AFC South: Vince Young

On drafting quarterbacks regularly

February, 24, 2014
Feb 24
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jake Locker is in line to be the Titans' starting quarterback in 2014.

But he’s going to have competition and Tennessee hopes the group is better overall.

Right now it’s Locker, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tyler Wilson.

Expect a draft pick as well.

“I really think you probably should look at the quarterback position every year,” general manager Ruston Webster told Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean. “I’d like to take that philosophy moving forward.”

Ron Wolf, the former GM of the Green Bay Packers, believed in drafting a quarterback every year. Hit on them at any kind of decent rate, you develop the most important commodity in the league, give yourself options, make trades and upgrade draft picks.

The thing that makes it somewhat difficult is that to take an approach like that, a team without a clear-cut franchise signal-caller probably has to commit to carrying three quarterbacks.

In the Titans' case, it’d be the presumptive starter in Locker. It’d be the veteran backup in Fitzpatrick or someone like him who could play when needed but not require regular practice snaps. And it’d be the rookie or second-year kid like Wilson.

The loser of that last spot could be rated as a practice-squad talent, but there would be very little practice work for the third guy, let alone the fourth.

Here's some detail on drafting quarterbacks from Michael Bonzagni of ESPN Stats & Information:

In the last 10 drafts (2004-2013), there have been a total of 126 quarterbacks taken.

Most QBs taken in last 10 drafts:
  • Broncos: 7
  • Jets: 6
  • Eagles: 5
  • Packers: 5
  • Browns: 5
  • Ravens: 5
  • 49ers: 5
  • Redskins: 5

The Titans have drafted three in that span, tied for 24th most.

Two of the three quarterbacks the Titans have taken in that time frame have been first-round picks -- Vince Young, third overall in 2006, and Locker, eighth overall in 2011.

That's tied with four other teams (the Broncos, Browns, Bills, Redskins) for the most QBs taken with first-round picks.

Tennessee is the only team in the last 10 drafts to use two different top-10 picks on QBs.

There have been a total of 28 quarterbacks taken in the first round in the last 10 drafts, 16 with top-10 picks.

The Titans also took Rusty Smith with a sixth-round pick in 2010.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

By Gary Kubiak’s count, just seven of his 15 linebackers are practicing, says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

The Texans have been drawing record crowds at training camp. Says John McClain of the Houston Chronicle.

Kubiak believes an element of early struggle for a top rookie makes him stronger in the end, says McClain.

Deion Sanders talked to the Texans' defensive backs, and you can watch it here through the team’s website. (Video.)

Indianapolis Colts

Andrew Luck and Reggie Wayne are passing around the unofficial team presidency, says Mike Chappell of the Indianapolis Star.

Robert Mathis says not being with Dwight Freeney is still weird, says Michael Marot of the Associated Press.

A collection of videos from the Star. Griff Whalen’s having a great camp where the depth at receiver is limited. With Darrius Heyward-Bey out with a knee sprain, Whalen figures to play a lot in the preseason opener Sunday against Buffalo.

Speed up the clock and let’s get to meaningful games, says Phillip B. Wilson of the Star.

Is Antony Castonzo’s new look part of being the longest-running incumbent on the Colts’ offensive line? Heather Bremer of the Anderson Herald Bulletin looks at Castonzo.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Rookie receiver Ace Sanders is having a sensational training camp according to Hays Carlyon of the Florida Times-Union.

Practice highlights included a Blaine Gabbert-to-Tobias Palmer bomb and an Alan Ball interception of Gabbert, says Ryan O’Halloran of the Times-Union.

Cecil Shorts left practice with a calf injury, says the AP.

Quarterbacks Gabbert and Chad Henne, who share the top line on the depth chart, are not keeping score, says John Oehser of the team's website.

Tennessee Titans

Rookie wide receiver Justin Hunter bristles at questions about his toughness, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

Jake Locker had a slow start to practice, says Wyatt in his Monday practice report.

Multiple Titans are pleased to see Vince Young getting another chance, says Wyatt.

Moise Fokou has made the Titans' middle linebacker spot a competition with Colin McCarthy, says Teresa Walker of the Associated Press.

To which I say: McCarthy recently rejoined the starters and lasted a whole day before he developed a right hamstring issue that will keep him out of the preseason opener.
Reading the coverage ...

Apologies for going dark for the weekend and this morning. I’ve been sick. Might still be. We’ll see how the day moves along. Please hang with me ...

