After two or three series of struggles, the Tennessee Titans offense began to click Saturday night.
But, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains admitted after the game, it was his approach that was costing the Titans early in their 27-16 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
“I probably didn't open it up enough early. But about the third series, we got it going throwing the ball down the field. He did a really good job of managing the game. He really played well,” Loggains said of Jake Locker, who finished 11 of 13 for 133 yards and a touchdown Saturday night. “He was seeing things. The game has slowed down for him and he's playing really well. I needed to be more aggressive early on with him. … Once I let him go, he played well. He did a good job of managing me.”
Locker showed the poise and accuracy the Titans had been hoping to see out of their first-round pick in 2011. Not only did he succeed with rollouts and scrambles, but Locker also excelled from the pocket – three sacks notwithstanding.
“The pocket was really, really clean, allowing me the opportunity to step into throws and deliver them with confidence,” Locker said. “That makes a big difference.”
It made a big difference that Locker was able to get his wide receivers involved after they had been largely missing from the offensive production in the two previous preseason games. On the Locker-directed touchdown drive in the first half, he found Kenny Britt twice for first downs and then connected with Nate Washington for a touchdown to cap the five-play, 64-yard drive.
“It was how we wanted to play,” said Locker, who was 3 of 3 on the drive. “We came out and executed. We were able to continually move the ball and stack completions together. I think anytime you're able to do that, you give yourself a lot better chance of having the outcome we did tonight.”
Locker looked the part of a leader in directing the Titans offense and giving Tennessee something to build upon as the regular season is just two weeks away.
“I think now he's just getting more comfortable. It's just a matter of him coming in every week and making sure we are on the same page so that we answer the call when he is there,” said Washington, who had four catches for 70 yards in the game.
Titans coach Mike Munchak also lauded Locker's effort in the game.
“I think he just made some great throws. I thought the guys dropped the ball last week and we were doing some things we normally wouldn't do,” Munchak said. “It was great to see him, really just get better every week. This is the third week and he has gotten better with what we have had him doing since he first preseason game.”
Receiver Michael Preston continues to impress as he makes a bid for a roster spot. Preston, who came off the practice squad late last year and caught five passes, caught a 56-yard pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to set up Justin Hunter's touchdown reception, later made a nice diving grab of a Fitzpatrick throw for a touchdown of his own from six yards out.
The undrafted free agent from Heidelberg University just might have played his way onto the 53-man roster, taking advantage of some extra reps with Kendall Wright temporarily on the shelf with a knee sprain.
When the game was over, offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains shook Preston's hand in the locker room.
“He has seen me work hard, so I know it means a lot to him to see how far I have come and he just wanted to come in and give me some congratulations and I appreciate that,” Preston said.
Loggains said it isn't the first time he has taken notice of Preston.
“He's a guy I've been very aware of. He's a very good player. He's been doing that day in and day out at practice. He made a big statement for his case to be on the football team again tonight,” Loggains said.