AFC South: QB Watch

QB Watch: Titans’ Ryan Fitzpatrick

October, 16, 2013
10/16/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Titans' quarterback play:

Fitzpatrick
Rewind: Ryan Fitzpatrick was terrible in Seattle, and said afterward the lack of offensive rhythm and the loss of momentum for a team that’s gone from 3-1 to 3-3 is largely on him. He hit on only 17 of 29 passes for 171 yards with two interceptions, no touchdowns, a passer rating of 46.8 and three sacks. His six runs for 33 yards were one bright spot. The ball was not coming out of his hand well and he looked awkward and uncomfortable.

Fast-forward: Fitzpatrick is a streaky quarterback, and he’s been bad in his first two games starting in place of the injured Jake Locker. The hope going forward is that a switch flips and he can get hot and show the other side of a streaky signal-caller. San Francisco’s got the NFL’s ninth overall defense and is sixth against the pass, with a little more than two sacks a game.

Short stuff: Per ESPN Stats & Info, Fitzpatrick was 15-for-23 for 122 yards on passes thrown 10 yards or fewer in the air. He was 2-for-6 for 49 yards with two interceptions throwing it more than 10 yards in the air. The Titans have to be able to hit intermediate and deep passes, as they aren’t currently able to drive the ball with dink-and-dunk throws, paired with a stalling running game.

Prediction: Like with a lot of predictions, I can’t forecast something good until I see something good. Five different members of the 49ers have at least one interception, and the team has eight. A turnover-free game would greatly enhance the Titans' chances to win, but I’m having trouble envisioning that for Fitzpatrick, who has thrown four interceptions and fumbled three times (losing none) in his two starts.

QB Watch: Titans’ Jake Locker

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
9:00
AM ET
A weekly analysis of the Titans' quarterback play:

Locker
Rewind: Locker played very well in the win over San Diego, engineering a game-winning drive right near the end. He posted a 96.6 passer rating and a 91.9 QBR. Some other nice numbers from ESPN Stats & Info -- on five rushes for 68 yards, including a career-long 39 yard scramble, Locker found four first downs, and he was 9-for-13 for 107 yards and a TD on third down. His final play, the 34-yard winning score to Justin Hunter, increased Tennessee’s win probability from 14.9 percent to 97.1 percent, the single biggest swing on a play last week.

Fast-forward: The Jets have the NFL’s seventh-ranked pass defense through three games, but it’s come against Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman, a group of Patriots receivers who struggled for Tom Brady and Buffalo’s rookie signal-caller EJ Manuel. They’ve recorded 12 sacks and held those quarterbacks to a 70.5 passer rating.

Confidence: Locker’s confidence should be at an all-time high after delivering the Titans to a win in dramatic fashion. The running element was excellent, and the hope will be that he keeps the Jets on guard in a similar fashion. Interior protection needs to be strong for him against 3-4 end Muhammad Wilkerson, who’s got three sacks already.

Prediction: The Jets have been a balanced defense, so it will be interesting to see whether the Titans approach this game intending to be offensively balanced. I think Locker and the offense could finally end up with some short fields to work with. Geno Smith has already thrown six interceptions. If the Titans can stop committing kickoff penalties and set up the offense with a turnover or two, things can be a lot easier for Locker.

QB Watch: Titans' Jake Locker

September, 18, 2013
9/18/13
1:30
PM ET
A weekly analysis of the Titans' quarterback play:

Locker
Rewind: Jake Locker and the Titans' offense stalled out far too frequently against the Texans, who’ve got a good defense that can and did swarm the quarterback. He was sacked four times and hit three more. The Titans went three-and-out on half their possessions and had trouble flipping the field. Locker threw two touchdowns and led an impressive 99-yard scoring drive. But on a crucial third-and-1 late, he threw an uncatchable high ball to a wide open Kenny Britt.

Fast-forward: The Chargers have the league’s worst pass defense through two games. Getting Locker on the move has been a goal of Dowell Loggains as he put together a new playbook. The Chargers run a base 3-4 defense, and that generally does not invite bootlegs and rollouts. Britt is upset over the degree of his involvement so far, so we’ll have to see how the Titans deploy him and how often Locker looks to him.

Accuracy: It’s not as if Locker is throwing the ball all over the park. But he threw way high to Britt on that very important play and his completion rate is 56 percent after it was 56.4 percent last season.

Prediction: The plan for Locker and the passing offense should find some specific things to attack considering how well the Texans and Eagles have fared throwing against the Chargers. I expect his best yardage of the season, but topping 148 yards shouldn’t, frankly, be that difficult.

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.

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