Houston Texans

DeAndre Hopkins’ daily dose of magical catches is creating believers, says Dale Robertson of the Houston Chronicle. “When a ball is thrown, put your money on DeAndre,” Texans left tackle Duane Brown says.

Daryl Sharpton was back to practice Sunday; Arian Foster was not says Corey Roepken of the Houston Chronicle.

To which I say: The calf strain Foster scolded the media for making too big a deal of cost him eight days. And now he has a bad back.

J.J. Watt’s elbow brace is back and he says it’s for good, says Robertson.

Indianapolis Colts

As part of getting settled in as the team’s top draft pick, Bjoern Werner did his part to plant the German version of the 1983 Nena hit “99 Red Balloons” in the heads of a lot of people, says Mike Chappell.

Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey sprained his left knee Sunday, says Chappell.

The Colts welcomed a 93-year old assault victim Amelia Rudolf to camp as their guest, says Chappell.

Hall of Fame Baltimore Colt Art Donovan passed away. The Star has the AP obituary.

Jacksonville Jaguars

A look at former Colts tight end Marcus Pollard, in his new role as the Jacksonville Jaguars player development director, from Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

Even for the talent-poor Jaguars, the path to a roster spot for some long-shots is a difficult one, says Philip Heilman of the Florida Times-Union.

The Jaguars waived two injured players who haven’t practiced since camp started: receiver Taylor Price and offensive guard Stephane Milhim, says Hays Carlyon of the Times-Union.

Tennessee Titans

Mike Munchak has made a point of emphasizing franchise history to his team, says Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean.

The Titans are trimming Akeem Ayers’ responsibilities and expecting more effective pass rushing as a result, says David Climer of The Tennessean.

Observations on Saturday’s scrimmage from Wyatt.

Vince Young is working out for the Packers on Monday, say Wes Hodkiewicz and Pete Dougherty of the Green Bay Press-Gazette.
The sophomore slump concept baffles me.

Sure, we see it at times. But it’s as if just because there is a sing-songy and alliterative name for a second-year dip, it’s a fact that any good rookie endures a sophomore slump.

I just had a pretty good view of J.J. Watt’s second year. It was no slump.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Luck
AP Photo/Michael ConroyColts quarterback Andrew Luck seems an unlikely candidate for a sophomore slump.
Coaches regularly say the biggest jump for players is between Year 1 and Year 2.

When it comes to Andrew Luck, I’m not predicting anything close to a sophomore slump.

Lee Singer of ESPN Stats & Information was kind enough to sort though numbers on quarterbacks over the past 10 years who played substantially in their first and second years.

There are 15 quarterback in the past 10 seasons who have qualified for the passer rating title in each of their first two seasons. That requires 14 pass attempts per game.

Here’s the list of those 15:

Cam Newton, CAR
Sam Bradford, STL
Matt Ryan, ATL
Andy Dalton, CIN
Joe Flacco, BAL
Byron Leftwich, JAC
Ben Roethlisberger, PIT
Mark Sanchez, NYJ
Blaine Gabbert, JAC
Vince Young, TEN
Josh Freeman, TB
Christian Ponder, MIN
Trent Edwards, BUF
Colt McCoy, CLE
Kyle Boller, BAL

Nuggets from Singer on those 15 regarding the idea of a sophomore slump:

  • Ten of them increased their completion percentage in their second year. Young had the biggest increase (51.5 to 62.3) while Bradford had the biggest drop (60.0 to 53.5).
  • Nine of the 15 increased or saw their yards per attempt remain consistent. Edwards had the biggest increase (6.1 to 7.2) while Ryan had the biggest drop (7.9 to 6.5).
  • Thirteen of the 15 saw their touchdown-to-interception ratio increase. Freeman had by far the biggest increase (.56 to 4.2, going from 10 TDs and 18 INTs to 25 TDs and six INTs) while Young had the biggest drop (.92 to .53, 12 TDs and 13 INTs to nine TDs and 17 INTs).
  • Thirteen of the 15 saw their NFL passer rating remain steady or improve. Freeman had the biggest increase (59.8 to 95.9) while Matt Ryan had the biggest drop (87.7 to 80.9).
  • There are 10 quarterbacks in the QBR era (since 2008) who have qualified for the passer rating title in each of their first two seasons. Seven of those QBs saw their QBR remain steady or increase. Freeman had the biggest increase (25.9 to 64.6) while Ryan had the biggest drop (74.1 to 56.6).

