Tennessee Titans: Why Jake Locker Is the Titans' Best Option Moving Forward

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Tennessee Titans: Why Jake Locker Is the Titans' Best Option Moving Forward
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With the Matt Hasselbeck-led Tennessee Titans now riding their first two-game winning streak of the season, many fans and national media members have begun to question whether or not Jake Locker has done enough to hold onto his starting spot when he returns from a shoulder injury.

Despite wins over Pittsburgh and Buffalo with Hasselbeck under center, the Titans' best chances of making a run at a potential playoff berth still rest on the right arm of Locker moving forward.

"The Titans may not have a defense, but Mike Munchak would be defenseless if he replaces Matt Hasselbeck as the starting QB," ESPN analyst John Clayton recently wrote in the latest ESPN.com power rankings.

While Clayton's opinion, and that of many other experts, of the Titans quarterback situation comes as no surprise, their inability to look at the big picture and examine the pros and cons of handing the reigns over to Hasselbeck on a permanent basis shows a lack of understanding of what took place in Nashville throughout the offseason and preseason.

The Titans entered offseason workouts and training camp insisting that a true quarterback competition would take place, with the winner holding onto the starting position through thick and thin when the regular season rolled around.

Though the Titans struggled en route to a 1-3 start in Locker's first four career starts, placing all of the blame on his feet for the losses ignores the massive struggles both the running game and defense faced in the opening month.

In the first three games, Titans running back Chris Johnson rushed for 45 yards on 33 carries, averaging just 1.4 yards per attempt, while the Titans defense surrendered over 30 points in each of the first three contests.

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Despite being surrounded by issues in nearly every aspect of the game, Locker still managed to pile up 781 yards, four touchdowns and a 90.2 passer rating while averaging 7.4 yards per pass attempt and completing 65.3 percent of his passes in a little over three games of work.

While Hasselbeck has been able to tally a pair of wins as the starter, statistically, his efficiency numbers simply can't approach Locker's. Hasselbeck has averaged a little under six yards per attempt while also throwing four interceptions and owning a completion rate of 61.5 percent.

Beyond the statistical differences between the two players, one only needs to watch the way they throw the football to understand what Locker can potentially mean to the Titans offense moving forward.

Hasselbeck, despite still having the mind to have some level of success in the NFL, does not have the arm to make all the throws necessary to lead the kind of Run'N'Gun offense that offensive coordinator Chris Palmer is hoping to run.

Hasselbeck has completed just 12 of 34 pass attempts more than 10 yards down field (35.3 percent) and the amount of attempts traveling more than 20 yards in the air has slipped from 9.4 percent of pass plays under Locker to 7.0 percent under Hasselbeck.

With a resurgent running game that has gone over 90 yards in three of the last four games, having a quarterback that is able to take the top off of defenses will become increasingly critical as the Titans pass the midway point of the regular season.

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When the Titans turned the job over to the 24-year-old Locker, they were making an investment in not only the 2012 regular season, but also the foreseeable future of the franchise.

When you invest a top-10 pick into a quarterback and hand him the keys to your organization, you expect to experience a few growing pains.

If that young quarterback takes the field, completes over 65 percent of his passes while limiting his turnovers, relegating him back to the bench simply because of two solid performances from your backup would be showing a lack of faith in the the young quarterback both to the fans that pay for the tickets and the locker room that has already rallied around the sophomore thrower.

Regardless of whether or not Hasselbeck has a strong start and the Titans win on Sunday against the Colts, Locker should remain the Titans starter whenever he is medically cleared to take the field with his teammates.

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