The Titans will only go as far as the enigmatic Jake Locker takes 'em this season.
By GREG POGUEFS Tennessee
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Somewhere between the
sky is falling and
budding Pro Bowler, you’ll find
Titans quarterback Jake Locker going about his training camp business.
Sunday night's camp session at Saint Thomas Sports Park had him throwing three interceptions — his tally for all of last year's camp, on the path to winning the starting job — and nearly had another pass picked. Not a good sign for the third-year quarterback, who entered camp as the undisputed starter.
Less than 24 hours later, Locker would complete 9 of 12 passes without an interception and seem in total command of the offense. Perhaps he's ready, after all, to become the franchise quarterback and meet the expectations of being the No. 8 overall pick in the 2011 draft.
"The best thing we did was have a short memory," Locker said following Monday's practice. "We didn’t drag what happened (Sunday) night into today. We learned from it and moved on and got better as an offense."
So it goes for Locker, whose every move is analyzed and re-analyzed in a season of promise — assuming the University of Washington product can keep pushing the Titans forward. He played inconsistently last season (11 games) — missing five because of a shoulder injury — after winning the starting job in camp over veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
For the season, Locker completed 177 of 314 passes (56.3 percent) for 2,176 yards, averaging only 6.9 yards per reception. He threw 10 touchdowns and 11 interceptions and had an overall efficiency rating of only 74.0.
"It's hard to watch the film," Locker said of Sunday night's gaffes. "It’s like, 'Man, why did I do that? Why did I do this? I should have done this.' But you can take so many good things from it. And that it happened in a practice setting, it allows you to fix those things and prevent them from happening in a game."
Titans head coach Mike Munchak was rather ambivalent about the consecutive practice sessions, displaying Locker at both his best and worst.
"There's not a whole lot to evaluate in training camp other than the day-to-day practices," said Munchak, whose team plays its second preseason game Saturday at Cincinnati after opening with a 23-22 home loss to Washington.
"That’s just how it goes," he added. "As far as coaches, we don't get all caught up in that, just because there are so many factors that go into a good practice and a bad practice."
Munchak contends that two Sunday interceptions would have never happened because Locker, who wears a red jersey denoting him as off-limits for contact, would have been sacked on the play anyway.
"It’s more when you watch the tape and see why — Whose bad decisions? — if he threw the ball to the wrong spot," Munchak said. "Two of those plays, at least, he'd been sacked before he threw it. So it wouldn’t have mattered. The throw never would have gotten out. You have to look at all of those things."
Even so, Locker slept on it Sunday night and apparently had it all figured it out by Monday. He connected on touchdowns passes with tight end Craig Stevens and receivers Damian Williams and Justin Hunter, the rookie out of Tennessee who made an acrobatic catch in the end zone.
Munchak instead pointed to Locker's solid performance in the preseason opener, logging five series and all but one of the team's offensive snaps in the first half. One series had a duration of only one play, thanks to a 58-yard scoring jaunt by running back Chris Johnson.
In all, Locker completed 7 of 11 passes for 58 yards and a pedestrian passer efficiency rating (77.1). Directing a 61-yard scoring drive in the second quarter, Locker completed all three attempts.
Munchak said Locker will log about the same number of plays on Saturday night.
"(Locker) will probably get a little bit more playing time," Munchak said. "We want to keep him out there. The same thing, in the 20s. He played about 22 or 23 plays last time. So, probably in that same range. It just depends on how the game’s going.
"Hopefully, we’ll have some nice, long drives early where we can make a decision on if we want to take him out sooner. The mindset for these guys is that they play a half. If they come out and have more plays, then great. If not, then we finish it up."
And Munchak will continue to take the training camp performance of Locker for what it's worth.
"If Jake throws well in practice or he doesn't, there are a lot of things that go into a ball being picked off, like guys not being blocked at the line of scrimmage or when he's trying to throw a ball that he’d be sacked (before throwing it) in a game," Munchak said.