If form holds, Locker likely to struggle in preseason opener

Thursday, August 11, 2011 at 9:03pm

Jake Locker says he has answered questions about expectations since his earliest days at the University of Washington.

Thus there is a sense of familiarity – not fear – in regard to those that have been raised since the Tennessee Titans made him the second quarterback selected in the 2010 NFL draft.

“For me, it’s the game of football and I’ve played it since I’ve been a little kid,” Locker said. “I enjoy playing the game. You have nerves going into a game, but I don’t feel pressure.

“I believe that my expectations are higher for myself than expectations anyone can put on me.”

He might want to temper those expectations for Saturday’s preseason opener against the Minnesota Vikings (7 p.m., LP Field), which will serve as his first taste of NFL competition. If history is an accurate indicator, it won’t exactly be smooth sailing.

Locker, the eighth pick April, is the third quarterback drafted by the Titans in the first round since 1995. Steve McNair was the third overall choice that year (when they were the Houston Oilers) and Vince Young was selected second overall in 2006.

Both struggled in their preseason debut.

McNair entered the contest on Aug. 5, 1995 at the start of the second half and was the third quarterback to see action. He played the entire third period, which consisted of four offensive possessions.

He threw a 20-yard completion on his first attempt but soon after was sacked on four consecutive pass attempts. He fumbled the last of those and recovered the ball in the end zone for a safety. He finished the day 2-for-5 for 37 yards. The four sacks lost a total of 20 yards.

Young entered his preseason opener with 8:57 remaining in the second quarter after Billy Volek handled the first three possessions. He scrambled for three yards on his second snap and got his first completion (for 14 yards) on his second throw.

He remained under center until late in the fourth quarter and finished 4-for-11 for 56 yards. He was sacked twice and had four rushes for 28 yards.

Oddly, both games were 19-16 defeats. McNair and the Oilers lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals, and Young and the Titans fell at New Orleans.

“You get the opportunity to go out and see defenses at live speed,” Locker said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to go out and have fun playing the game of football together and be as mistake-free as we can.”

Coach Mike Munchak indicated Thursday that his plan with Locker is similar to what was used with Young. Matt Hasselbeck will be the first one under center and the starters can expect to be in for 12-15 plays.

“[Locker] is going to play more than [Hasselbeck] will, and [Hasselbeck] will start it and we will see how it goes,” Munchak said. “You might have a great drive, you might have a 14-play drive and now it’s time. You don’t know how it’s going to go. If he has a three-and-out, you might say, ‘well, let’s get another one.’

“I think it’s a feel thing as the game goes. Anyone that’s competitive, you want to go out there and win and play well.”

When it comes to the part about playing well, though, there are no guarantees for Locker in this one.

“I’m going to go out and do as well as I can and hopefully be able to walk off the field knowing I did everything I could to help our team win,” he said. “At the end of the day that’s all anybody can ask.”