Why Jake Locker Should Start for the Tennessee Titans
The Jake Locker Era is starting in Tennessee.
The rookie entered the game against the Saints in the early moments of the second quarter when Hasselbeck suffered a calf injury, playing in his fourth game of the season.
Locker commanded the Titans for the remainder of the game, including a last-minute drive for a chance to win against the 10-3 Saints.
The clock ran out as Locker scrambled and failed to get the ball out of his hands, but he displayed leadership and the almost-comeback was a solid learning experience.
The Titans (7-6, 5-4) are one game behind the New York Jets (8-5, 6-5) in the wild-card race with three games left (at IND, JAX, at HOU).
If the Titans win out and the Jets lose one of their last three (at PHI, NYG at MIA), Tennessee jumps New York with a better conference record.
If Hasselbeck can't go, Jake Locker would get his first professional start at quarterback, heading into a hungry yet winless Colts country.
Even if Hasselbeck gets healthy enough to play, Locker provides more options from the quarterback position.
With a little help, the composed Locker may have a chance to lead the Titans to a playoff berth in his first season as a pro, and these are the reasons why.
Locker's Accuracy in the Pocket
We have all been witnesses of Jake Locker's throwing ability. He currently has a quarterback passer rating of 96.6 this season, according to ESPN.com.
The rookie out of the University of Washington has completed 46 percent of his passes this season, and has given the Titans a chance to win in two come-from-behind games (ATL and NO).
Locker has been impressive from the pocket, following through with his throws and not having thrown an interception in his four appearances.
A large contributing factor to Locker’s comfort in the pocket is the dominance of the Titans' offensive line in protecting the quarterback.
The protection for Titans quarterbacks has been outstanding, only allowing Hasselbeck to be sacked a total of 15 times all season, second best in the NFL.
If Locker gets time in the pocket, he can be a dangerously accurate passer.
The Jake Locker to Nate Washington Connection
Nate Washington has been the rookie's favorite target thus far, hooking up with him a total of nine times for 185 yards and three touchdowns in just two games.
Washington is simply a warrior, playing injured throughout the Saints game and getting banged up on long pass plays delivered from Locker.
Nate is just shy of 800 yards receiving and is averaging 13.5 yards a catch, providing the new quarterback a solid target and a dangerous threat for the Titans' passing attack.
Ability Outside the Pocket
When Locker rolls out of the pocket, he is scary.
Locker showed off his arm in his first preseason game when he threw a deep 45-yard bullet touchdown pass.
From that moment on, Titans country knew Locker was a special quarterback.
Not only can he sling from the pocket, Locker's out-of-pocket ability has allowed him to extend plays and find the open receiver, an ability Hasselbeck lacks.
However, as the Titans have seen with Vince Young, scrambling too often can result in devastation, as was displayed in the final play against New Orleans last week.
Knowing he could have beat a top NFL team and put the Titans in the second wild-card spot this week, Locker will learn from this loss.
Fresh Legs to Scramble and Run Down the Field
Hasselbeck is an experienced quarterback, however, defenses know he has no running ability whatsoever.
In his second-half attempt to lead the Titans back against the Saints, Locker contributed a rushing touchdown by diving for the front pylon and getting nailed in the process.
Locker's fresh legs give Tennessee a new aspect (or a very familiar aspect via the Vince Young era) to the quarterback position with the execution of scramble and run for first downs.
The rookie has rushed for 47 yards on seven attempts this season, including a crucial 17-yard first-down run in the fourth quarter. That drive ended in a deep 40-yard touchdown to Washington, leading the Titans back against the Saints.
By adding the run threat from the QB position, an aspect they have lacked this season, defenses will now have to keep an extra eye on Locker.
Locker Takes Load off Chris Johnson
Jake Locker has undoubtedly contributed an additional spark to the Titans offense.
Solid throwing from the pocket, running efficiency and his ability to extend plays provide the Titans with a quarterback they've never possessed before.
With Chris Johnson struggling this season, the playoff-hopeful Titans are in need of a boost from the offense, and Locker has produced.
If Locker finishes the season, his impressive presence will take defenses by surprise and as a result, C.J. will see more space to run.
Chris Johnson's potential paired with Locker's exciting start makes Tennessee an extremely dangerous team with the ball.