I’ve heard it enough for an entire offseason, and we’re only in late May.
We’ve got it, Jake Locker is in a do-or-die year. He’ll either play up to the level Tennessee management thought he was capable of as the No. 8 selection, or he’ll fall apart and Zach Mettenberger will take over the team. There’s really no middle ground.
While everyone might want to fall all over themselves about Mettenberger, it’s easy to forget how good the former looked last year. Take a glance at what Locker did in the first five games last year compared to other notable quarterbacks.
With a rookie wide receiver (Justin Hunter), a second-year pro (Kendall Wright) and a given-up Kenny Britt, Locker had a remarkable start to the season. He had no support from the run game and took care of the ball. The third-year quarterback showed confidence in the pocket and on the run. He helped Wright develop into a legitimate option from the slot. And Delanie Walker had the best season of his career despite Locker missing a chunk of the year.
After Locker sprained his hip against the New York Jets, he had a decent game against the San Francisco 49ers, but was never really the same again. He eventually suffered a Lisfranc injury to his foot against the Jacksonville Jaguars weeks later and was done for the year.
He is about to start his fourth season under his third offensive coordinator. He’s poised for a big year under Ken Whisenhunt. Staying healthy is his biggest hurdle, but with a revamped offensive line and a between-the-tackles running back, Locker should find more time in the pocket.
If he can’t, and he finds himself on the injured list yet again, then we can start talking about Mettenberger. Until then, it’s Locker’s job to lose.