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Greg Cosell’s Look Ahead: Titans being smart with Jake Locker’s progress

Shutdown Corner

The Titans were practically starting from scratch with quarterback Jake Locker this season.

As a rookie, the Titans tried to put Locker on the shelf all year and let him learn, although he was pressed into some action. Then in his second year, he missed significant time due to injury.

Locker was very inexperienced coming into this season, even though it was his third year. So the Titans built a simple passing offense that allows Locker to progress as a quarterback.

The conventional way to do that is through the run game. All the play-action passes that work off the run game define reads much quicker for a quarterback. You’d like to start there.

Reads off run or play action are what we call "either or" reads. When it’s first down and 10 and you have two tight ends, you can pretty much expect to get some kind of eight in the box look. That means you’re getting a single-high safety. There are specific routes that work against that with "either or" clearly defined reads. And you’ll have maximum protection on many of those plays so he’s not under duress when he throws. That’s how you help him.

For example, the Titans will run some post/cross combination routes. When Locker fakes a handoff and turns his head around, he finds the single-high safety. Did the safety jump the crossing route? Then go to the post. Did the safety stay deep? Hit the crossing route. It's simple stuff. That’s what you’re trying to build. And they’re in process of building. Titans offnesive coordinator Dowell Loggains has done a great job with it.

You’d think with the receivers the Titans have that you’d put Locker in shotgun and spread it out. But then you see more blitzes and pressures. That can derail your offense and harm your young quarterback's progress.

Locker needs things defined. You have to remove the gray areas for him by limiting his progressions. Maybe next year, after another full offseason, you can take the next step with him, because he does have talent. Right now, they’re doing what’s best for him. And in the overall scheme of their team, which is 4-4 and in the playoff hunt, it’s working.

Brady's big day

Against the Steelers last week, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was as sharp as he’s been all season. He made some throws that were big-time throws. His arm looked live and strong. He had great rhythm, excellent balance, great pocket movement, all of it.

Having Danny Amendola and Rob Gronkowski both in the lineup obviously helps. The Steelers told us how important Amendola is because they put their best cornerback, Ike Taylor, on him in the slot. Taylor doesn’t normally play the slot. The Steelers let us know how big of a factor Amendola is in the offense.

And Gronkowski changes how a defense plays. The Steelers had a double-team on Gronkowski with safeties Ryan Clark and Troy Polamalu in the first quarter, and Gronkowski broke to the outside against it, got open and made a great catch for a 34-yard gain. That’s a tough catch, especially against a double team, but that’s what he does.

The Patriots were well balanced, they had great multiplicity in formations and personnel, and Brady played well. That's how you get 610 yards against Pittsburgh.

Stacy emerges

I liked Rams rookie running back Zac Stacy coming out of college, and now that he is getting a chance he’s running exactly the same as he did at Vanderbilt. He’s tough, physical and low to the ground. He runs with great pad level, and has good short-area quickness. He’s not going to break long runs, and that’s fine. That’s not neccessary to be a solid, sustaining back in the NFL.

In some ways he’s a slightly smaller version of Washington's Alfred Morris. They’re both physical, and probably quicker than you think they are. Morris is bigger, but that’s what Stacy is.

In a passing league, can Stacy be your featured back? Absolutely. He has shown that the last few weeks.

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NFL analyst and NFL Films senior producer Greg Cosell watches as much NFL game film as anyone. Throughout the season, Cosell will join Shutdown Corner to share his observations on the teams, schemes and personnel from around the league.

Hit us up on Twitter @YShutdownCorner, email us at shutdown.corner@yahoo.com and "Like" Shutdown Corner on Facebook for NFL conversation 365 days a year, the way it should be.

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