- Paul Kuharsky, ESPN Staff Writer
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And we’ll hit them over and over once training camp starts, looking for any tidbits that offer any new degree of answers.
In Mike Sando’s thorough run-through that places NFL quarterbacks into tiers based on his conversations with 26 people in the know including general managers, former GMs, evaluators, coordinators and coaches, Locker ranked 31st, ahead of only the Jets' Geno Smith.
"We'll see," a former GM said. "Guys like Locker can be run-around guys. To me, Jake's die has been cast."
His die has been cast. In other words, we’ve seen what he is -- a guy who’s a great teammate and worker who can flash, but isn’t always accurate or poised, can try to do too much and tends to get hurt.
The Titans don’t think his die has been cast, they think he can still blossom into a franchise guy.
So what can change him?
The coaches and scheme: Coach Ken Whisenhunt is regarded as a quarterback guru, but that may be a bit inaccurate. Plenty of offensive coaches could have fared well guiding Ben Roethlisberger, Kurt Warner and Philip Rivers, right? Whisenhunt failed to help the Cardinals find and develop a replacement for Warner in his one big test of development.
He is, however, a very good schemer and playcaller. Perhaps he, offensive coordinator Jason Michael and quarterback coach John McNulty can pull stuff out of Locker we haven’t seen and help him blossom.
Health: Say Locker's luck changes and he stays healthy and gives the Titans 16 games. He's not a guy who lacks confidence when you speak with him, but he does seem to get swallowed up by the moment sometimes. Perhaps he can put together a stretch like he did at the start of 2013 when he was getting progressively better.
If it’s uninterrupted by an injury, his confidence can grow and a switch can flip.
The running game: The Titans expect to run the ball better without Chris Johnson getting the bulk of their carries. Bishop Sankey is likely the primary back, but they’ve got better situational ability with a group. Dexter McCluster offers a new dimension as a pass-catching back, and Sankey is good at running routes, too. A healthy Shonn Greene can covert short-yardage situations.
Bob Bostad is the new coach of an underachieving offensive line that now has starting caliber players, which means the group should improve. That should translate into better protection and a better run game, two things that can alleviate pressure from Locker.
The defense: Coordinator Ray Horton is converting the Titans to a 3-4. If the Titans can rush the passer the way they believe, they can stall more drives and force more turnovers. If the offense gets the ball back more often and with better field position -- an area a good crop of return men can help as well -- things will get easier for the quarterback.
Most of this, of course, is about making the things around Locker better, so that Locker can be better.
Final thoughts ...
Both of these statements are too broad in a team game:
A) A quarterback makes the guys and things around him better.
B) The guys and things around him make a quarterback better.
In today's NFL you need more A than B.
If the Locker die is cast, we’re talking too much about B.