Jake Locker's debut included plenty of moments Sunday that gives the Tennessee Titans hope for the future.
Yes, there will be growing pains, and mistakes along the way – Locker's sack and fumble that led to a scoop and score in the Titans' 34-13 loss was evidence of that.
But the Titans saw enough from Locker that leads them to believe he passed the test in his first professional start. Locker was 23 of 32 overall for 229 yards with a touchdown and an interception in the game.
“I was excited about the way he played,” quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains said. “Obviously, we've got to work on the turnovers.”
Locker's own assessment was one of needing to lead his team to more points.
“I felt like we moved the ball on offense well today,” Locker said. “We just have to find ways to put more points on the board.”
A couple of Locker's plays made the highlight reels for the right reasons and a couple made it for the wrong reasons on Sunday.
On the positive side, Locker showed plenty of athleticism and poise on his touchdown throw to Nate Washington. He scrambled out of the grasp of a Patriots defender, rolled to his right and found Washington wide open around the 5-yard line. Washington strolled into the end zone for the third-
“We were on the other side of the ball to start, but we didn't get what we wanted over there,” Locker said. “I felt a little pressure, so I was just trying to get outside of the pocket, and I saw Nate kind of slip in behind him. It was kind of a dangerous throw, I guess, but it ended up working out for us.”
Locker's best moment, according to Loggains, was when he checked out of a running play on the Titans first drive, seeing one-on-one coverage outside for Nate Washington, hitting him with a 24-yard completion on fourth-and-1.
“The fourth-and-1 where we go for it, he checked to that,” Loggains said. “He gets us in the right play and makes a heck of a throw to Nate Washington down there and it eventually led to points. That was probably the best play he made all day. It was heads up We hadn't called it. He called it at the line of scrimmage.”
As for Locker's two mistakes, Loggains was forgiving on the interception, which was thrown deep into the end zone. It was the fumble scoop and score by Patriots rookie Dont'a Hightower that was the bigger concern.
Locker said of the pick, “I shouldn't have thrown it. The fumble, I have to take better care of the ball in the pocket.”
Overall, the Titans gave Locker a passing grade on the day, despite his mistakes.
“He did pretty good. He was patient in there. He made plays when he had to make plays. He took off wit his feet when he needed to take off with his feet,” receiver Damian Williams said. “He's young. This is his first start and he played a hell of a defense. He's going to come with some growing pains, but I think for the most part, he did a great job.”
Added Titans coach Mike Munchak, “The more he plays, the better he'll get. We are very proud of the way he played. I thought he made some great throws on the run, moving in the pocket, buying some time … all things that you should be really excited about moving forward.”