Boclair: Locker shows he can bring the heat, should not turn up heat on Hasselbeck

Monday, November 21, 2011 at 12:42am

It was like the difference between a pitcher and a thrower.

From the moment Jake Locker took the field Sunday — with 2:57 to go in the third quarter, to be exact — he was throwing fastballs. There was an undeniable zip on the ball every time it left his hand.

And he got the offense moving. It was not enough for the Tennessee Titans to overcome a 20-point deficit, but they got close before they eventually fell 23-17 to the Atlanta Falcons.

Likewise, that performance will not — and should not — put him on the fast track to becoming the starting quarterback.

“I thought [Locker] played great,” Matt Hasselbeck, the current starter, said. “He has been practicing well and playing well. I’ve said many times, that I think he has a real bright future. It was fun to see.”

The important thing is for him to remain a part of the future rather than the man of the moment, if at all possible. Of course, the elbow injury that sidelined Hasselbeck and led to Locker’s insertion will determine whether or not that is the case.

The reality is that the Titans are now two games behind the Houston Texans with six to go. If they are going to overcome that deficit, which includes a head-to-head defeat against Houston, they’re going to need some savvy under center.

After all, at 5-5 they have shown they are not a great team. They’re not going to win games simply by overpowering people.

In a lot of ways, Hasselbeck has looked rejuvenated in getting them to this point. The challenge of integrating himself into a new locker room and a new scheme has put a pep in his step. We know now, though, that it has not put a lot of pop back into his arm.

We’ve seen him throw 337 passes and with the wisdom born of 13 years in the league, more than 11 as a starter, he has shown he knows where to go with the ball. He’s like a pitcher who has lost some steam on his fastball but locates his throws and gets the job done in an effective, efficient manner.

Hasselbeck has completed more than 60 percent of his throws and set a personal best of having thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of the first nine games. That streak ended against the Falcons.

Enter Locker.

Maybe he did not throw the ball to the right receiver or exactly on target but he threw it hard. That was true on all 19 of his attempts, two of which resulted in touchdowns, and was all the more apparent in how different it was than Hasselbeck.

The kid can flat out bring it. He’s not Nuke LaLoosh, the Tim Robbins character in Bull Durham who had no clue where the ball was going, but he is not as precise as Hasselbeck.

Even on this day, Hasselbeck was one completion better than 50 percent whereas Locker was one completion below 50 percent.

“There is a lot of adrenaline involved in that,” Locker said. “… I’ve just done my best to prepare as well as I could for when I got that opportunity so I could take advantage of it.

“I felt pretty comfortable with what we were doing. We were able to go out there and play backyard football. We got some good calls and guys ran some good routes and … made some good plays.”

Backyard football is fun for a while but it only will take a team so far. Vince Young essentially never graduated from a backyard approach during his five seasons with the Titans, and we all know how that turned out.

Based on this performance, Locker looks as if he’s going to get there, though. Yet in order for the Titans to get to the playoffs, they need Hasselbeck with a healthy arm, even if — at its best — that arm can’t compare with Locker’s.

3 Comments on this post:

By: ncpreader on 11/21/11 at 7:03

Hasselbeck did an outstanding job in first 4 games of the season.
I'm sure the fans in Seattle were saying " just wait for it, he will return to his old form" and he has. How many batted balls did Hasselbeck throw yesterday 4? 5? He looks like Kerry Collins 3.0
It may not be time yet for Locker, but Hasselbeck will NOT get this ragtag team to the playoffs. We have beaten 1 team with a winning record this season. It doesn't matter if we get to the playoffs, we can't beat playoff teams. NO WAY ! Fellow season ticket holders, a word of advice: If the commisioner says the Titans are authorized to sell playoff tickets this season, pocket your money. This is not our year. We need a center, some more linebackers to stop the run, a revamped secondary and most of all, an offensive and a defensive coordinator that werent' found and hired in a week's time.
OH,and send that thug Finnegan down the road and let some other sucker team pay him his BIG contract. e.g. Jevon Kearse. How did that work out for Philly?

By: fdanshep on 11/21/11 at 8:42

You didn't mention the fine offensive effort by the $30,000,000 man. I say 30M because he will never collect the balance of his 53M contract. And ncpreader, as for a new offensive coordinator, Chris Palmer's fate was sealed when Munch/ Rheinfeldt/ Bud decided that were going to go with Johnson regardless of how inept he is.

You can not tell me that our offensive line is so bad that they are the cause of Johnson's 12 yds. in 13 carries.

Finally, ncpreader, this is football! There is nothing to indicate that Finnegan is anything other than a model citizen off the field.He plays with an edge and sometimes lets his emotions get the best of him resulting in an untimely penalty.

If you are looking for a choir boy on the field, perhaps you would like to see if we can get Andre Woolfolk back on the team!

By: Harleyfxrs01 on 11/21/11 at 8:42

Stopped watching the game in the first half after 2 possessions with the ball. I got tired of CJ, he is the main reason I now shut the game off. Plus there is no energy in that team in the first half, the plays are lame, did some copy a high school game book? There was not zip in that team in the first half. Then Locker came in, best thing that ever happened yesterday but sorry men, it was too late to make a difference but what I saw was something great. They got rid of CJ which was a great decision then there was also a spark ignited in the teams butt. They actually started to look like a Pro Football Team. With Hasselbeck in there leading the team you I believe you will only have a "C" team, let Locker finish out the season and see where we go, hey! it's worth a try right? Rigiht now the law of averages are against us. Oh and can someone please BENCH CJ for the remainder of the year. We are wasting downs with that man. Nuff Said.