Head coach Mike Munchak has consistently said that open competition throughout offseason workouts, training camp and the preseason will determine whether Matt Hasselbeck or Jake Locker start at quarterback for the Titans in 2012.
“By us going out and competing as hard as we can every day against each other is only going to bring out the best in each of us, and at the end of the day the best guy will play,” Locker said. “I don’t think that it’s any different of an approach than we took last year. Every time I practiced I was preparing for a chance to possibly start, and that’s how Matt is. You understand it as competitive guys that have played their whole life and have been used to being on the field.”
The Titans’ quarterback situation is much clearer and solidified than it was a year ago. The team had released Vince Young and was prepared to use its 8th overall pick on the position, plus sign a veteran prior to training camp — all with the on-going uncertainty of the NFL Lockout.
“I think standing here a year ago and saying our quarterback situation was a mess, and then this year feeling so good about it because of signing Matt and drafting Jake…but then the negative side is you can’t play both of them at the same time, so how do you make two guys happy that are that competitive?” Munchak said while addressing reporters at the NFL Combine last week. “That’s the tough part, and neither one of them wants the job handed to them. They want to come in and compete for it, and we’ll try to do the best we can when we start in May, June and into training camp to put them in situations where they truly are competing and hopefully it becomes obvious who should be the best guy to lead the team.”
Locker and Hasselbeck have already built a strong friendship, one that can withstand some hearty competition, the second-year quarterback said.
“Personally I don’t think it will have any effect on our relationship at all,” Locker admitted. “We have a friendship that is a lot deeper than just football. I think whoever ends up getting the nod at the end of all of it, the other guy will be there giving him all of the support he can from the sideline and throughout the week of practice. I truly believe that.”
In the meantime, Locker will use this offseason to review his own tape, while looking at tape of some of the NFL’s top quarterbacks in an effort to improve his game.
“For the guys that have been doing this as long as they have at such high levels takes a lot of hard work, a lot of confidence in what you’re doing, and I think the ability to prepare,” Locker said. “It’s amazing to watch those guys work.”
Locker took advantage of his own playing time as a rookie, completing 34 of 66 passes for 542 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in five games as a reserve. In addition, he rushed the ball eight times for 56 yards and a TD. But he also took a sack on the final play of a 22-17 loss at home to New Orleans in Week 14, coming up a few yards short of a victory.
Locker said he’s spending extra time studying red zone situations when the game speeds up and the field becomes shorter.
“There’s a lot of room for improvement as far as figuring out how to close a few of those games out because I think we had an opportunity to do that,” Locker said. “It comes down to one or two plays during the course of a game. I think just mastering the offense, really understanding that if the first and second reads aren’t there, finding a check-down to get four or five yards to continue to move the chain and keep your defense off the field and allow your offense to gain momentum.”
Locker said he felt prepared when he had the chance to play, but that won’t stop him from continuing to find ways to improve his game.
“I took some stuff home with me. I have all our games from last year on tape. I’ve been watching those, going through them, especially some of the ones I had an opportunity to play in to kind of see where I could improve,” he said. “It’s also a great way to keep yourself familiar with the offense so that when you get back you’re not having to retrain your mind to the verbiage and the structure of the plays. I’m also watching some guys that I have a lot of respect for in the NFL and play the position really well.”
That additional knowledge, plus having a full offseason to train at the NFL level, will only help him improve, he said.
“Anytime you’ve had a full season you have a better idea of what to expect, especially going into training camp,” he said. “Throughout the course of the year you have a better idea of what your schedule is as far as preparation and what goes on during the week. I think those things allow you to really kind of settle in to those routines and schedules so you can get the most out of them. That’s the thing I’m looking forward to the most is being familiar with the process and being able to feel comfortable in it.”
Tags: Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck, Mike Munchak
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