The Tennessee Titans made a pretty bold move when they drafted 22-year-old quarterback Jake Locker out of Washington with the eighth pick overall at the recent NFL draft. They may make an even bolder one by starting him on opening day of the 2011 season. Locker’s the Titans’ highest draft choice since quarterback Vince Young was taken third overall back in 2006. Young’s days look to be over in Tennessee though as the club plans on releasing or trading him.
It appears the Titans think a lot of Locker as they bypassed every other quarterback available in the draft, including Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert. Coach Mike Munchak is definitely impressed with his new player’s potential, skills, and determination.
“I think he has something special in that he’ll bring out the best in other players,” Munchak said. “I think they’ll play hard for him and he’s one of those guys who will find a way to win for us.”
Rushton Webster, the club’s VP, added that Locker was picked because of his talent, smarts, toughness, and leadership.
However, Titans GM Mike Reinfeldt stated the club still plans on signing a veteran quarterback before the season gets underway, even though the pickings are pretty slim. Kerry Collins’ name has been mentioned as a possibility to join Rusty Smith, the Titans’ second-year-pro, as a backup. Marc Bulger and Matt Hasselbeck could also be candidates.
Locker said he’s looking forward to the challenges ahead and plans on making the best of his opportunity by making sure he’s well prepared for what lies ahead. He had a fine career with Washington, averaging a total of 4.27 yards each carry for 1,939 yards over four seasons. He rushed for 29 touchdowns and passed for 7, 639 yards by completing 619 out of 1,148 attempts, including 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. He averaged 239.45 yards a game and if there’s an area he needs to improve on, it’s his passing accuracy which was only 53.92 per cent.
But the ideal setting for a rookie quarterback is usually to be eased into the NFL because there are a lot of adjustments to be made compared to college football. Watching and learning is typically the best way to go before being thrown into the starting position on day one. Having an experienced quarterback around to mentor him could be the ideal way to go.
There’s no question Locker is an exceptional talent who has the college stats to back it up. It looks like the Titans can’t really afford to let him sit on the bench at this point unless they do some wheeling and dealing or pick up a top free agent before the season kicks off.
If Locker’s going to start on opening day he’s going to have to work extremely hard to learn the offense inside and out. He seems to be the type of athlete who’ll have no problem doing just that and that’s why he’ll likely be on the field when opening day arrives.