Titans push back timetable after Locker’s struggles

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jake Locker’s struggles in his first preseason start have the Tennessee Titans pushing back their timetable for announcing their starting quarterback for this season.

Mike Munchak had pegged the third preseason game for making that decision, but neither veteran Matt Hasselbeck and Locker have been impressive splitting starts through the first two exhibitions. Munchak hadn’t met with his assistant coaches following a 30-7 win over Tampa on Friday night, so he’s not ready to announce his starter for Thursday night against Arizona yet, either.

“We have two more weeks to see plenty, so I guess when we feel we’re at that point we’ll make our announcements when we feel the time is right,” Munchak said Saturday.

That’s different from what Munchak said before going to Tampa that he didn’t want to pick his starting quarterback the week of the season opener Sept. 9 against New England.

Locker was the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft and was the only quarterback selected in the first round who did not start a game as a rookie. He sure looked good coming off the bench in five games and hadn’t had a pass picked off until he chose to throw back across the field in the first quarter Friday night when he had plenty of room to run for a first down.

His second pass of the game sailed over receiver Kendall Wright and was picked off by Buccaneers safety Ahmad Black. That led to the Buccaneers’ lone scoring drive. Early in the second quarter, Locker overthrew 6-foot-5 tight end Jared Cook and luckily had a defender miss a chance to pick off a pass into the end zone a play after the Titans had intercepted a pass.

“I think he thought he could make a play going across the field,” Munchak said of Locker’s decision leading to the interception. “We all know that’s very dangerous. You get away with it every so often maybe in practice but in games bad things can happen and it did. Our defense would’ve pitched a shutout other than that play, so that’s things you can’t have happen.”

Locker faced a similar choice two series later, and he scrambled for 21 yards in setting up Chris Johnson’s first of two touchdown runs. Locker finished 4 of 11 for 21 yards with a passer rating of 7.0 while running twice for 24 yards.

“There’s three or four plays that he was sloppy on just like the rest of them,” Munchak said. “So again, I wish we had more opportunities for him.”

The Titans (1-1) know what they’ve got in Hasselbeck, the veteran going into his 14th NFL season.

The man who signed a three-year contract right before training camp opened in 2011 led the Titans to a 9-7 record by throwing for 3,571 yards, fourth-best in franchise history. He ranks behind only Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady among active quarterbacks with 33,150 yards passing in his career.

But Hasselbeck has been inconsistent too. He was intercepted on his first throw this preseason and finished with two interceptions in a 27-17 loss at Seattle. Against Tampa Bay, he was 4 of 5 for 29 yards passing. He also ran once for 7 yards.

Munchak said both quarterbacks need more work. He also wasn’t happy how the Titans (No. 21 in the AP Pro32) went three-and-out five times in the first half, but he noted fans weren’t happy at how poorly Johnson ran in Seattle. Johnson averaged 4.6 yards in Tampa with 46 yards on 10 carries with the two TDs.

“Overall, we’re just not moving the ball as effectively as we need to as an offense right now,” Munchak said.

Defensively, the Titans couldn’t have asked for much more in Tampa. They held the Buccaneers to 81 total yards and minus-1 yards passing while coming up with four sacks by four different players and two turnovers.

“We did a lot of good things,” Munchak said.

Notes: OL Mike Otto will miss about three weeks after having surgery on his right ring finger. … S Jordan Babineaux did not dress in Tampa because of a sore shoulder, but Munchak said he hopes the safety will be ready to play Thursday night. LB Gerald McRath did not play and may need arthroscopic surgery on a sore knee, according to Munchak. … LB Patrick Bailey tweaked a knee in Tampa, but Munchak said he was much better Saturday and should practice Sunday.

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