By John Glennon, The Tennessean
In one of the more exciting Titans games last season, quarterback Jake Locker
gave fans a thrilling glimpse of his running ability - launching
himself into the air for a 6-yard touchdown and later scrambling for two
key first downs.
The downside to Locker's running in that game against the Saints? He may have been a little too confident in his wheels.
Saints lineman caught Locker from behind just before time ran out, so
the rookie failed to get off a potential game-winning pass from the New
Therein lie some of the pros and cons of a running quarterback.
Locker's mobility is considered a huge plus for the second-year pro as he battles veteran Matt Hasselbeck
for the starting quarterback position. He rushed for almost 2,000 yards
in four years at Washington, was timed at 4.59 seconds in the 40-yard
dash at the NFL Combine and can stay a step ahead of many defenders.
there can be risks involved with running quarterbacks. They often
expose themselves to more contact than a traditional quarterback when
they head downfield, and a number of scramblers also ranked among league
leaders in sacks and fumbles last season.
"It's a double-edged
sword because he does have the ability to extend plays and to make
plays, and we have to encourage him to do that because that's part of
why we drafted him," Titans quarterbacks coach Dowell Loggains said.
it can only be a drawback if he doesn't know how to protect himself
when he runs the ball and isn't smart with the ball. He needs to realize
when to get out of bounds, when to fight for an extra yard, and when to
protect himself and learn how to slide."
Several quarterbacks put
up big rushing numbers last season, including Cam Newton (706 yards, 14
touchdowns), Tim Tebow (660, 6 TDs) and Michael Vick (589, 1 TD).
Locker had only eight carries, but he averaged 7 yards - better than Newton and Tebow, and less than a yard shy of Vick.
The mere threat of a running quarterback is often enough to make defenses play more conservatively, according to several Titans.
guard Steve Hutchinson was Hasselbeck's teammate with the Seahawks
earlier in their careers, and later he blocked for Brett Favre with the
"I played with (Hasselbeck) a number of years back, when
he'd admit he was a little more mobile, and you'd see defenses kind of
concentrate more on containment," said Hutchinson, in his first year
with the Titans. "Then when you'd have a quarterback like (an older
Favre), who defenses weren't afraid of beating them with their legs, you
saw more of a rush up the middle to make him get rid of the ball quick
or to get to him."
Wide receiver Damian Williams said Hasselbeck and Locker have great arms and are great candidates for the starting job.
the difference when you have a guy like Jake is that a lot of teams
have to respect that running with basic coverages ... group-type cover
stuff," he said. "A guy like Hasselbeck is really smart, but you know
he's not going to scramble, so you could see (more double-teaming of
But there can be detriments to running quarterbacks as well.
their ability to keep plays alive - as opposed to just throwing the
ball away - can lead to sacks. Five of the top eight NFL quarterbacks in
rushing attempts last season also finished among the NFL's top 12 in
Locker was sacked five times in 66 passing attempts
last year, an average of a sack taken every 13 attempts. Hasselbeck was
sacked 19 times in 518 passing attempts last year, an average of a sack
taken every 27 attempts.
Other classic "pocket quarterbacks" were hard to sack as well last season: Tom Brady was taken down just once every 27 attempts, Matt Ryan once every 22 and Eli Manning once every 21.
"I've always been trained this way, to always throw on time, right or wrong," Hasselbeck said. "Throw on time and avoid sacks."
Then there's the potential for turnovers.
five of the top eight NFL quarterbacks in rushing attempts last year
(not the exact same five as above) finished among the top nine in
The Titans encourage Locker to be smart when taking chances, Loggains said.
big thing is to know the down and distance, to know the situation
you're in," he said. "If it's first-and-10, let's not take a loss, just
throw the ball away. And if you're in the red zone and in field-goal
range, you don't want any sacks, so be smart with the football."
Titans have patience
Titans offensive coordinator Chris Palmer said he sees no
disadvantages to a mobile quarterback, reasoning that they simply give
teams more of a chance to a make plays.
Regarding Locker, he said the more the young quarterback plays, the more savvy he'll becomeabout his decisions.
don't think that just because they're runners they get sacked more. I
think the question is more your experience," Palmer said. "Matt
Hasselbeck gets back and gets rid of the ball extremely quick. ... Jake's
still a young quarterback, and you're going to have to go through those
"But he'll also be able to do some good things for you while he's going through those growing pains."