-yard TD. 

The former Colt excelled in Indianapolis with Peyton Manning, and he has all of the looks to do the same with a soon-to-be elite QB in the nation's capital.

Garcon and the 'Skins are going up against the Bears on Saturday, where they'll expect to continue developing their suddenly explosive passing game.