Last updated on May 30th, 2014 at 12:01 pm
The first quarter of the 2013 Tennessee Titans season is in the books, and it has been a very pleasant surprise. The Titans find themselves 3-1, tied for first in the AFC South with the Indianapolis Colts, a game ahead of the Houston Texans.
But storm clouds are on the horizon as starting quarterback Jake Locker is out. Most reports say likely 4-8 weeks, with injuries to his hip and knee. The weight of the world was on Locker as the season started. The coaching staff didn’t seem to show much confidence in the third-year signal caller, and he got off to a slow start. But as the constraints were taken off him, he began to flourish.
Jake Locker looked like an NFL quarterback in leading the Titans to touchdown drives at the end of both halves in week three vs. San Diego, engineering a brilliant 94-yard drive in 1:50 with no timeouts, to win the game. He followed that up with three touchdown passes against the Jets, when the injuries occurred.
This is only devastating if the Titans allow it to be. Ryan Fitzpatrick will take over and he is capable. In August, had someone told me Fitzpatrick would be the starter in week five, I would not have been surprised. I also would have said the Titans would be 0-4, or 1-3. Instead, they are 3-1 with Fitzpatrick stepping in—and Jake Locker having grown up.
The Titans must see the positives and not allow this setback to define the season. Jake must focus on how the light came on and most questions faded away—and work for the day he picks up where he left off. Where he leaves off is quality. Locker has a passer rating of 99, completing 62.2% of his passes with six touchdowns and no interceptions. In fact, there have been no turnovers at all. Tennessee has become the second team since 1966 to start a season with zero turnovers in the first four games, joining the 1995 Rams. No team has ever gone five, and that falls to Fitzpatrick.
The defense has been much improved, as well. The Titans are allowing just over 313 yards per game, have recorded 14 sacks, forced nine turnovers, and scored two touchdowns. There is a new attitude and an edge not previously seen under Mike Munchak. You can definitely see Gregg Williams’ influence all over it.
On offense, second-year receiver Kendall Wright has emerged as a trusted go-to-guy over the middle. You know it will not be long before he breaks some big plays. Nate Washington has been the downfield threat and Delanie Walker has added some stability. Justin Hunter caught the winning score against the Chargers and is picking up the offense more and more every day. He clearly has a rapport with Locker, and that combination is sure to provide much excitement in the future.
There are negatives however. Kenny Britt has been little more than a mess of dropped passes and Twitter bombs, finding more time on the bench and reportedly being shopped for trade. Chris Johnson is only averaging 3.3 yards per carry despite the new offensive line and 21 carries per game. He only has four receptions out of the backfield.
Especially with Locker out, CJ must change those numbers for success to continue.
The season’s second quarter sees the surprising 4-0 Chiefs coming to Nashville. Then come games with the currently undefeated Seahawks, and the 49ers. A visit to Jeff Fisher’s Rams after the Bye brings the Titans halfway home.