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Ask Mike: Jake Locker Looking More Comfortable as Titans Starting QB

Posted Jun 21, 2013

Over half of the questions in the mailbag are about quarterback Jake Locker. Some examples…

Jack in Austin, TX: “Mike -most of the media does not give the Titans much of a chance because of the "question" of Jake Locker's ability to play QB. What is your take?”

James from Newark, NJ: “How have Jake Locker looked so far in the OTAs, as far as accuracy, grasp of the new offense as well as being a field general…a la Steve McNair?”

Shane in Los Angeles, CA: “Mike, is Jake Locker beginning to look like a legitimate QB for the Titans, and is he looking like we will be able to step up and be this franchise's QB of the future?”

In order to get you some deeper Jake Locker answers, I went to new Titans quarterback coach Dave Ragone and attempted to ask him as many of the questions that you asked me. I wanted Ragone’s viewpoint in large part because he’s worked with Jake as the receivers’ coach, but is new to working with him on a daily basis. Plus, Ragone was a great college quarterback and spent 3 years in the NFL. And frankly, I had not heard his opinions on Locker.

Special thanks to Will Crockett who helped to make this happen…

Mike Keith: "Where do you see the most improvement in Jake Locker?"

Dave Ragone: "That is a good question. I think overall in a new system what he has done a good job of is he has gone and he has really grasped it. He owns it and goes out there, and he is plays fast. In terms of improvement, it is tough cause it is a new system, but in terms of fundamentals and all that he has extremely worked hard on that. What he does is go out there right now, he is playing fast, and he is playing confident and I think the rest of the guys see that."

Mike: "When I watch him, he just looks more comfortable. Is that a fair assessment?"

Ragone: "Yeah, like I said I think the ownership of it. I think he knows why we are doing it and also more importantly he feels like he can make it work. He is a starter, and it is his show. Obviously, us as coaches, our job to put pieces in place for him to be successful. He goes in there, and he tells if he likes it or doesn't like it and that’s the great thing about him. Great competitor. Its different, he knows this is "my team" right now, and so its been good that way."

Mike: "What are the keys to him being accurate this season?"

Ragone: "I’m not a subscriber to the non-accuracy. When I went back and when I had a chance fortunate enough to get the job went back and studied all his throws since he has been a Titan. Basically, I did for myself if it was what type of ball he threw. Was is a catchable ball, un-catchable ball? His numbers were through the roof. Which told me, there are reasons why a guys percentages go higher or lower. It is just at the end of the day we get a box score, and we judge a guy off it. Until you really start to peel back the layers and understand maybe you weren't on the same page, maybe you were throwing the ball, or maybe you were trying to force a situation. The point is he goes back there and you saw he can throw the football with anybody. He is confident enough to do it, and that’s what he is doing right now."

Mike: "You're a quarterback by trade, you mentioned the term “different offense” earlier in the conversation. From a technical standpoint, formations, calling plays, and so how different is this offense from the offense you ran last year?"

Ragone: "Its a 180. From a philosophical and how we call it. They have come in basically from scratch these guys and learn in, learn the concepts, and learn how we are going to call things. There is no carryover. I think that’s one of the reasons why guys are out here focused because they can't rest in the fact that I know what we are doing, they don't because its new to them. By that, they are taking ownership in it and at the end of the day if players can take ownership, we have a chance."

Mike: "You are obviously not going to give away the specifics of why its different, but let me ask you a couple of specific questions. Are there easier throws in this offense for the quarterback?"

Ragone: "I think it depends on which quarterback. I was fortunate enough as a player to play in a couple of different systems. Some guys grasp certain things in terms throws they like in certain systems better than others. That doesn't mean its an easier system. When you can take the gray out of some things, the guys can go out and play fast. I think that’s what you are seeing. Even when we are making mistakes, you have guys going out there and they are playing as fast as they can. You have a quarterback getting at the top of his drop playing fast. Whatever that system is and there is a bunch of systems in the National Football League and College Football and all that, but whatever that systems that allows a guy to do that, then I think you can be successful."

Mike: "Are there more easier throws for Jake Locker in this system?"

Ragone: "Yeah. As you saw out here, I think the best thing of what you guys have seen during OTAs and what you saw on the first day of mini-camp here is he is going back with a purpose, he is going back like I can find myself a competition, he is going back where he knows where guys are suppose to be. You saw a go route called on the sideline by Kenny Britt, and you saw a six yard ball completed. I can't stress it enough. If the quarterback drops back with confidence, then he can make almost any play work if he believes in it and sells it to the guys."

Mike: "Are there more designed runs for the quarterback in this offense?"

Ragone: "I wouldn't say that compared to what we did. I won't know that till the season starts probably. What you don't wanna take away from ten is you don't wanna ever take away his ability to go out make that play. He is such an unbelievable competitor, and that’s the probably the number one trait I love about him. That’s something you really don't wanna harness. That’s the one things, he will probably create as many yards or more on non-designed runs just by the fact that defenses are going to be a little nervous when he breaks the pockets. That’s great, now it will simplify what they can do against him. To his credit, he will be able to go out there and play fast."

Mike: "What do you like about him better about his game now that you are coaching maybe that you didn't know about him when you were the receive coach?"

Ragone: "I think first and foremost, I have a much better appreciation for him as a player. When I was coaching receivers, I was so embedded with those receivers. Especially during practice, I couldn’t tell you the quarterback that was in. I told myself when I took the job and got offered the job at receiver, I was just going to focus on that. Obviously, when I took the quarterback job and chance to get it, I was just going to focus on quarterback. To really look at the film and watch him play, where I'm not looking at other position, you have a greater appreciation for his ability. There is a reason why he was drafted where he was drafted. There is a reason why we believe in him. When you really look at the film, you can see it."

Mike: "Where is the place in his game, where he has the most upside that could help to become that true “franchise elite quarterback”?"

Ragone: "Well I think he has a lot of qualities. I think though when you watch him, his athletic ability. I was fortunate enough to play or at least on the sidelines against Steve McNair when I was the Texans and watch what he was able to do. Especially, when things look like they were breaking down or a guy was hanging on him. Jake has that unchaining ability of when things break down, he keeps his eyes up he looks to throw, and he can also look to take off. Also when he is outside of the pocket, he is very accurate. It’s one of those things its very hard to teach what he is able do. I think in the pocket, I keep going back to today, but you have seen. He is able to go back in the pocket and make throws. Now, you can't just play for him to be one-dimensional. I think the sky’s the limit for him."

Mike: "Gregg Williams and Jerry Gray have both said they have wanted to make it as hard on Jake Locker as they can in practice, so that hopefully the games are even easier. Have you seen that intensity in them giving him more challenges even in Mini Camps and OTAs?"

Ragone: "Yeah. You are talking about two very good defensive minds. You are talking about in Gregg Williams and Jerry Gray a number years as coordinators in this league and highly successful. They know certain ways to attack certain quarterbacks. It is good. The more looks we can get the better. Because we are going to wind up against Pittsburgh in the first game, and they are going to run certain front and coverage. We come back and play Houston, and they are slightly different and all the way down the road. The more they can see now, the more we can teach off tape the better off its gonna be for us down the long road. But yeah, its great. The fact that they are challenging us allows us to go in and coach all the different certain scenarios."

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