Improvement or decline in Year 2 hardly establishes a permanent arrow -- Freeman is much less of a sure thing now than he seemed after his second season; Ryan has become a much more known and desirable commodity since his second season.

But let’s get past this default setting that a rookie quarterback who has a decent, good or very good first year is automatically going to suffer a second-year dip.

I’d bet on Luck being far better in completion percentage (where he was at 54.1 percent in 2012 and is in a system featuring shorter passing now). I also expect he will throw fewer than 18 interceptions, throw more than 23 touchdowns, absorb fewer than 41 sacks and post a rating higher than 76.5.

The trade off for improvements in those areas is likely to come in air yards. Luck’s 10.1 air yards per pass last season, per NFL Stats & Information, was the highest number in the NFL.

How does rehashing everything that went bad in five years with the Titans help Vince Young?

While I understand that Young would want to visit with one of his super-fans in Skip Bayless, I see no way that appearing on "First Take" and spending nearly 10 minutes rehashing ancient history helps improve Young's chance to re-emerge in the NFL.

Bayless and Stephen A. Smith seem to think Young can still play. The rest of us realize 32 teams disagree, right?

Young says his issues are in the past. But once three teams have decided you can't help them and you're out of the league, it takes a special kind of guy to resurface. And NFL people clearly don't find him that special kind of guy.

I'm glad he's focused on moving forward. It sure seems like that move, if it's a football move, should be to Canada.

AFC South links: QB Matt Flynn to Jaguars?

March, 27, 2013
Houston Texans

The addition of new special teams coordinator Bob Ligashesky could be among the most meaningful moves the Texans make this offseason, writes Jerome Solomon of the Houston Chronicle.

Indianapolis Colts

General manager Ryan Grigson recently sat down with the club's season-ticket holders to answer their questions regarding free agency and the squad.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Several NFL sources have identified Jacksonville as the most likely destination for Seattle backup quarterback Matt Flynn, and the Jaguars are among the teams to talk to the Seahawks about a deal, writes Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports.

John Oehser of the team's website offers a peek at the recent workouts of some top draft prospects, and lists the players several analysts project the Jaguars to take with the No. 2 overall pick next month.

Tennessee Titans

Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, released by the Titans and signed by the Colts, worries about the impact his change of teams will have on his family, writes Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean.

Former Titans quarterback Vince Young continued his quest for an NFL job by throwing at the Texas Longhorns' pro day, writes Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press.

The Titans hosted three more free agents on Tuesday, including veteran slot receivers Brandon Stokley and Kevin Walter, writes Terry McCormick of the Titan Insider. Tennessee also had offensive lineman Chris Spencer in for a visit.
Reading the coverage…

Houston Texans

Reviewing the play of the outside linebackers in 2012 with Nick Scurfield of the Houston Texans web site.

The Texans defense needs reloading, says Patrick D. Starr of State of the Texans.

Indianapolis Colts

Jeff Saturday’s biggest regret is that the Colts didn’t pursue the perfect season in 2009, writes Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star.

A trip to visit the troops was life-altering for Clyde Christensen, says Mike Chappell of the Star.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Running through the Jaguars roster and considering where the biggest reconstruction is needed, with Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union.

How points per attempt weighs in on the Blaine Gabbert versus Chad Henne, from Nate Dunlevy of Bleacher Report.

Tennessee Titans

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean expects the Titans will be able to keep Rob Bironas, and that they will chase Andy Levitre.

An apologetic letter from Vince Young to Jeff Fisher was like a lot of stuff from Young, too little too late, says Wyatt.

Reviewing Moss' time in Tennessee

January, 31, 2013
Randy Moss' short time with the Titans in 2010 still stirs debate in Nashville.

The team was hardly stacked at receiver, claimed Moss off waivers, then hardly used him.

It’s still a punchline that former coach Jeff Fisher and his staff, once Kenny Britt was healthy that year, said they couldn’t find a way to play both Britt and Moss at the same time because they played the same position.

[+] EnlargeRandy Moss
Jim Brown/US PresswireRandy Moss played in eight games for the Titans, catching just six passes for 80 yards and no scores.
The fact was that the Titans determined Moss couldn’t run. Once that was the case, it seemed to me they should have cut him. But cutting him wouldn’t have gone over well in the locker room because most of the team loved him.

Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean asked Moss, now with the 49ers and preparing to play in the Super Bowl, about the weird time in Tennessee.

