Jake Locker walked into a difficult situation when he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in 2011. At that time, the Titans were the very definition of mediocrity, and there seemed to be little direction on offense or defense. In reality, not much has changed since that point.
The Titans aren’t the most talented team in the league, but on occasion, they play inspired football. Jake Locker has been a part of that play at points in his career, but with Locker done for the year, his future with the team will be determined on what he’s shown to this point. Regardless of whether the Titans are able to come back and win their division, the team will have to decide whether Locker is the quarterback for the Titans’ long-term future or if he’s part of their current problems.
The intangibles are there for Locker. Although he struggled in the Titans’ loss to the lowly Jaguars, Locker was visibly upset when leaving the field after a number of failed drives. He has some fire in him, and he’s never been willing to roll over and go away. The young quarterback even gave up the opportunity to be drafted first overall in 2010 to go back to Washington and win a bowl game, rounding out his college career.
While Locker’s mind may be willing to succeed, his ability on the field has been streaky at best. At times, Locker appears to be ready for the big time, but he quickly regresses back to struggling to push the Titans down the field.
Statistically, Locker is getting better, and that alone may be enough for the Titans to decide to keep him. Since entering the league in 2011, Locker’s completion percentage has steadily increased, starting at just 51.5% in 2011 to 60.7% in 2013. In addition, Locker was throwing more touchdowns than ever before being sidelined for the rest of the season by the Jaguars.
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The Titans’ imminent decision will be complicated by a middle-of-the-road draft selection. There are a number of teams in the NFL that will be searching for a new quarterback during next year’s draft, but many of them will be picking inside the top ten. The Titans will likely hover in the middle picks, somewhere between 13th and 20th overall.
Instead of dumping Locker, the Titans may be better off using the draft and free agency as ways to supply weapons to Locker. Obviously, running back Chris Johnson provides a homerun threat from the backfield, but Jake Locker needs more weapons in the defensive secondary. Perhaps, and this could be just me blowing smoke, the problems we see on the Titans’ offense may be caused by ineffective receivers, not an ineffective quarterback.
Jake Locker may not be the greatest young quarterback in the NFL, but his injury plagued career hasn’t allotted him a fair shot at claiming the Titans’ starting quarterback job. At some point, Locker will have to establish himself as a consistent weapon for the Titans, and that hasn’t happened just yet. Still, he’s shown enough promise to warrant a longer look from his current team. If the Titans aren’t willing to keep him as their starting quarterback, it seems likely another team would take a shot on him.