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Jake Locker belongs on the field for Tennessee Titans


"NFL Total Access" continues with its "32 teams in 32 days" series. We decided to score some brownie points by writing an accompanying post each night. We'll focus on what each team needs to accomplish before Week 1.

Jake Locker belongs on the field

It figured to be one of this summer's better quarterback competitions, but whispers out of Tennessee suggest the Titans will hand the starting job to Matt Hasselbeck.

Big mistake, and one the Titans must correct with an eye toward the future before September.

Jake Locker showed all his tools when called into action against the Saints.
Jake Locker showed all his tools when called into action against the Saints. (Derick E. Hingle/US Presswire)

At No. 17 in his "Top 20 Games of 2011" series, Elliot Harrison picked a Titans-Saints tilt from Week 14 that highlighted three traits Locker already brings to this team:

1. Maturity: Locker was thrust into action after Hasselbeck suffered a calf injury in the second quarter against New Orleans. It was impressive to watch the rookie calmly guide Tennessee from one series to the next. Troy Aikman, calling the game for FOX, told of conversations with Titans coaches who considered Locker as even-keeled as Hasselbeck, if not more. This was on display against the Saints.

2. Toughness: In the second half, Locker is flattened by a Saints defender. We see him writhing on the ground -- Hasselbeck desperately stretching the shot calf -- but Locker shakes the hit off. He returns to play his best football. This is a thick-bodied quarterback with the ability to take punishment.

3. Mobility and arm strength: OK, call this 3a and 3b. I was impressed with Locker's escapability and raw power in the vertical passing game. Using both of these strengths, he brought the Titans back against New Orleans and nearly pulled out the win. Tennessee lost 22-17, but found their young passer.

Hasselbeck is valuable to this team. He's an underrated veteran quarterback who's been to a Super Bowl. It's hard to imagine a better teacher for Locker -- but there is one: the field.

It's where Locker belongs in 2012.