Welcome to the Jake Locker era.
The Tennessee Titans have officially announced that Locker has dethroned Matt Hasselbeck for the starting quarterback job. The Titans will start Locker when they host the New England Patriots in their Week 1 game on September 9, 2012.
The Titans drafted Locker with the eighth pick in the 2011 NFL Draft. Locker appeared in five games during his rookie season. Locker completed 34-of-66 passes (51.5 completion percentage) for 542 yards and four touchdowns. None of his appearances were starts.
Locker has completed 11-of-24 passes for 101 yards with an interception during his first two preseason games in 2012. After a solid performance against the Seattle Seahawks' second-team defense during the preseason opener, Locker appeared more vulnerable against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' first-team defense. Locker completed 4-of-11 passes for 21 yards with an interception. He also had a 21-yard scramble that setup a 14-yard touchdown run from Chris Johnson.
The Titans couldn't open their season with a much harder schedule. They'll start their season by hosting a Patriots team who has won eight consecutive Week 1 games since the Buffalo Bills defeated them 31-0 in the 2003 regular-season opener. The Patriots have scored 38 points in each of their last two openers.
It doesn't get any easier in Week 2. Since 1993, the Titans have lost eight consecutive games against the San Diego Chargers. This includes a 2007 playoff loss and a 42-17 drubbing on Christmas Day in 2009. The Chargers will have home-field advantage as Norv Turner tries to save his job.
Barring injuries, Locker will face Tom Brady, Philip Rivers and Matthew Stafford in the first three weeks. He'll face Pittsburgh Steelers two-time Super Bowl champion quarterback Ben Roethlisberger during a Thursday Night Football game in Week 6. The Titans have road games against the Houston Texans and Minnesota Vikings from Week 4 through Week 5.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
Titans enthusiasts should be encouraged to know that they'll have some control over this difficult stretch. Brady, Stafford and Roethlisberger will be coming to LP Field. I'd encourage fans to be as rowdy (legally) as possible. Locker is getting the Grade-A stuff thrown at him right away. This experience will hopefully make him a better quarterback in the long term.
Locker should be a better fit for this "Run N' Shoot" offense. His mobility will allow him to make plays that Hasselbeck couldn't make. This gives the Titans a head start with developing chemistry between Kendall Wright and Locker. The Titans would've eventually had to take that leap of faith with their inexperienced quarterback.
Why not now?
Joshua Huffman graduated from Middle Tennessee State University as a marketing major in 2009. He's been a Middle Tennessee resident from 1986-88 and 2001-present. He lived in the Upper Peninsula and Northern Wisconsin from 1988-01 and for approximately eight months in 2009-10 as he completed a 20-game volunteer position with the USHL's Green Bay Gamblers. His favorite sports organizations include the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Cubs, Nashville Predators and Tennessee Titans. He can be found on Twitter HERE.
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