Titans ready for Locker to get offense into air
The job now is Jake Locker's, and it's time the Tennessee Titans start adapting the offense around the mobile quarterback's skills.
That means getting Locker to throw the ball more.
The eighth pick overall in the 2011 draft didn't exactly win the starting job off the numbers turned in during Tennessee's first two exhibitions. The second-year quarterback is 11 of 24 for 101 yards with one interception and a passer rating of 40.5 through two games.
''There are things we can do with him that we have not shown in the preseason,'' Titans coach Mike Munchak said. ''We have not helped him play his style of game where people can really see what he can do in a game. He has not been in a game where one has been game planned for him yet. So I think that will be interesting to watch as we begin the regular season.''
First up, Locker will start the final two preseason games starting Thursday night against Arizona, and Munchak said they definitely want to get both their quarterback and receivers going. The Titans (1-1) had little success passing through the first two games and had five three-and-outs in last week's win at Tampa Bay.
The Titans know that a good night throwing the ball can only help boost Locker's confidence as they prepare for the season opener Sept. 9 against New England. They felt they saw enough during the offseason and training camp to pick Locker over veteran Matt Hasselbeck.
Or as offensive coordinator Chris Palmer summed it up, ''I don't know that he played as poorly as some people are articulating.''
The biggest issue with Locker coming out of Washington was accuracy. He completed 53.9 percent of his passes in college, and he completed only 51.5 percent of his passes in five relief appearances as a rookie. He threw for 542 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions while posting a passer rating of 99.4 last season.
Quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains has been busy working with Locker on setting his feet and staying balanced along with his mechanics, and Palmer said Locker, with his strong arm, is throwing the ball well.
''We're excited to get working with him and build a plan around him and what he does well along with our other players and hopefully formulate an attack that will be very explosive,'' Palmer said.
The Titans finished 2011 ranked 17th in the NFL in total offense with Hasselbeck starting, a stat weighed down by a group that was next to last in rushing. Hasselbeck wound up throwing for 3,571 yards with five different Titans catching at least 45 passes each.
Locker said he doesn't really think the offense will change drastically simply because of his ability to move around and buy time for receivers to get open. He is eager for the offense to click into gear before opening against New England.
''It's very important, and I think just getting on the same page getting really comfortable in the passing game, comfortable in the running game, finding ways to move the ball and put points on the board will be our focus the next couple weeks,'' Locker said.
Titans receiver Nate Washington said Locker definitely has improved his touch on short and deep passes along with checking through his progression on targets. Locker was limited to one read as a rookie, but Washington said the quarterback is doing a great job checking down to the running back now.
''He's giving us all opportunities to touch the ball,'' Washington said. ''It's just a matter of him going out there and being comfortable.''
At least the Titans (No. 21 in the AP Pro 32) know who their quarterback is with Hasselbeck giving them a strong backup as well.
The Cardinals (1-2, No. 23) will start John Skelton as they try to settle their quarterback position. Kevin Kolb started last week's 31-27 win over Oakland. They also are looking to pick a new left tackle after losing Levi Brown to a torn right triceps tendon, and D.J. Young will get the start Thursday night.
This will be the Titans' first game at home this preseason, and the schedule was designed to give the team enough time to finish improvements at LP Field. Fans will get their first look at new video boards that are just a bit smaller than those hanging over the Dallas Cowboys field along with new video ribbon boards and elevators to the upper deck.
They also will get an added feature of a new stage under the north video board where country singer Phil Vassar will be performing at each home game this season as part of the Titans' efforts to give fans more reasons to come to the stadium rather than stay at home in front of their TVs.
Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker