Once upon a time the Tennessee Titans were perennial NFL Playoff contenders. Late quarterback Steve McNair helped take Tennessee to Super Bowl IIIVI where of course this franchise came so close to winning. During his career, McNair was responsible for Tennessee reaching heights that it has struggled to return.
In 2006’s NFL Draft, owner Bud Adams’ team chose Vince Young from Texas as their future signal caller. Young had one of College Football’s most decorated careers ever. His exciting ability to make plays either running or passing offered versatility similar to McNair. After a promising start, however, he struggled to coexist with then head coach Jeff Fisher. A decline in results also made it clear that change was again necessary.
As a result, Jake Locker, out of Washington, was selected eighth overall in 2011’s Draft. This choice came with a level of criticism. Experts believed that consistent accuracy might be a problem. There were a number of traits, however, that made Locker’s potential promising.
His toughness from an ability to take physical punishment drew comparisons to future Pro Football Hall of Famer Brett Favre. Locker also demonstrates tremendous athleticism and arm strength is evident when he drops back. Tennessee signed veteran Matt Hasselbeck two seasons ago and he served as a valuable mentor. Their young player was used sparingly at first, by only seeing action in five games his rookie campaign. Last season, he started 11 games throwing 10 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Although he enters 2013 as starter, there has been a change.
Ryan Fitzpatrick signed this offseason after four seasons with the Buffalo Bills. While he was not worth the six-year $57 million extension signed in 2011, Fitzpatrick is a capable passer. Three consecutive seasons of 23 or more touchdowns is impressive. Interceptions are his biggest problem as 54 over this span is troubling. He has said that accepting a backup role was difficult, but he is the only real challenger for starting position.
The Titans chose Rusty Smith from Florida Atlantic in the fifth round of 2010’s Draft. At 6-foot-5 Smith possess a great build but he has only thrown 45 career passes. Just 23 were completed with four interceptions and no touchdowns. Nathan Enderle is a former sixth-round selection by the Chicago Bears. After not being called on to replace Caleb Hanie in 2011, I doubt he has starting potential. Locker seeks to ensure that other plans are not necessary.
Following an earlier shoulder injury, he is said to be fine and has been a full participant at team OTAs. Tennessee’s offensive play calling has been has been tweaked to add focus on bootlegs. This will take advantage of Locker’s great ability to scramble and get out of the pocket on pass plays. Pressure exists in his third year to show improvement. As stated earlier, Fitzpatrick could step in if Locker fails to progress. Adams is 90 years old and has shown that he wants to win now. His quarterback better step up or he will be benched. However, I am a believer in his skills and feel Locker rises to the challenge.