Jake Locker had one of his best performances this past Sunday against the San Diego Chargers. Locker, still in the early stages of his career with only 14 starts to his name, threw for 299 yards and a touchdown, as well as 68 yards rushing and another score.
Locker was solid throughout the game and his stat sheet should have been significantly better had it not been for a number of dropped passes, and a few debatable decisions by the referees on a pair of catches by wide receiver Nate Washington that appeared to be completions.
Unsurprisingly, in the first two games of the season, Tennessee featured a run-heavy offense. Tennessee asked Locker to make plays only when it was required of him, a tactic that perhaps cost them a victory against the Houston Texans in week two.
Tennessee found itself backed up in its own territory on several occasions during that game, but only allowed Locker to develop any rhythm when he was forced to engineer a brilliant 99-yard drive in the fourth quarter to give the Titans a 17-16 lead. On that drive, Locker completed a pass to Nate Washington, which resulted in a first down—their first since midway through the second quarter.
All too frequently, and predictably, the Titans elected to run on first and second down, choosing to throw on third down—a sequence of events that everyone in Reliant stadium saw repeatedly.
Second year offensive coordinator, Dowell Loggains, was in an ultra-conservative mode, and as a result Locker struggled with his accuracy and timing. Even with Locker being restricted in an unimaginative offense, he still managed to complete 7 of 8 passes for 79 yards and a touchdown pass to Delanie Walker in a pressure situation.
One week later, Jake Locker was asked to deliver again, this time the demands were greater, and the stakes higher. With 2:05 left in the game and trailing by four points, Tennessee had to score a touchdown to win.
Similar to his 99-yard drive against Houston, Locker was nothing short of spectacular, as he made plays exclusively with his arm. This time it was 94 yards, but with no timeouts at the disposal of the Titans offense. What made the drive even more impressive was the fact that Tennessee managed to avoid a fourth down situation.
Locker completed 7 of 10 passes to six different receivers for 94 yards, including a miraculous 34-yard TD pass to rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter, the first catch of what Titans fans hope to be a great career.
Moving forward, if the Tennessee Titans want to be successful they will have to release the shackles and let Jake Locker play his natural game. He's shown that he can make plays from the pocket, but his strengths will always lie in what he can do outside the pocket, whether he's throwing on the run or rushing for a crucial first down.
There's nothing wrong with Tennessee focusing its efforts on being a run-first, ball-control type of offense. That will serve it well in the time-of-possession battle, and will keep its defense fresh for the entire game.
However, Tennessee can't be scared to let Locker take over, not solely when the Titans are trailing and he's compelled to throw in obvious passing situations. This is a team with a potentially explosive offense on its hands, loaded with talent and depth at all positions. It's time they utilize each and everyone's ability, Jake Locker's most importantly.