Tennessee Titans Preseason Week 3: Jake Locker Bounces Back

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistAugust 25, 2012

Cardinals were falling left and right.
Cardinals were falling left and right.Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

The Tennessee Titans beat the Arizona Cardinals 32-27 on August 23rd. That fact is utterly meaningless.

Here's what did matter from the preseason Week 3 game for the Titans.


Jake Locker is Tantalizing

I've always been disposed to believe that Locker would eventually become a good NFL starter. But after that performance against what was a respectable pass defense last year, I can see more clearly why the Titans simply had to go with the Locker as the starter.

Yes, he misses throws. Yes, he occasionally makes bad reads.

There's also an electricity to his play. He looks vibrant on the field. He moves and fires and scrambles.

He makes the Titans offense crackle just a little bit.

Jake Locker is the constant threat of the big play. To wit, he put up 92 yards on just three completions. All his other passes combined went for 42. That's 17 passes that gained less than 2.5 yards a throw. But three huge plays offset the empty drives.

Locker has a high ceiling. If he ever fully figures it out and turns those three-and-outs into 10-play scoring drives, he'll be a force in the league.

For now, he's clearly far enough along that the Titans have to live with the struggles and try to survive on the spectacular.


The Offensive Line Has Problems

There were blocking issues all over the line. It would be tempting to jump all over Chris Johnson for his lackluster performance, and there was a fair bit of "dancing" out of him, but for the most part, he had nowhere to run.

Arizona wasn't a good run defense last year, but it routinely swallowed up Johnson, who barely cleared two yards a carry.

I am loathe to overanalyze line play in the preseason, but early on, the Titans are having trouble opening holes.


How To Judge the Defense?

My affection for Colin McCarthy is well-documented, and we are getting more serious all the time. He was stellar against the Cardinals, but there is just one problem with going overboard on his or the team's performance: The Cardinals are terrible.

I don't mean terrible like The Phantom Menace.

I mean terrible like Whitney. I mean terrible like Mad Love. I mean "with the first overall pick in the 2013 NFL draft..." terrible.

You know, Cardinals terrible.

From the Titans' perspective, the defensive line was dominant. Kamerion Wimbley was revelatory in his ability to collapse the pocket on whichever sacrificial wafer the Cardinals offered up on any given drive.

Between Wimbley and McCarthy, I think the Titans have a pair of players who can be difference-makers.

A defense that is generally solid only needs one or two special players on it who can force turnovers or kill drives. I think the Titans have that.

The defense isn't as good as it looked against the Cardinals, but I think it can be the kind of unit that keeps Tennessee in games while everyone waits for the offense to put up that big play it needs to win.