He said he was blackballed.

“Why they claimed me, I really don’t know. There were some things where I could really tell I really wasn’t liked, and that was coming from the coaching staff. To be able to still make plays … there were some things going on in-house that I probably won’t speak upon until I write my book.”

But Jeff Fisher had what I thought was a reasonable answer, one that he didn’t offer publicly in 2010.

Writes Wyatt:
(Offensive coordinator Mike) Heimerdinger was undergoing cancer treatment, and three weeks after Moss arrived there was upheaval at quarterback — Vince Young suffered a thumb injury, threw a tantrum in the locker room, fell out of favor and wound up on injured reserve. Kerry Collins took over as the starter.

“From Randy’s perspective, I can see where he thought it might have appeared to be a little dysfunctional,” Fisher said on Wednesday. “But he did everything we asked and he was OK when he wasn’t getting playing time.”

It’s clear with what happened since Moss left that he is hardly the playmaker the Titans hoped he might be when he came in. Still it was silly that they didn’t make more of an effort to get him on the field and throw to him.

As for now?

Moss isn’t dramatically different from Damian Williams, who ranks as the Titans' fourth wide receiver.

In San Francisco this season, Moss caught 28 passes for 434 yards and three touchdowns.

In Tennessee, Williams caught 30 passes for 324 yards and no TDs.

How gap between Titans, Ravens grew

January, 28, 2013
The Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens used to be bitter rivals, closely matched.

Then Tennessee collapsed in a playoff game after the 2000 season at what now is LP Field, losing 24-10 despite dominating the game in a lot of ways.

Since that fork in the road, the teams have gone in very different directions.

Writes Jim Wyatt of The Tennessean: “The Ravens went on to win the Super Bowl, and they will play for a second championship on Sunday in New Orleans against the San Francisco 49ers. The Titans, meanwhile, haven’t won a playoff game in nine years and are coming off a 6-10 season.”

But that’s not the line of demarcation I’ll use.

The 2008 Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs. The sixth-seeded Ravens won in Miami to earn another playoff trip to Nashville. And Tennessee lost that divisional round game in a similar fashion to the game in 2000, even though the score was a lot closer, 13-10.

Since then:
  • The Titans are 29-35 (.453) with no playoff appearances.
  • The Ravens are 43-21 (.672) with a 6-3 playoff record.

That playoff meeting in Nashville was Joe Flacco’s second playoff game, and while he’s had his ups and downs, he’s now a Super Bowl quarterback.

Since then, the Titans have started Kerry Collins, Vince Young, Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker and, in an emergency situations, Rusty Smith.

Instability at quarterback is only part of the reasons the teams have been so different.

John Harbaugh has developed into a steady coach while Jeff Fisher’s tenure fizzled out and Mike Munchak hasn’t established any solid footing after two seasons.

Led by one of the NFL’s top general managers, Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens have continued good roster building.

The Titans actually have more starters and contributors out of their last four drafts, but it’s partly because of previous failures -- think Young, Adam "Pacman" Jones, Chris Henry, Paul Williams -- that so much opportunity is available.

Baltimore’s gotten far more production out of outside veterans it’s brought in: Center Matt Birk, receiver Anquan Boldin (via trade), fullback Vonta Leach, safety Bernard Pollard, resurgent left tackle Bryant McKinnie, receiver/returner Jacoby Jones.

Compare that to Tennessee’s veteran additions: Receiver Nate Washington, linebacker Will Witherspoon, quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, safety Jordan Babineaux, guard Steve Hutchinson, end Kamerion Wimbley, returner Darius Reynaud.

The Titans fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and didn’t see much change with Dowell Loggains promoted to replace Chris Palmer.

The Ravens fired their offensive coordinator late in the 2012 season, and got a major boost from Jim Caldwell taking over for Cam Cameron.

It’s a copycat league, and the Ravens were already a model franchise in many ways.

The Titans are one of a long list of teams that need to look at how the Ravens work and borrow some ideas.

Quarterback is the key, but the gap between these two teams was a playoff field goal just four years ago. It’s a deep moat now.
Jake LockerAP Photo/Wade PayneJake Locker has thrown nine TD passes and nine interceptions in his first season as a starter.
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The ticking clock for young quarterbacks is louder and louder.

If they allow for it, they can hear it at every turn.

Quick success for Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson means a large share of pundits, and even players, look at a guy like Jake Locker and wonder if he has "it."

