When the Titans agreed to terms with Ryan Fitzpatrick Monday after contract negotiations broke down with Matt Hasselbeck, it was with the understanding that he will serve as Jake Locker’s backup going forward.
Head coach Mike Munchak made that clear during an interview with Fox Sports.com’s Alex Marvez at the NFL owners meeting.
“I think (Fitzpatrick) understands his role,” Munchak said. “It’s Jake’s team. It’s Jake’s time. Jake’s going to be our guy. We made that decision last year after training camp.
“Ryan has been in this situation before … He’s going to compete with (Locker) and I think he’ll help him a lot throughout the week. It will be another great mentor for him. And we feel he can win if he has to play. That’s how we felt with Matt Hasselbeck also.”
Unlike last year when Munchak staged a training camp/preseason battle between Locker and Hasselbeck to determine the starting job, Locker will not be looking over his shoulder as he prepares for the 2013 season.
“This offseason, it’s nice that Jake will be going into camp knowing that he’s our quarterback,” Munchak said. “He’s got to stay healthy. We know that. That was probably the biggest problem last year. It’s hard to judge him because he didn’t play as much and he played injured.
“Unfortunately, when you have a quarterback who runs around a little bit they get hurt. There’s a chance that second quarterback is going to play a lot. We feel we had that situation with Matt and now with Ryan we have the same thing.”
Tags: Jake Locker, Mike Munchak, Ryan Fitzpatrick
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The Titans’ head coach said fans can affect New England’s offense that may go no-huddle at times.
“I think the crowd noise is going to be something our defense hopefully can take advantage of,” Munchak said. “When you have a team that may go no-huddle, the more we can add to that and make that uncomfortable for them at the line of scrimmage and maybe give the advantage to the defense in some way, that’s a huge plus.”
Munchak expects nothing less than full assistance from Titans fans at LP Field.
“That’s what you hope when you play at home. If we can play well, then you want that for four quarters,” Munchak said. “You want to put our team in a position where the fans can really be in this thing from start to finish, and they can feel like they really made a difference in the game. They’ve done that in the past, and hopefully we’ll get that on Sunday.”
Munchak said he’s expecting Titans fans to be excited and that “the opponent brings another level of excitement to the game besides opening day.”
“We’re excited about the team’s future this year, and everyone wants to kind of see how we’re going to come out of the box,” he said.
Tags: Mike Munchak
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Wright, the prolific wide receiver out of Baylor, turned heads during spring OTAs with his athleticism and pass catching skills. He’s expected to play a significant role in Tennessee’s offense, especially early on as Kenny Britt continues to recover from a pair of knee surgeries.
“The good thing for us is that he spent the eight or nine weeks with us and has a really good feel for what we’re doing,” Munchak told reporters Sunday night. “You want him here, there’s no doubt. If he’s going to help us early, you don’t want to miss any time. We’ll see, but he’s a guy that has a great head start on most young receivers just because of the system he was in, the fact that he played four years in college, and he got better every year.”
Munchak said Wright’s ability to read coverages from the system he played in at Baylor makes him different from other young receivers.
“He’s not a guy that played two years and came out and is still figuring the game out,” Munchak added. “He was part of a pretty good offense at Baylor and has a lot of confidence. I think we all saw that when he was here in OTAs. I think that gives him a chance, even though he’s missed a few days that he should be fine.”
Munchak said he hopes Wright is signed in time to participate in Tennessee’s joint practice with the Atlanta Falcons Aug. 6 in Dalton, Ga.
“I was hoping obviously that it’d be done by now, but we can’t worry about him until he gets here,” he said. “Hopefully it’ll be soon…We’ll just hope for the best and practice with the guys that are here.”
Tags: Kendall Wright, Mike Munchak
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Munchak spoke to local business men and women during a Nashville Business Journal breakfast Wednesday at Lipscomb’s Allen Arena. Munchak said he’s thrilled about Locker, and that last year’s 8th overall pick is going to be a great quarterback for years to come.
“Now will he start this year? That will be the fun part watching Jake compete with Matt Hasselbeck. That will be a question I’ll probably field every single day, but that’s fine because we have two good ones and fans should feel confident that we have a quarterback in place that we can win a Super Bowl with.”
