Jake Locker watching, waiting as rookie QBs play
First, Jake Locker watched Andy Dalton, and now he’ll get a good
look at Cam Newton. All of the highly drafted quarterbacks are
starting in the NFL except Locker, the eighth pick overall.
And he doesn’t mind.
Locker says he’s not jealous and is just as busy learning as the
others are. He also feels he has a big advantage over the others:
He is studying and learning from 13-year veteran Matt
”I don’t resent them,” Locker said of his fellow rookie
quarterbacks. ”I’m thankful for the opportunity I have here to
learn from Matt and to play behind him and watch the game kind of
through him and understand what he’s thinking, why he’s thinking
it, and I think it’ll make me a better player.”
The Titans liked Locker enough coming out of Washington that
they made him the second quarterback drafted behind only Newton.
Then they signed Hasselbeck to a three-year deal less than 48 hours
after the NFL lockout ended, and the veteran won the starting job
in the preseason. Now, Hasselbeck has thrown for 2,014 yards
through eight games and is on track for the first 4,000-yard
passing season of his career.
That has left Locker watching from the sideline as the only
quarterback of the top five drafted in April not to start at least
one game yet this season.
Both Dalton, the 35th pick overall in the second round, and
Newton, the top pick overall, have started every game for their
teams. Jacksonville turned to Blaine Gabbert (10th overall), while
Christian Ponder (No. 12) is now starting for Minnesota. Locker?
The quarterback many thought might have been the top pick overall
if he left Washington early for the 2010 draft has gotten into only
two blowout losses, completing one of two passes.
The Titans (4-4), who visit Carolina and Newton on Sunday, plan
to stick with Hasselbeck as their starter and let Locker keep
learning from the sideline. Titans coach Mike Munchak said he
thinks it’s tough for Locker sitting because he knows it would be
”This is the situation he got drafted into,” Munchak said.
”If we didn’t get Matt, he could be doing what (others) are doing.
But he is a professional, and he is handling it and learning from
Matt. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to prove what he can do, but
unfortunately he is going to have to wait for that to happen. He
has handled it well, and in the long run hopefully it will be
beneficial to him to have waited.”
Letting a rookie quarterback sit and watch rather than throwing
him in immediately might be due to this franchise’s recent
experience. Sure, Vince Young was the NFL Offensive Rookie of the
Year in 2006 but the Titans wound up releasing him after five
seasons. They eased Steve McNair into the starting job, making him
mostly watch for his first two seasons, and he wound up as co-MVP
of the NFL in 2003.
The Titans gave Locker most of the work in practice during their
bye week, and he gets extra snaps when Hasselbeck is given a day
off as he was Wednesday. Locker split the work with Hasselbeck on
Thursday as the Titans tried to make sure the veteran has time to
heal his sore knee. Offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said Locker
is doing an excellent job in drills and when throwing for the scout
team against the defense.
”Until he gets in a game, there’s nothing like learning in a
game itself,” Palmer said. ”Some quarterbacks, it’s beneficial
for them to start from Day 1 and learn, and it’s beneficial for
other quarterbacks to sit back and watch and observe. Jake and I
talked about it the other day, the fact he’s learning from Matt, I
think, has been tremendous and invaluable.”
Dalton said last week that he wanted to play immediately.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera said the only surprise with Newton has
been how quickly he developed.
Hasselbeck tries to teach by being himself and letting Locker
decide what works for his own game. Their relationship almost feels
like a mutual admiration society at times. Hasselbeck praises
Locker as having everything someone wants in a quarterback and a
teammate with his loyalty, honesty and athletic talent that might
make him the best player on the field.
”He’s got all kinds of God-given ability, thing you can’t
necessarily coach,” Hasselbeck said in September. ”If he had to
play, if he was on some other team right now and they asked him to
play, I’m sure he would do a fine job.”
Locker said he doesn’t know if the other rookie quarterbacks
have the same kind of relationship he and Rusty Smith have with
”I can just speak from this experience,” Locker said. ”And
from the beginning he’s been nothing but helpful for me and
answered all the questions I’ve asked of him and some that I
haven’t and been able to take a lot of information and knowledge
that he’s gathered over the years and try to work it in as you feel
comfortable with your game.”