By Shawn Lealos
CBS Local Sports presents 32 Players in 32 Days, a daily feature focusing on one impact player from each NFL team.
Jake Locker – QB – #10
Hometown: Bellingham, WA
Jake Locker was expected to be the quarterback of the future when the Tennessee Titans drafted him from the Washington Huskies in 2011. While he flashed promise at times, Locker’s career has been nothing but missed opportunities as he has spent more time injured than healthy. With the Titans trading away running back Chris Johnson, it is now time for Locker to step up and prove that this is his team.
The Injured List
During Locker’s rookie season, Tennessee chose to let him sit and watch, learning from NFL veteran Matt Hasselbeck. He played very sparsely, but by 2012, it looked like he was going to get his chance to start for the Titans. He started the season, picked up his first win in the third game and then injured his shoulder in the fourth. He returned in November and struggled to the end of the season.
In 2013, Locker was healthy again and actually got the Titans off to a hot start. He led the Titans to a 3-1 start before he was carted off the field with an injured leg injury. He returned a few weeks later, went 1-1 after his return, and then was lost for the season with a Lisfranc injury to his right foot. Locker has to make it through the 2014 season healthy, and he has to play well while doing so. This might be his last chance to be a starter in the NFL.
Waiting in the wings is rookie Zach Mettenberger, the former LSU Tigers quarterback. If Locker struggles or is injured again, expect the Titans to possibly give Mettenberger the chance to start. The other two quarterbacks heading into camp are veteran Charlie Whitehurst and Tyler Wilson, but Tennessee will only keep a maximum of three quarterbacks and Mettenberger will be one of them.
Jake Locker needs to play well because Mettenberger is not ready to lead an NFL team that wants to win. Without Locker at quarterback, the Titans won’t beat many teams on their schedule.
Locker Needs to Become the Leader
With Chris Johnson gone, that leaves a positive and negative imprint on the team. For one thing, there was a lot of controversy with Johnson, especially after his holdout a few years back. To get rid of that headache is nice, but he was the best player on the offense when he played up to his abilities. Now that Johnson is gone, this is Locker’s team and he has to play like a leader, both on the field and off, to make up for the lost talent.
New starting running back Shonn Greene will not give Tennessee the explosive offense that Johnson gave them, although Leon Washington and Dexter McCluster should give Locker two weapons that he can really play with in the short yardage passing game. Add in veteran receivers like Kendall Wright and Nate Washington, and this is a team that needs their quarterback to step up. If Locker doesn’t prove to be a franchise quarterback in 2014, the Tennessee Titans won’t win and he won’t be their quarterback in 2015.
Shawn S. Lealos is a freelance writer who graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2000 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He writes for a variety of national publications and has over 15 years of sports journalism experience. Follow Shawn on Twitter @sslealos. aExaminer.com.