It might not be fair to a quarterback with just eight starts, but as Locker prepares to lead the Titans against the Jets at LP Field on Monday night, it’s a fact of life.

"Those guys, especially in their first year, are setting the bar, and I think it’s normal to make those comparisons," Titans GM Ruston Webster said. "So Jake is having to live with that. That’s OK. In my mind, playing quarterback is a long-term thing, and really when you look back on a player’s career and how he improved and how he played, I think that’s the most important thing.

"But it’s amazing to me how well some of these guys are playing now early in their careers."

Locker is 2-6 in his starts. Luck, playing in the same division, is on the verge of taking the Colts to the playoffs at 9-4. Those team win-loss records are the most important thing, but quarterbacks are hardly entirely responsible for them. Locker's passer rating this season is almost two points better than Luck's.

Many of his contemporaries are faring well early, and plenty of great NFL quarterbacks had sterling first years as starters. (See chart.)

In last week’s loss in Indianapolis, Locker threw a terrible interception out of his own end zone that turned into a Colts’ touchdown. He also ran a quick sneak his coaches called for despite the fact that the play before had produced a first down. The two plays were part of an effort that left me questioning his situational awareness.

"He had an awesome first half,” said Matt Hasselbeck, Locker’s veteran backup. "And then throughout the game he had some other mistakes that he will learn from. Hopefully late in his career if those situations ever come up, he’ll have something inside of his head that says, 'No, this has happened before. I’m not doing this.'"

I don’t think Locker lacks confidence, but I do think that if he could find that one moment -- making a giant play at a crucial point in a game or leading a game-winning drive -- it might crystallize some things for him and the Titans.

When they drafted him eighth overall in 2011, the Titans said his accuracy issues at Washington were not going to be a problem. But he is connecting on 57.5 percent of his passes this season when most of the best quarterbacks who don’t have an especially vertical offense (like Luck and the Colts) are at least at 60.

Locker's supporting cast has often failed him with drops, and he is playing behind a line that has one starter left from the presumed preseason lineup.

He has been better on third down than he is during other parts of the game -- a good indicator. But he has been worse in the fourth quarter -- a bad one.

On Monday night, Rex Ryan and the Jets will work hard to confuse him with unpredictable blitzing.

"There is a lot of thinking involved and a lot going on trying to, especially protection-wise, figure out where they are coming from," Locker said.

The 4-9 Titans finish with the Jets at home, a trip to Green Bay and a home game against Jacksonville. They certainly have a chance at 2-1, and a strong finish would go a long way toward assuring that Mike Munchak will be back for a third season as the team’s head coach.

A spark from Locker would help the coach make his case. A regime change can slow a quarterback in development.

"The good thing is he’s got the demeanor. I don’t think that’s going to be a problem for him," Munchak said. "I think he can handle the pressure of things not going as well as he’d like immediately. I’ve seen guys who couldn’t handle that. He doesn’t want to have to deal with it, but this is part of him growing as a quarterback. …

"He’s not going to have a two-year career. He’s got to look at it as he’s going to be around for 15 years, God willing. I think he looks at things more long term. You mentioned the guy drafted ahead of him, Newton. Well, Newton hasn’t won anything. How many wins do they have? And how many did they have last year, six? I mean he had the stats, but they haven’t won anything. Dalton’s the only guy in his class that had a nice first year."

The Titans believe Locker is mentally tough, and that could be more valuable than ever, considering that ticking clock.

Peyton Manning’s rookie passing record stood for 13 years. It’s now been passed twice in the last two seasons, by Newton and Luck.

Even so, everyone follows a different path.

While the first- and second-year guys with big numbers get the attention, Locker is not alone.

Blaine Gabbert probably won't enter his third season as the starter in Jacksonville. Christian Ponder has been struggling in Minnesota. In Miami (Ryan Tannehill) and Cleveland (Brandon Weeden), they have rookie quarterbacks they think can be long-term answers who have played much like Locker.

Munchak and the Titans are too polite to come right out and say it, but their last first-round quarterback, Vince Young, won offensive rookie of the year with an impressive start and flamed out. They’d much prefer the opposite trajectory and are confident that’s what they will get from Locker.

Locker, Ponder, Gabbert, Tannehill and Weeden have time. They can all aspire to do what the best of their contemporaries have done. They all know the success of other young quarterbacks makes it harder for people to be patient with them.

