Training camps are upon us (Yes! Finally!) and over the next week I’ll take a look at some of the most intriguing training camp battles across the N.F.L. The one I want to start with is the Tennessee Titans and the battle for the starting quarterback job. In the 2011 N.F.L. Draft, the Tennessee Titans chose Washington quarterback Jake Locker 8th overall, during that off-season they also signed former Seattle Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselback won the starting quarterback job and had a good year. He started all 16 games threw for 3,571 yards (the third highest total in his career), completed 61.6 percent of his passes, and most importantly captained a surprising playoff run by the Tennessee Titans, despite down a year by Chris Johnson and a lack of a true #1 WR (due to the injury of Kenny Britt). He is the incumbent starter and perhaps the slight favorite to start the season as the team’s number one quarterback.
Jake Locker was, considered after the 2010 season, the heavy favorite to be selected first overall in the next upcoming draft. Washington had a bad season and Locker’s performance suffered. The Titans liked enough of what they saw to make him a top ten selection and entrust their future in his big arm and plus athletic ability. In his rookie season, Locker flashed brilliance, especially in a gritty loss at home with the New Orleans Saints. His accuracy was inconsistent, but he made some huge plays against a defense that loves to use exotic blitzes. For the season he threw 4 TD and 0 INT in 66 attempts.
Coach Mike Munchak has stated that Hasselbeck and Locker will split reps 50/50, and I’ll take his word for it. The Titans are in a unique position, they are playing in a division that only has two teams that are going through major rebuilding, and a conference that lacks truly dominant teams, but they are trying to groom a franchise quarterback. They have a steady, reliable, battle-tested and winning quarterback who can hold the fort down, but how much could playing Hasselbeck potentially damage the development of Jake Locker? How realistic is it to expect the Titans to make the playoffs with Matt Hasselbeck. Hasselbeck is not flashy, but he’s gritty and has won a lot of games. The Titans are a team that could sneak into the playoffs with a few lucky breaks and That’s why I think that Hasselbeck is the favorite heading into the season, but don’t be surprised if the first sign of trouble ends the short lived reign of Matt Hasselbeck.