Everyone knew Jake Locker was the future of the Tennessee Titans when the team selected him with the No. 8 pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. But the franchise wasn’t ready to turn things over to the youngster as a rookie, so the Titans brought in Matt Hasselbeck to bridge the gap until Locker was ready.
But after a rough first season in Tennessee, Hasselbeck is now in position to lose his starting gig. In fact, Locker will start the Titans’ second preseason game on Friday, which will be his first career start at the NFL level.
In 2011, Hasselbeck completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 3,571 yards, with 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. He also finished the season with a pedestrian passer rating of 82.4.
Meanwhile, Locker got in to five games and while he completed just 51.5 percent of his passes, he did rack up 542 yards on only 66 attempts, with four touchdowns and no interceptions. His quarterback rating of 99.4 was a bit inflated considering his completion percentage but he’s also far more athletic than Hasselbeck under center and can make plays with his legs that the veteran simply can’t.
The 24-year-old Locker completed 7 of 13 passes for 80 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions in Tennessee’s preseason opener, while Hasselbeck completed 5 of 9 passes for 45 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
The youngster outplayed the old veteran then, and earned a start because of it. Head coach Mike Munchak admitted that Locker has closed the gap on Hasselbeck and if he plays well Friday night, it’s likely that he’ll start the third preseason game as well. Typically, whoever starts the third game of the preseason is penciled in as the opening week starter for NFL teams.
Locker’s biggest problem has always been a lack of accuracy and he still has to improve in that area. But his physical tools are just too good to ignore at this point and the Titans can’t afford to hold him back much longer. It might be time to hand Locker the keys to the franchise and start a new era.