Jake Locker just can’t catch a break, or avoid them. Last year he played through 11 games with Matt Hasselbeck breathing down his neck. After breathing a deep sigh of relief upon the departure of Hasselbeck, the pressure is building as yet another former starting quarterback was brought in to challenge the still unproven Locker. This year, it’s Ryan Fitzpatrick who was brought in and is patiently waiting for a chance to steal the show.
Part of Locker’s problem is that he just can’t manage to find ways to stay healthy. He has consistently missed games going back to his college days, and his tendency to run when he struggles to spot open receivers hasn’t helped him stay in games. In two full seasons, Locker has only managed to play in 16 games and, in his only year as a starter, he was absent from 5 games last year. None of this bodes well for a young quarterback trying to prove he was worth being given a starter’s chance.
Add to this the fact that Locker has never really put up good statistical performances and one can really begin to see why his days as a starter in Tennessee might be numbered. Not only does Locker have a tendency to run when he is flustered, but he also has trouble throwing accurately. He has only completed 55.5 percent of his throws as a pro, a rate that ranks below two other junior quarterbacks, Christian Ponder and Blaine Gabbert, who are trying to prove they were worthy of first round picks. In fact, at times Locker has displayed a real lack of judgment while forcing passes into coverage when he has had more than enough time in the pocket to locate open receivers. This has caused his touchdown to interception ratio to become quite dismal, having thrown 10 TDS to 11 INTs last year. Keep in mind that Fitzpatrick threw 24 TDs and only 16 INTs last year while maintaining a completion percentage over 60 percent and one can’t help but wonder just how much time the Titans will give the young Locker to prove himself before handing the reigns over to a veteran with plenty of experience, and a better statistical background.
Finally, there is Locker’s performance in camp from Sunday night. Locker threw three interceptions on the night and displayed a glaring inability to reliably deliver the ball to open receivers. Last year, Locker only had three interceptions in all off the drills he participated in, so one would tend to believe that all of this completion is having a negative effect on the junior quarterback. In fact, the pressure is taking such a toll that he is struggling to make progress, and seems to be regressing a bit.
This year may be Locker’s final chance to show what he can do when given a chance to start. Tennessee has upgraded the offensive line and bolstered the receiving corps so, if he falters, Locker will struggle to find an excuse for poor performances. With Ryan Fitzpatrick waiting in the wings, the Titans will surely not hesitate to give the veteran signal caller a chance if Locker can’t get the job done. More importantly, he needs to prove that his body can take the beating that comes with starting all 16 games of a regular season. The pressure is mounting on Locker, and the cooker just might explode this year.