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NFL: Do or Die for Jake Locker?

At the age of 25, it now seems like it is do or die time for Jake Locker. The young QB out of Washington University was selected with the eigth pick in the 2011 NFL draft. Locker will be entering his fourth year in the league with the Tennessee Titans.  He has only started 18 games so far in his career, but the lack of starts is not because of performance, but more so because he has yet to show anyone he can stay healthy enough to be trusted as the franchise QB. He is in the final year of his original four year deal that he signed as a rookie. There was a team option on a fifth year, but the Titans have decided not to pick up that option.

The 6’2 230 lb, strong armed QB stayed for all four years at Washington and prior to his disappointing senior year, he was considered the top QB in the nation. Some scouts even compared him to a bigger Steve Young. After the Titans selected him and said he would sit the first year behind Matt Hasselbeck, the rookie show glimpses of his bright future, appearing in 5 games, throwing for 4 touchdowns, and running for 1, with no interceptions. It got the Titan fans excited for what they could be seeing in a future franchise QB. The sky was the limit for him and the Titans organization.

In 2012, Locker made enough progression, and showed enough in the training camp, that he beat out Matt Hasselbeck to become the starter. He played well for three games by throwing four touchdowns with two interceptions. Unfortunately, he got hurt with a shoulder injury three plays into the fourth game of the year. He came back six weeks later, but was never truly the same finishing the year with 10 touchdowns, 1 rushing touchdown and 11 interceptions. He showed that he can run the offense, but he still showed that he wasn’t in complete control of the offense yet.

Rays

For most QBs, the third year is when you see them really start to take control of the offense. It was no different for Locker. The Titans started 3-1, which included a thrilling last second game-winning touchdown throw to Justin Hunter in the home opener. Locker had thrown for 6 touchdowns, ran in 1 for a rushing score, and had zero interceptions. However, in that fourth game, the injury bug once again bit Locker and knocked him out for 2 weeks. He came back and played a surprising solid game against the 49ers in a loss. After that, he struggled against the Rams and the Jaguars before getting hurt in that game which was the end of his season after only seven games started.

The naysayers to Lockers say he hasn’t led the Titans to the playoffs and he hasn’t proved he can stay healthy. The supporters of Locker, myself included, state that he has won six of the last ten games he has started, while throwing for 10 touchdowns and 5 interceptions, with another 3 rushing touchdowns added. Not to mention that his completion percentage, which was his biggest knock coming out of college, has improved every year he’s been in the league. Starting at 52% as a rookie and going all the way up to 61% last year.

Bottom line, it doesn’t matter how good you look when you play, because if you are always hurt, you will never reach your potential. That is what Jake Locker faces this year. With a new coach in the fold, in Ken Whisenhunt, Locker must prove that his arrow is still pointing north, and you can’t prove that from the trainer’s room. When new coaching normally comes in, they usually want their own selected QB, because their success is essentially tied with them. Locker has one year to convince his new coach that he is the one he wants to ride or die with. If that isn’t enough motivation to go all out and get yourself physically ready to start the entire year, he will not be in a Titans uniform. Now THAT is do or die.

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