The Tennessee Titans believe that Jake Locker is their future franchise quarterback. While he has struggled at times to make big plays this season, Locker has looked very good at different times throughout his first couple of seasons in the NFL. If the Titans are to get back to the playoffs some day, Locker will have to play a large part in leading the offense.
But that is the future. As little as I may have thought about him over his career, or at least over the past four or five seasons, Matt Hasselbeck is the Titans’ present. Tennessee has won two straight games following last Thursday night’s upset win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and yesterday’s comeback win against the Buffalo Bills. It is not as if Hasselbeck is severely outplaying Locker in his starts. That is not the case at all. But the team seems to play better under the guidance of Hasselbeck on the field than they do under Locker.
Especially Chris Johnson.
Johnson has resembled the player who earned the CJ2K moniker from a couple of seasons ago. Not only is he finding the opening with ease compared to the beginning of the season, but Johnson looks like an entirely different player. He is running harder, stronger and faster. Opposing defenses seem to fear Hasselbeck more than they do Locker, as they stack the box against Johnson and dare Locker to beat them.
With Hasselbeck, the defenses appear to give more respect to Hasselbeck, meaning Johnson has one or two fewer players up front who can stop him after first contact. For further proof, over the past two games, Johnson has amassed 286 rushing yards while finally scoring his first touchdown on Sunday in the past 11 games on the ground.
Tennessee has won its’ past two games with Hasselbeck leading the way. He will certainly not be around forever, and Locker will eventually succeed him on a more permanent basis.
But if the Titans want to give themselves the best chance to win in 2012, they may be best off leaving Locker on the bench, even when he is able to return from injury. That could be as soon as Week 8 against the Indianapolis Colts.