Jake Locker's promotion to the starting quarterback of the Tennessee Titans will make this year's Titans offense that much more dangerous. The 24-year old, University of Washington product brings a sort of excitement and aggressiveness that Tennessee's offense has lacked in the last couple years. Locker will be playing his first full season in the NFL after a promising 2011 campaign in which he threw for a total of 542 yards and had 4 passing touchdowns in five games.
There is a great article describing why Titans second year coach Mike Munchak made the right decision choosing Jake Locker as the starter because, frankly, he earned it. Locker showed no rookie nerves last year against the Falcons after Matt Hasselbeck got injured midway through the game. He came in an nearly led a comeback against the then-defending NFC South champions with 140 yards passing and two touchdowns. Locker then made the New Orleans Saints sweat the next week, throwing for 282 yards and a touchdown en route to a 17-22 loss.
While his performance in the August 17th preseason game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers was abysmal, it is absolutely ludicrous to deny him the starting job because of one preseason game or to have doubts about him in the regular season. One of the main reasons preseason football exists is for players to improve their game and smooth out whatever rough patches they may have. The Titans' next preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals was just another chance for Locker to tweak and improve his game that should be seen as a learning process instead of a sign of things to come. Heck, I'm sure that's what the Jets are banking on right now.
Locker certainly delivered against the Cardinals, going 11 for 20 with 120 yards passing and two touchdowns in a 32-27 victory. His quarterback rating was a 109.2, which was 102 points higher than his rating against Tampa Bay.
One of the most dangerous weapons that Locker will bring to the offense is his ability to both run and throw the ball effectively. Locker was well-known for his ability to extend a play in college and looks to be just as, if not more, effective throwing the ball on the run as he does in the pocket. With the blinding speed and good hands of Chris Johnson at his side, the Titans backfield will be as versatile as any in the league.
Plus, Locker's athleticism will only help Johnson rebound from a below average 2011 campaign. Defensive coordinators will have to plan against both Locker and Johnson's running threats along with Locker's big arm, which will certainly make Johnson that much more dangerous.
The Titans front office must have predicted Locker would be the starter this year because they armed him with a nice weapon to throw to this year. at 5'10", rookie Kendall Wright isn't the tallest wide receiver on the field but there is no doubting the athletic ability, soft hands and crisp routes he ran while at Baylor.
He was Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III's go-to receiver and possesses the ability to be effective in the short-to-intermediate game along with the ball skills to be a deep threat. The draft analysis of Wright on NFL.com said he "has an uncanny ability to separate from defenders and get open across the field, a skill that's highly desired at the next level."
Nate Washington is another Titan who will prove to be a major factor for the Tennessee offense. The 28-year old wide receiver had his best year of his career in 2011, amassing 1,023 receiving yards and pulling in seven touchdowns. He will come into the 2012 campaign with more confidence and hopefully more leadership following last year's performance.
Wide receivers Damian Williams and Lavelle Hawkins will also enter this season with greater expectations. Williams had a solid 2011 season with 592 yards receiving and five touchdowns whereas Hawkins enjoyed a much more productive season than his previous years with 470 yards receiving and one touchdown. While both players had strong 2011 seasons, they will certainly be counted on more this season.
Another player looking to build upon a break out 2011 season is tight end Jared Cook. The South Carolina product totaled 759 receiving yards last season along with three touchdowns. Cook will be another big asset to the Tennessee offense thanks to his blocking ability and soft hands.
In 2009 and 2010, wide receiver Kenny Britt showed his team and the league flashes of brilliance on the field. Off the field, Britt has shown the very same people that he can't seem to follow the law. Tennessee should strongly consider setting rules for Britt similar to the ones given to Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys.
If he can get his act together and fully recover from the horrible ACL/MCL injury he suffered last season, Britt can again be a major contributor to this young offense when he comes back after a possible suspension.
With Hasselbeck being a mentor on the sidelines Locker and the other young guys on the team also have a veteran voice to keep them on point and focused. Hasselbeck has always been a class-act and will now put the final touches on a great career.
Locker and the Titans offense are ready to turn heads this season and with all the firepower on this team, they probably will.
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