"Andrew Luck is having a great year, and what his team is doing is awesome," Hasselbeck said. "But even him, he’s got like 18 interceptions. But he’s making those big plays; he’s making those critical plays to win the game at the end, or his team is. Someone is. As they’re winning games, he’s improving. As they’re learning how to do things together, they’re winning games. And that’s really the key, winning games along the way.

"For sure the success that those teams are having with those young guys, it eliminates excuses for anybody the same age."

CJ better with Hasselbeck than Locker

December, 13, 2012
Chris Johnson ran better when Vince Young was his quarterback than he did with Kerry Collins.

So when the Titans made the move in the preseason to go from Matt Hasselbeck, more of a pocket guy like Collins was, to Jake Locker, more mobile like VY, the presumption was that things would get better for Johnson.

That’s not been the case.

Locker has started eight games this year, with Hasselbeck starting five while Locker was out with an injured left shoulder.

Per ESPN Stats & Info, Johnson has actually run better with Hasselbeck running the huddle:

Johnson is averaging 6.2 yards per rush in games Hasselbeck started and 3.6 in Locker’s starts.

Johnson was hit in the backfield on 11.2 percent of his rushes with Hasselbeck at quarterback, compared to 20.1 percent of his runs with Locker at QB.

Johnson is averaging 4.8 yards before contact per rush with Hasselbeck and 2.4 with Locker.

He’s scored three TDs playing with Hasselbeck and one with Locker.

Why the differences?

“VY vs. Collins was easy, a great running QB opens up a ton of room for the running back,” said Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. “Defensive ends were less likely to crash down on an inside run because they feared VY keeping it and going around tackle. That is just one of many examples.

“As for Hasselbeck vs. Locker, that is tougher to explain. Without REALLY digging into it heavily, my immediate thought is that Hasselbeck has much more freedom at the line of scrimmage to audible and get into the best play, whether it run or pass. I doubt Locker has that freedom. Also, the Titans’ offensive line was much healthier when Hasselbeck player (particularly with right tackle David Stewart), which could be the entire reason.”

Will Washington do more with Locker?

November, 30, 2012
In his first two seasons with the Titans, Nate Washington looked like an overpaid free agent miss. He was good for a periodic big play, but he also dropped a lot of balls and made a lot of excuses.

I remember speaking with a powerful personnel man about Washington. He said the Titans had overspent on a guy who was very good when plays broke down and got extended by a scrambling Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh, but very average on a regular play that lasted a regular length of time.

Last year, with a big assist from new receivers coach Dave Ragone, Washington blossomed in a big way. He was a much more mature locker room presence, he was a quality leader on and spokesman for the offense, and he posted career highs in the big three categories with 74 catches for 1,023 yards and seven touchdowns.

Playing mostly with quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, Washington’s yards per catch were the second-lowest of his career -- 13.8.

Still, among active players with at least 300 catches, Washington’s 15.0 ranks eighth. (Vincent Jackson is first, at an outrageous 17.9. Calvin Johnson is second at 16.2, the rest are 15.6 or below.)

Washington was good at turning into a target for Roethlisberger under Pittsburgh’s scramble rules. The Titans thought he would do the same for Vince Young in a relationship that never really panned out.

Now, with Jake Locker healthy and set as the Titans' quarterback, Washington is working for another mobile quarterback with the chance to make some especially big plays when Locker can extend a play and coverage is asked to last too long.

Here’s a look, thanks to Matt Willis of ESPN Stats and Info, at Washington’s yards per catch by quarterback.

Adams: Titans 'outcoached, outplayed'

November, 4, 2012
For fans who feel better after crushing losses if an eccentric owner rants, Jim Wyatt of The Tennessee provides this from the Tennessee’s Bud Adams on the heels of the Titans 51-20 loss:
“In my 50 years of owning an NFL franchise, I am at a loss to recall a regular-season home game that was such a disappointment for myself, and fans of the Titans. We were grossly outcoached and outplayed from start to finish today.

“At this time, all aspects of the organization will be closely evaluated, including front office, coaches and players over the next seven games. If performance and competitiveness does not improve, I will look at all alternatives to get back to having the Titans become a playoff and championship football team.”

So unhappy was Adams that he left after three quarters to head home to Houston.

Coach Mike Munchak is an Adams favorite, as is senior executive vice president/COO president Mike Reinfeldt. Both are former players for the Houston Oilers, and Munchak is a Pro Football Hall of Famer.

