Tennessee Titans: How Important Is Jake Locker to the Team's Success in 2013?
Jake Locker has managed to fly under the radar this offseason, letting his Tennessee Titan teammates make headlines with brash talk, racing cheetahs and saving families from burning cars.
As much as fans would like to forget how much of a quarterback driven league the NFL is, the fact still remains, as witnessed by the three rookie quarterbacks who led their teams to playoff berths.
Yes, the Titans' offensive line has been improved, the receiving group appears to be the best in franchise history and the defense as a whole has undergone an attitude adjustment.
However, despite all of the changes made to the Titans' coaching staff, playbook and roster the play of third-year pro Locker will be the ultimate deciding factor in this hot-seat season.
If the thought of putting the Titans fate in the hands of Locker makes you cringe a little, that's OK. During the last three weeks of the season, he failed to throw for more than 152 yards in any of the three games.
Not exactly a positive last impression.
In Locker's defense is the fact that he played behind an injury-riddled offensive line that was never able to build any real unity. The Titans placed a heavy emphasis on not only bolstering the interior of the offensive line but also on improving its depth.
Also, before suffering his second injury to his non-throwing shoulder, Locker very much so looked like the best player on the team.
Going into Week 4 last year, the team had a record of 1-2, and Locker had completed 64.4 percent of his passes, averaging more than 260 yards passing. The rest of the season, however, Locker's play was radically inconsistent. His passing became more erratic as he struggled with his accuracy.
How much Locker's history of shoulder problems played a part in his struggles can never be quantified, but we will have an opportunity in 2013 to see whether these health issues are a thing of the past.
As mentioned earlier, the Titans have continued to invest in adding weapons for their young quarterback, even with the departure of tight end Jared Cook. The Titans used it's second-round pick on Justin Hunter and replaced Cook with former San Francisco 49er tight end Delanie Walker.
The team's receiving corps is a group loaded with potential, but it possibly has too much depth to allow anyone to really break out and become a star.
The best news that's come out in Locker's favor is that his arm feels "normal," according to the team's website.
Obviously, if the Titans defense plays anywhere near as poorly as it did last season, any realistic improvements that Locker makes will be nullified or overshadowed.
However, if Locker is unable to lower his number of incompletions—some of which may have resulted from confusion caused by former offensive coordinator Chris Palmer's option-route offense—the team will likely be in for another sub-.500 season.
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