INDIANAPOLIS – As the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NFL Draft, Jake Locker joined Tennessee will great aspirations.
Locker played in five games in 2011, including in a reserve role the last time the Titans visited Indianapolis.
As Tennessee makes its annual trek this year, Locker will be under center again in trying to help the 4-8 Titans knock off 8-4 Indianapolis.
Locker started the first four games this year before suffering a non-throwing shoulder injury against Houston. He has started the last three games and opens for the first time against the Colts.
It represents a change from Matt Hasselbeck, who has started the last three series outings for Tennessee.
“(They are) two different quarterbacks, with Hasselbeck being in the West Coast (system) for a long time,” said defensive coordinator Greg Manusky. “Locker (is) a little bit better athlete. (He) can make all the throws as well, but going through that learning process with that West Coast system (is tough), but (he’s) doing well.”
Locker is second on the team with 162 rushing yards, twice last week escaping the pocket for 15-yard gains.
“He can scramble out of the pocket, so we’ve got to make sure that we force him into that pocket and get as much pressure on him as possible,” said Manusky.
Locker completed 21 passes last week for 309 yards, the second 300-yard effort in his seven starts. He helped direct a 37-3 victory at Miami in his first start after the injury.
“Once he gets outside the pocket, I would say running is one of his strengths,” said Mathis. “He’s mobile and can be on the move, and he definitely can hurt us. Everyone will need to stay in his lane and not be undisciplined. If we’re undisciplined, he can get out and move the chains, and that’s not what we want to have happen.”
Tennessee also is operating with a new coordinator in Dowell Loggains. Loggains replaced Chris Palmer recently, and the knowledge of his style compared to that of Palmer is limited. A wild card also is the presence of Tom Moore, the Colts’ long-time coordinator who joined Tennessee recently as an observer.
“He’s dangerous. We know the guru that Tom is,” said Mathis. “We’ll have to be on the details and can’t slack on any aspect.
“Tennessee is always dangerous, an AFC South rival. They come to play every time we play them. We don’t take them lightly. We don’t look past them. We know they are capable of making you look bad.”
Mathis admits it has been fun being on a team that is exceeding expectations from those beyond the locker room, but he knows the four games ahead can bring heartache as well as opportunity.
“I’ll be honest, it does feel a little good. We expected to be good this season,” said Mathis. “When the guys inside the wall buy in, things like this are expected. It’s pretty fun this year. I’m 10 years into it, and guys are just enjoying football. We don’t know any better, we just play football and keep fighting.
“I’m just happy to see the guys and the whole team and city have the good times but at the same time, the job is not done yet.”