AFC South: 2013 Week 1 QB Watch AFC

QB Watch: Titans' Jake Locker

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Titans' quarterback play.

Locker
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.

QB Watch: Texans' Matt Schaub

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Houston Texans' quarterback play.

Schaub
Schaub
Rewind: Monday night's game started poorly for Matt Schaub with an interception on the very first play. But the offensive half of the Texans' second-half comeback was driven by Schaub, whose third-quarter play was superb. Schaub completed 11 of 12 passes, had a QBR of 91.7 (ESPN's statistical marker that tops out at 100 and considers down, distance and time as well as the box score) and a passer rating of 139.2. He threw one touchdown during that quarter and began another drive that ended in a touchdown in the fourth quarter. On the night, Schaub threw for 71 yards outside the pocket, the highest total of any quarterback on opening weekend, which isn't terribly surprising. Since joining the Texans in 2007, Schaub ranks fourth in passer rating and QBR on throws outside the pocket.

Fast-forward: Against the Pittsburgh Steelers last week, the Tennessee Titans' defense ranked third in net yards per pass attempt, allowing only 4.94, and second in sacks per pass attempt. They were good against the run, too, which is important for the Texans' play-action passing game. Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw one interception and Pittsburgh didn't score any offensive points until the fourth quarter as the Steelers were part of the league's opening Sunday safety parade.

Against pressure: On Monday night, Schaub threw all three of his touchdown passes against five or more rushers. Overall, though, he completed 13 of 18 attempts in those situations on 20 drop-backs. Both second-half sacks came with extra pressure. Interestingly, his passer rating was 107.2 and QBR was 27.6. Against four or fewer rushers, Schaub had the fifth-best QBR on opening weekend behind Michael Vick, Andy Dalton, Aaron Rodgers and Geno Smith. He completed 21 of 27 attempts for 223 yards.

Prediction: The Titans' defense is impressive, but their offense is not. Thus, the Texans won't find themselves in the deep hole they did Monday night and won't have to throw the ball 27 times in the second half. Schaub will throw at least one touchdown pass, but it will be a more balanced attack from the Texans' offense, which had 28 rushes and 45 passes overall in San Diego.

QB Watch: Jaguars' Blaine Gabbert

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Jacksonville Jaguars' quarterback play.

Gabbert
Gabbert
Rewind: Blaine Gabbert had a rough beginning to the most important season of his career. He completed 16 of 35 passes for 121 yards and threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a touchdown. Granted, it was the first action Gabbert had seen in three weeks because of a fractured right thumb and the offensive line gave up six sacks, but it was one of the worst performances in the league.

Fast-forward: Gabbert suffered a cut on the top of his right hand late in the game that required 15 stitches to close and he will not play in Sunday’s game at Oakland. Chad Henne will get the start, and that may not necessarily be a bad thing. In the first nine games of the 2012 season, the Jaguars averaged 263.6 yards per game, 185.3 passing yards per game and 14.1 points per game under Gabbert before he went on IR with a forearm injury. The team averaged 326.3 yards per game, 233.3 passing yards per game and 15.3 points per game in the final six games in which Henne started.

Job safety: The Jaguars’ top priority this season was finding out if Gabbert can be a franchise quarterback and the player around which to build the team under new GM Dave Caldwell and new coach Gus Bradley. One game certainly isn’t enough to make that determination, so Gabbert will return as the starter even if Henne plays well against the Raiders.

Prediction: Top receiver Justin Blackmon is suspended so No. 2 receiver Cecil Shorts (60 career catches) becomes the main target. The rest of the receivers -- Ace Sanders, Mike Brown and Stephen Burton -- have a combined 11 career catches. Could be another rough day.

QB Watch: Colts' Andrew Luck

September, 11, 2013
9/11/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Colts’ quarterback play.

Luck
Rewind: Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck didn’t show any early-season rust when he completed his first 11 passes -- with two of them going for touchdowns -- against the Oakland Raiders. He finished 18-of-23 for a career-low 178 yards. Luck was on target when he was able to get rid of the ball against Oakland’s pressure. He was 11-of-12 for 99 yards and seven first downs when facing at least five pass-rushers. Luck was efficient with his passing, but it wasn’t a typical game for him. The 23 pass attempts were also a career low. The Colts ran the ball 26 times.

Fast-forward: Luck passed for a career-high 433 yards against the Miami Dolphins last season. These aren’t the same Dolphins, though. This defensive unit is faster and more aggressive than last year’s group. Luck has to hope his offensive line can protect him because Miami’s strength is its front seven. The Dolphins sacked Cleveland Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden six times and intercepted him three times in Week 1. Luck was sacked four times against Oakland.

Multiple targets: Luck completed passes to seven different players against Oakland, but there was a huge drop off after his eight completions to Reggie Wayne. Darrius Heyward-Bey and T.Y. Hilton had three catches each. Four different receivers had one catch. There’s no doubt Wayne is still clearly the team’s No. 1 receiver, but expect those numbers to balance out more as the season progresses because Luck has too many weapons around him not to spread the ball around.

Prediction: It could be a long afternoon for Luck. The offensive line still has to prove it can protect the quarterback. An Oakland defense that’s not very good got to Luck four times last week, so expect a fast Miami defense to pressure Luck and throw different looks at him. Miami sacked Luck only once in its meeting last season.

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