Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Locker Up - How Good Does the Titans Quarterback Need To Be in 2013?

Much of the Titans offseason talk has included discussion of third year quarterback Jake Locker, his "accuracy issue" and whether Ryan Fitzpatrick could push him for a starting job. In my "hot seat" list I did include Locker for reasons that are readily apparent in the article. Clearly Locker has to improve on his 2012 season. Having said that, I do believe there is potential for expectations to be too high for Locker. Why do you ask? Let me explain.

Locker was drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft and played sparingly his first season. With limited snaps however, he looked good.


I think we often forget how good Locker looked that year and how excited everyone was about what they saw in his performance. Sadly, his performance in 2012 was marred by injury, not only to himself but on the offensive line. Add to that inconsistency in the running game and some inexcusable drops from his receivers and his 2012 looks bad.

Two things in particular concern me about Locker's 2012 and neither really have to do with "accuracy" per se. One, he had 11 batted passes and that didn't appear to be an issue in 2011 (he had 2). His release point does seem a little low and how much of that was attributed to guarding and his left shoulder injury is a question mark for me. Regardless, that is an area he must work on.

OUCH

Locker took 5 sacks in his rookie campaign out of 76 dropbacks. In 2012 he took 25 sacks out of 370 dropbacks. His most significant injury occurred when he was sacked by Glover Quin. Of course, this isn't all Locker's fault. Chris Johnson needs to block better for one. I also think former offensive coordinator Chris Palmers' system contributed. Still, Locker has to recognize pressure better and operate to protect himself and the football. He also fumbled the football 4 times (all of them lost) in 2012 usually at inopportune times (is there ever an opportune time?).

All of this leads to the question of how good Locker needs to be in 2013 to satisfy the coaching staff and owner Bud Adams. Really what the fans think isn't that important. They say winning cures all and certainly winning more games in 2013 will help. Here is where I think the Titans would like to see improvement in 2013.

TIME OF POSSESSION

The Titans time of possession stats in 2012 were beyond atrocious. I wrote about it extensively in my game blogs if you are interested. While not all a product of the passing game that certainly contributed and this is a stat I believe without a shadow of a doubt the Titans want to see improved.

RED ZONE SUCCESS

The Titans ranked 22nd in the NFL in red zone scoring percentage based on touchdowns only. This is down significantly from 2011 and it is beyond embarrassing that they ranked only 25% efficiency in the red zone at LP Field. Not coincidentally, they also finished in the bottom half of the league in scoring points at 23.

PASSING EFFICIENCY

I labeled this efficiency and not accuracy with good reason. I have said time and again I think the accuracy issue is overblown. I think the Titans would far prefer to see less sacks, less batted passes and more production than they care about whether Locker throws a pretty pass. The first I have alluded to but one more stat I find discouraging from Locker's 2012 season is that his yards per attempt fell dramatically. Of course, the 2011 season is a small sample size and 6.9 isn't terrible. Locker ranked 18th amongst starting NFL quarterbacks in yards per pass thrown but dang if that 8.2 from 2011 isn't enticing. The Titans passing game ranked 22nd in the NFL in passing yards per game.

OFFENSIVE PRODUCTION

Obviously this is a catchall phrase and area but really if the Titans score points and win games isn't the goal accomplished? The Titans in 2012 finished in the lower half of the NFL in points, passing yards, rushing yards and total offensive yards. Per Football Outsiders, the Titans offense was ranked 29th in the league in offensive efficiency. Offensive production doesn't occur in a vacuum and in order to have a successful one the Titans must operate on all cylinders. Of course he was injured, but I expect the Titans to make better use of Locker's ability to operate out of the pocket and make plays in 2013 whether passing or running.

What are your expectations for Jake Locker in 2013?


 

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