Titans-Steelers Film Review: Jake Locker on 3rd Down

Vincent Pugliese

Locker's success on third down will be important to the Titans winning this season. In this post, we'll look at how he fared against one of the NFL's best defenses in third down situations.

Heading into this season, I thought minimizing 3rd and longs would be critical for success.  From what I've seen of Jake this preseason, he's great when the reads are defined and he understands what he is seeing.  We saw this against Atlanta where most of the throws came off play action and the first and second reads were open.  The question remained unanswered about how Jake would respond on obvious throwing downs once defenses had a chance to open up the playbook.

Below are all of Jake's 3rd down throws from the Steelers game.  I've removed throws where a penalty was involved.

Jakethrow1_medium

Situation:  3-6-PIT 49.  Titans are down 2-0.  5:48 to go in the 1st Quarter.

Titans call a play out of the shotgun formation with 11 personnel.  2x2 set.  Phenomenal play by Jake.  Pittsburgh brings 4 man pressure.  The positives here are threefold:

1.  Jake stands tall in the pocket immediately post snap.  He's not as frenetic as we've seen in the past.

2.  Once he's diagnosed that Walker isn't winning on his pivot route, he redirects his eyes to the left side of the field and buys time with his feet.  Eye level remains downfield.

3.  DWill does a great job getting back to the quarterback with situational awareness.  His playcall is a vertical route, but he works back to the play once Jake breaks the pocket.

Jakethrow2_medium

Situation:  3-14-PIT 40. Titans are down 2-0.  3:39 left in the 1st Quarter.

Titans are again in 11 personnel.  Balanced, tight set.  Pittsburgh brings 5 man pressure, but it's the DT that handily beats Turner and Warmack to get immediate pressure.  Despite this pressure, Jake had a little more time.  You'll note his weight transfer isn't clean.  He's not totally stepping into the throw.  Interior pressure presented serious problems for Jake, so you'd like to see better accuracy here.

Jakethrow3_medium

Situation:  3-10-TEN 20.  Titans down 2-0.  8:05 left in the 2nd quarter.

Titans are in 20 personnel.  Not a whole lot to say here.  Jake does a good job of feeling pressure around him, but this is a bad throw.  A shot deep to Nate here might have been a better place to with the ball, but without knowing the playbook it's hard to place that blame.

Jakethrow4_medium

Situation:  3-6-TEN 35.  Titans ahead 7-2. 12:55 left in the 3rd quarter.

11 personnel for the Titans (I'm sensing a trend).  Titans have both receivers to the boundary run curls.  This is designed to be a timing throw.  Locker overcooks it high.  Hard to say what went wrong here.  Pocket is clean enough, though interior pressure could likely be felt by Locker.

Jakethrow5_medium

Situation:  3-15-TEN 50.  Titans ahead 7-2. 9:32 left in the 3rd quarter.

Titans are in 11 Personnel.  Trips left.  Walker is in the Flex TE spot.  Outside receivers essentially run a smash combination.  Walker runs a seam route, potentially with a read.  Tremendous throw.  Over the LB.  Under the safety.  Walker fumbles after the reception, but it doesn't change the fact that this is a great play by Locker.

Jakethrow6_medium

Situation:  3-13-PIT 28.  Titans ahead 7-2. 7:43 left in the 3rd quarter.

Titans are in 11 personnel.  Pittsburgh 5 men, which results in pressure up the middle.  Jake has a 5 step drop here.  Stands tall, which may not seem like a huge deal, but he struggled with "phantom" pressure at times last year.  Great throw to Nate on the deep out.

Jakethrow7_medium

Situation:  3-9-PIT 12.  Titans ahead 7-2. 5:39 left in the 3rd quarter.

Titans are in 11 personnel.  Double smash play.  The play by play broadcaster took issue with Jake not taking a shot at the endzone, but there wasn't a play to be made.  Jake wisely avoids forcing the ball here.

Jakethrow8_medium

Situation:  3-5-TEN 32.  Titans ahead 10-2. 2:17 left in the 3rd quarter.

Titans are in 11 personnel.  Steelers bring 5 man pressure with a corner and safety blitz.  The actual pressure comes right up the middle from the safety on a delayed blitz.  Jake feels the pressure and slides.  Eyes down field.  Such a great thing to see.  We rarely saw this last year.  Two other things to note:

1.  Nate does a good job getting back to the QB when the play breaks down.

2.  Delanie Walker is clearly familiar with the scramble drill.  He's wide open here.  As Jake and Walker get more comfortable with each other, there could be potential for big plays when things break down.

Jakethrow9_medium

Situation:  3-15-TEN 50.  Titans ahead 10-2. 14:47 left in the 4th quarter.

Titans are in 11 personnel.  Steelers bring 5.  This GIF doesn't represent the play well.  This is actually a decent throw, but Williams slips on the out route.

Jakethrow10_medium

Situation:  3-25-PIT 33.  Titans ahead 10-2. 7:18 left in the 4th quarter.

Titans are in 11 personnel.  Jake throws a quick screen to Wright for a short gain.  Not much to analyze here as this is a predetermined playcall.

Sports Illustrated does a great job of compiling situational stats.  And, their statistics on Jake are helpful here:

  • Jake Locker on 3rd down - 6/10.  72 yards.  0 TD / 0 INT.  4 first downs.
  • On 3rd and long (6+), Jake was 5/9 for 63 yards and 3 first downs.
  • The Titans converted on 40% of their first downs last game, which is fairly solid.  League high was 48% last year (Patriots) - interestingly, we were middle of the pack last year in 3rd down percentage at 38%.
  • Jake was 4/10 for 43 yards on his first 10 attempts and 7/10 for 82 yards on his last 10 attempts.
I see improvement out of Jake on these third down throws.  It's not all positive, but for the most part it's solid.  He's not pressing, which is huge.  I'd say in this game he could be characterized as a game manager, which is fine.  Throws and reads were largely kept simple, but it's still a positive that he managed the situation well.

All that said, I'd like to see a little more aggression out of Dowell Loggains.  He was content working things underneath this game, when there appeared to be some opportunities down the field.  Everything in context, I suppose.  The game dictated some of this, and Loggains seemed content playing this game in a phone booth.  Still, less predictability is a good thing.  Jake was only asked to attempt 4 passes over 20 yards, and only one of those traveled over 30 yards.  Against an opponent like the Texans, I'd guess that the offense will be called on to score more than 16.  The way that Loggains chooses to react when his offense is relied upon to score more points will be interesting to watch.

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