Last year, in Munchak’s first as Jeff Fisher’s replacement, the Titans posted a 9-7 record and qualified as a surprise.

This year’s team is giving up 34 points a game and has lost blowouts to the Patriots, Chargers, Texans, Vikings and Bears.

Adams doesn’t meddle nearly as much as he did back when the team was in Houston, though he forced the issue when Vince Young was the No. 3 pick in 2006. He called out Fisher and his staff once in the early 2000s and the Titans' play improved dramatically, making him feel as if his comments sparked a turn around.

There are talent limitations with this team that are likely to prevent that from happening, though the toughest section of the schedule is past.

Munchak doesn’t need his boss to publicly threaten his future in order for him to know just how badly things are going.

But he’s got that now too.

Check Wyatt's piece for players reflections on just where this loss ranked, and for a hint about when, or if, Adams will be back to see them play again soon.

Should short throws be easy throws?

October, 4, 2012
Andrew LuckThomas J. Russo/US PRESSWIREAndrew Luck has struggled to complete throws of 10 yards or less, connecting on just 56 percent of attempts.

“In small proportions we just beauties see,” author Ben Jonson wrote about 400 years ago. “And in short measures life may perfect be.”

My 2012 football rendition of that, for our purpose here, is that short passes should be easy for quarterbacks to connect on, and I expect a completion percentage a lot closer to perfect on them.

I’ve often watched a quarterback misfire on a short pass and marveled at just how he managed it. I mean, the guy is right there! Just get it to him.

In talking with quarterbacks and coaches recently, I’ve come to realize it’s too simplistic a stance. We can at least partly blame former Titans signal-caller Vince Young for getting me there. His frequent misfires on short throws drove me crazy and often were due to lazy mechanics or a lack of urgency.

The fact that Andrew Luck and Blaine Gabbert are currently two of the league’s worst six quarterbacks at completing passes of fewer than 10 yards may be disturbing, but isn’t so simply dissected.

“In my opinion, there is a misconception that it’s really easy to complete passes short,” said the Titans' Jake Locker, the AFC South’s other young quarterback who has fared better throwing short. “You’ve got to navigate the line of scrimmage, sometimes guys are getting their hands up trying to bat balls, and you’ve got to find throwing lanes. There are differences. There are definitely differences.

“If you’ve got matchups down the field that you like and you throw it with conviction, you don’t have to worry about up front; you don’t have to worry about somebody tipping the ball, it’s not something that goes into your thought process. When you’re throwing a checkdown 4 yards, you’re having to figure out how you can get it to a guy. And sometimes that’s a little more difficult.”

Luck has connected on just 42 of 75 passes of 10 yards or fewer (56 percent). That’s a bit higher than his overall completion percentage (53.3).

But compared to his quarterbacking colleagues, it’s not very good. Twenty quarterbacks are hitting on such passes 65 percent of the time or better. Fourteen are 70 percent or better.

“Nothing’s easy in this league, as I’m finding out every weekend, every practice,” Luck said. “It’s something I’ve got to get better at. I’ve got to get better at making sure when the guy’s open or there’s good coverage, make sure the ball’s in a place where our guy can catch it, the defender can’t. And understand, too, that will come with reps, it’ll come with time. But if I’m not getting better every week, then that’s where I start worrying about it.”

Houston’s Johnathan Joseph is probably one of the top three cover cornerbacks in the league. Like Locker, Joseph points out all the variables that go into short stuff, and he thinks a quarterback is probably under duress more often when throwing short than at any other time.

“They can show you blitz and then drop back into a different coverage that you didn’t expect, and you’re looking downfield, and by the time you look underneath you’re probably getting hurried or something like that,” Joseph said. “It can be a combination of a lot of different things.”

For Matt Hasselbeck, the Titans veteran who will fill in for an injured Locker this week in Minnesota, it’s not so much about the distance of the throw as it is the comfort level with the play.

Give a quarterback one of the dozen plays he’s most comfortable with and he’s going to fare better with it. Take him further from his comfort zone, even if the throw is short, the success rate will dip.

“Sometimes when you’re a younger quarterback, they think they’re helping you by making it a shorter throw, but it may not be something you’re super comfortable with,” he said.

And is the target moving? Timing things up with a moving target is always more difficult than getting the ball to a receiver who’s gone to a spot and turned into a stationary target. A quarterback can often get away with being a touch late on throws to a stationary target, Hasselbeck said, and being a touch late is often part of the equation with a young quarterback.

