Tennessee Titans quarterback Jake Locker is a guy with tremendous potential. He has ideal size, excellent speed, and breathtaking athleticism at the quarterback position. He is a guy defenders need to keep a “spy” on due to his ability to make a play with his feet. While Locker has all of this potential, fans have yet to see him really harness this potential. To his credit, he is going into just his third NFL season, his second as a full-time starter.
Locker was the eighth overall selection in the 2011 NFL draft. The Titans felt Locker had all the physical tools to be an elite quarterback at the next level and they elected him hoping that he would be the franchise quarterback they have lacked since Steve McNair.
Things have not exactly gone in Locker’s favor thus far in his young career. In last year’s season opener, he dislocated his left shoulder. While he manned through the next three games, he ended up dislocating the shoulder again in a game against the Texans, which kept him on the sidelines for the next five games. While he ended up coming back for the second-half of the season, the shoulder was clearly bothering him and he was not able to play to his abilities because of it.
Locker ended up having surgery to repair the shoulder this offseason and seems to be ready to go for the 2013 season. A quarterback’s third season is typically when fans and critics alike will be able to really judge a player. Locker is expected to take that “next step.” The organization is trying everything to help him take this step by drafting mammoth guard Chance Warmack with the tenth overall pick and athletic receiver Justin Hunter in the second round.
Something Locker must learn to do is something many people are starting to say about Redskins quarterback, Robert Griffin III – he needs to protect himself better. Locker plays with a reckless abandon, which is admirable and shows off his toughness, but will likely lead to injury. He needs to learn to swallow his pride and protect his body rather than trying to out-physical guys who are 50-60 pounds heavier than he is. That was his knock in college, and it seems as though he has not adjusted that aspect of his game to the pro’s. If he keeps playing the way he plays, he will not have a long career and will be one of those “what if” talents that never translated.
While his statistics thus far have not been encouraging (10 touchdowns, 11 picks, 56 percent completions, and a 74 passer rating in 2012) much of it could be due to the nagging shoulder injury. The other reason could be due to youth and inexperience. It could also be because he just is not a great quarterback. Nobody knows yet, but this season we should have a more definitive answer to what kind of player Locker will be in the future. It should be interesting to watch.