Locker, meanwhile, told SiriusXM NFL Radio on Wednesday that he’s going to to everything he can to win the starting role.
“To have them hand that job over to me, whether it’s something they are legitimately thinking now or not, I hope that if they’re not, I hope that by the time it’s over, they will,” Locker said. “And if they are (now), I hope that I’ve done well enough to earn that spot.”
Locker received a vote of confidence from teammate Jared Cook.
“I think Matt has a little bit of upside, but I think Jake’s got heart,” Cook told The Tennessean. “Jake knows what he wants. When you know what you want, sometimes you’re going to get it. So I think it’s going to be a good competition.”
If Locker fails to win the job, he said he’ll continue to push Hasselbeck every day in practice.
“I’m going to do everything I can to win that job, and in that, I’m going to push him (Hasselbeck) to be better,” Locker said. “He’s going to do the same thing, which is going to push me to be better. And at the end of the day, if I don’t end up winning the job and I’m his backup, I’m going to do everything I can on game day to help him to help our team be successful and help our team win games, and I feel he’ll do the same thing.”
Whoever wins, Munchak feels the Titans are in good shape at the quarterback position.
“You’re going to have a quarterback here that you feel great about,” he said. “Both of them are great people. Jake is going to be really special. Time will tell as everything unfolds, but it’s going to be exciting to watch.”
Tags: Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck, Mike Munchak
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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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There is little doubt the Titans will look towards free agency and the NFL Draft to strengthen their defensive line, and it’s a good year to do it, says Titans GM Ruston Webster.
“I think it’s a really good crop. Defensive line in general, I think is good,” Webster said. “Typically, those guys are going to be in the first round because everybody needs them. They’re rare birds. Outside of quarterback, the one position that’s the toughest to build, and the one position where you have to be really strong in order to win consistently, is up front on the defensive line and the offensive line.”
The Titans could use the help. They struck gold on defensive tackles Jurrell Casey and Karl Klug in last year’s draft, but are thin at defensive end with William Hayes, Jason Jones and Dave Ball set to become free agents.
“It’s definitely a need,” head coach Mike Munchak said. “Derrick Morgan is really the only guy playing a lot who is under contract, so that’s definitely an area we’re going to have to look at from both ends — in free agency and the draft. And when the smoke clears, we’ll have some good defensive ends. It’s a matter of where they’re going to come from.”
Munchak would like to possess a combination of veteran leadership and young talent at defensive end. Webster covets a playmaker, similar to what the Titans had in Jevon Kearse back in 1999.
“He changed things,” Webster said of Kearse. “When I was in Tampa, we had Simeon Rice and Warren Sapp. They made everybody else around them better. Those type of special rushers really can affect your defense. They help the guys on the back end, and if you can get a lead on people and rush the passer, you’ve got a great chance to win.”
Munchak spoke of the special player he’d love to find either in free agency or April’s draft.
“You’d like to have a guy that the offense is worried about, a guy that when there’s two minutes left can take the game over, knock the ball out of the quarterback’s hands and win it for you,” he said. “I think we’re looking for those kinds of guys, someone on the edges that can create those kinds of problems for an offense.”
Tags: Derrick Morgan, Mike Munchak, Ruston Webster
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Titans head coach Mike Munchak insisted Monday that Chris Johnson will remain the team’s starting running back, despite his recent struggles on the field.
“We still believe in him. He’s our starter, and his teammates feel the same,” Munchak said.
Munchak said people expect a lot of Johnson because of his salary and how he is perceived to be one of the top backs in the league.
“People expect an awful lot from him every time he steps on the field,” Munchak said. “When you come short of that and as a team we struggle, everyone’s trying to figure out what’s wrong. Something must be wrong.”
Munchak said Johnson needs more opportunities in the open field.
“It’s hard to make guys miss in that box area in small quarters,” Munchak said. “He has the best chance when he bounces a hole and creates some space to make a guy miss. The more opportunities he gets, hopefully he’ll get the chance to make that guy miss.”
Munchak believes Johnson has handled the criticism well, knowing expectations are extremely high for the three-time Pro Bowler.
“He’s handling the situation where expectations are so high I don’t know how he could…unless we’re running for 200 yards a game,” Munchak said.
Munchak had no reservations about Johnson’s future.
“He has a lot of football left and I think he’ll do some great things for us.”
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