A quick wide receiver screen should rarely be missed. A swing pass to a back running more of a wheel route may cover the same distance, but is more complex.

Another variable, as with virtually any pass, is the way the route is run and the timing of it.

“Each receiver has his own flavor, runs the route a little bit different, a little different speed, a little different sense of urgency,” Locker said. “Whatever it may be, it’s different. So when you’re trying to be real quick and efficient underneath, that can affect it.”

Houston fullback James Casey is rated as having the best hands on the Texans. He’s made three catches per game for QB Matt Schaub, who can expect reliability in routes out of the backfield from a guy who is as much an H-back as a fullback.

And Casey knows Schaub will deliver a good ball. Schaub is connecting on seven of 10 passes thrown 10 yards or fewer.

“A lot of it is about the QB just throwing a really good ball,” Casey said. “Matt Schaub’s going to throw an extremely good ball. He’s really good at making it real easy to catch, putting it in spots where it’s real easy to catch. It does make a lot of difference.

“Because a lot of times as a receiver, you can’t see the ball coming out over the line of scrimmage until late. When it’s put in the right spot, you don’t have any choice but to catch it; it hits you in the chest. But if it’s a little low or something, it makes it a little harder.”
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Jake Locker has been a Titans quarterback since April 28, 2011.

In 22 preseason and regular-season games since then, he’s not yet had a game plan drawn up specifically for him.

After officially naming him its starting quarterback this season today, that’s one of several reasons the franchise is very confident in him going forward.

“There are a lot of things he can do, there are a lot of phases of the game he can affect,” coach Mike Munchak said. “There are things we can do with him that we haven’t shown in the preseason. We haven’t helped him play his kind of game.”

Locker’s ability to move around and run is part of what made him an attractive draft prospect. And he’s fast, having run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash.

But the Titans are careful about how they paint him.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Jim Brown/US Presswire"There are things we can do with him that we haven't shown in the preseason," Titans coach Mike Munchak said of newly crowned starter Jake Locker.
“It just brings a totally different element to the game, which we’ve had before, with guys like Vince (Young) and Steve (McNair), (Warren) Moon when I played,” Munchak said. “He’s a quarterback that can run. He’s not a running quarterback to me …”

“He can get out of the pocket, put the fear in the defense, that’s a nice thing to have. Does that mean that we have to move the pocket and do all these things, because he’s not capable of sitting in the pocket?" he continued. "No. We think he’s great in the pocket and we’re excited about that. The fact that he can do a lot of other things creates a lot of issues for teams that have to deal with him.”

Locker downplayed the differences we might see with him running the offense, saying there are “little nuances” but that the goal is the same no matter who’s quarterbacking -- trying to find ways to take advantage of all Tennessee’s weapons.

One of the weapons Locker spoke of, Nate Washington, sees all sorts of new, dynamic possibilities. Offense coordinator Chris Palmer has already said the Titans will feature some run-and-shoot principles utilizing more conventional personnel.

“He’s going to give us an opportunity to come out and do some different things that we haven’t shown,” said Washington, who broke through with his first 1,000-yard season with Matt Hasselbeck as the starter last year. “A little bit of everything with the spread, our heavy packages with the triple tight end. He gives us a little bit of everything and that’s going to be a positive for us.

“He does different things that Matt wasn’t able to do, of course, as far as running and being mobile. It’s a good opportunity for us to come out and show a little different diversity.”

The team was reaching a point where it was ready to rally around a guy.

“I’m excited for him,” left tackle Michael Roos said. “It’s who our guy is. Now we know. We can just get ready.”

Munchak expressed gratitude to Hasselbeck, who did wonders to smooth a difficult transition.

A first-year coach had no offseason time with players in 2011, but found a veteran quarterback able to fill a major leadership void and help spread his message of professionalism while talking of service to his teammates.

Hasselbeck couldn’t have handled losing the job more professionally.

“Matt's one of the best guys I know,” Locker said asked about their exchange after they learned the verdict Sunday night. “It wasn't awkward. It wasn't tough.”

When Hasselbeck signed a three-year deal as a free agent, the Titans told him they wanted to create stability and security at quarterback while looking to turn to Locker at whatever pace Locker dictated.

“I think his development as a quarterback in all areas has definitely been impressive,” Hasselbeck said. “… He's everything they hoped he would be and I would certainly agree. I'm a big fan of his. I think he'll do well.”