- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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A weekly analysis of the Titans' quarterback play.
Rewind: Jake Locker was efficient and effective in a 16-9 upset at Pittsburgh. He hit on 11 of 20 passes for 125 yards with no touchdowns but no interceptions, either. It wasn’t a quarterbacks game, as the team ran the ball 42 times (two-thirds of the time). Play-action wasn’t especially effective, and Pro Football Focus says only one of Locker’s 11 completions was to the right side of the field. Those shortcomings didn’t matter in the big picture.
Fast-forward: The Texans can swarm the passer on a regular basis, and Locker is likely to face more pressure more frequently. Defensive lineman Antonio Smith returns from a one-game suspension and will add some spark to the efforts. J.J. Watt will move around, and it’s a question of when, not whether, he will cause problems. The Titans will need more from Locker than they did in Pittsburgh, and Houston will present a far different challenge than the Steelers did. If safety Ed Reed makes his Texans debut, he’s a wild card in the secondary.
Balance: I’m curious to see how well the Titans will be able to balance out what Locker does. By that I mean they will be best off if they can mix drop-backs with play-action, mixing in some options and maybe a called run or two. If the open receiver is consistently on the left, so be it. But I’d think that over the course of 60 minutes, the opportunities would be spread out more around the field.
Prediction: Locker made steady progress in the preseason and performed well at Pittsburgh. If the defense plays anywhere near as well as it did against the Steelers, he may have room for a mistake or two against the Texans. In a plan that is sure to ask him to do more, I expect he will make one or two. When they come and where the Titans are on the field when they come will have a big bearing on the result.