The Jake Locker Era is still a little bit away for the Tennessee Titans. But in two quick glimpses, both of which resulted in near misses against Atlanta and on Sunday against New Orleans, there appears to be plenty to like about the future.
Titans coach Mike Munchak had praise for the eighth overall pick, who came on in the second quarter when Matt Hasselbeck suffered a left calf injury.
“We've been bragging on him because we drafted him for a reason,” Munchak said. “And we feel that's what you're going to see. You're going to see an exciting player that can make plays, that's fearless, that makes plays with his legs, that buys time, and comes into a tough situation against a good defense and made some big-time plays.”
Locker has shown an uncanny knack to move the football and make good decisions under duress. And while there are still the rookie mistakes like taking the sack on the final play of the game, it is Locker's presence of mind and savvy that seem to be as big a part of his game thus far as his arm strength and mobility. It showed on his 6-yard touchdown run when, flying out of bounds, he managed to extend the ball over the pylon for the score.
Locker's teammates already show a belief in him after he twice has come off the bench for an injured Hasselbeck in four weeks and rallied the Titans from behind with a chance to win.
“We should have won the game. I felt like Jake played well enough for to win. He played really gutsy,” Hasselbeck's quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains said. “He battled and got us down there with a chance to win. He knows this: He can't take a sack on the last play of the game, but he gave us an opportunity to at least have a shot at it.”
Locker preferred to use the team approach when talking about the Titans' final chance at winning the game.
“The team competed today,” Locker said. “I think that as hard as it is to take this loss, I think that it's something that we as a football team can be proud of.”
Teammates are already on board with Locker's presence and his performance.
“You wouldn't know he's a rookie from the way he's handled it when he's come in those two games. He's come in and hasn't missed a beat. He's set up the plays, the formations, the snap counts, everything and he's handled it like a vet,” left tackle Michael Roos said.
Receiver Nate Washington, who fought through an ankle injury and no practice all week, praised the rookie's play.
“Jake has been a cool guy. He's been cool, calm and collected the whole season,” said Washington, who caught six passes for 130 yards. 'He's been doing everything that's been asked of him in practice. He's been getting better and we just have to make sure we get better with him.”