NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WCBI/USA Today) — The Tennessee Titans are turning the page.
The team will anoint Jake Locker as its new starting quarterback Monday, per Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.
Locker, the eighth pick of the 2011 draft, is coming off his first NFL start, an underwhelming performance Friday night at Tampa Bay where he completed four of 11 passes for 21 yards and threw an ugly interception courtesy of an ill-advised throw across his body, off his back foot and over the middle of the field.
But though Locker lags behind last year’s starter, veteran Matt Hasselbeck, in the accuracy and decision-making departments, he brings superior athleticism and arm strength to the table. His ability to make plays outside the pocket could be a boon to RB Chris Johnson, who was frequently at his best alongside former Titan Vince Young, a dual-threat quarterback.
Hasselbeck is coming off one of his better seasons (3,571 passing yards, 18 TDs, 14 INTs) and led the Titans to a 9-7 record–just a tiebreaker short of the playoffs–in his first year in Nashville. He was the most consistent performer on an offense that lost WR Kenny Britt to an early season knee injury and watched Johnson struggle after a lengthy training camp holdout.
Locker played well in spot duty as a rookie, passing for 542 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions. He also ran for 56 yards and one score on eight carries.
Hasselbeck and Locker, who both thrive in the leadership/huddle presence department, have engaged in one of the friendlier competitions you’ll ever see. They’ve grown close after first meeting in Seattle when Hasselbeck was the main man for the Seahawks while Locker was the Big Man on Campus at the University of Washington.
“He’s a better kid than I’ve heard, he’s a better thrower than I’ve heard, he’s much smarter in the classroom than I would have expected for someone his age,” Hasselbeck said on NFL Network prior to training camp.
“My kids love him.”