NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Jake Locker is hoping he can pick up where he left off for Tennessee before the team’s bye week.
Locker missed five games waiting for his left, non-throwing shoulder to heal before returning Nov. 11 at Miami. He helped the Titans end a two-game skid with a 37-3 win, and just as he was working off the rust the bye week arrived.
Now the Titans (4-6) will try to put together a winning streak starting Sunday at Jacksonville (1-9).
“It was good for us as a team to have the opportunity to kind of let our bodies rest,” Locker said Wednesday. “You know it’s 10 weeks. Really if you count the preseason it’s 14 weeks. That’s a lot of pounding on your body, so physically it’s good for guys to just take two, three days to get away from it, come back refreshed. I think it’s always a benefit for you.”
Coach Mike Munchak gave the Titans six days off for the bye week.
Now they’re ready to see what Locker can keep doing for them as they try to make a run through the final six games at what would be the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2008 after a tantalizing glimpse at what he brings to the offense in Miami.
Locker threw two touchdown passes and had a 93.8 passer rating in picking up his first career road win as a starter. He didn’t throw too much as Tennessee had short fields with four turnovers, and he was 9 of 21 for 122 yards. But he also ran four times for 36 yards, including turning a trip over Chris Johnson‘s foot and possible sack into a 20-yard gain early.
“That’s how we designed it,” Locker said with a smile.
Locker said he knew he had protection up front on the pass play and only wanted to avoid a negative play, trying to get back to the line of scrimmage when he found a crease. Locker’s ability to run was just one of the reasons why the Titans drafted him at No. 8 overall in 2011.
“That just reminds you of the things he can do that you can forget about when he hasn’t played in a while,” Munchak said. “That’s one. Most quarterbacks, that’s second-and-20 right there. They don’t get up, or they get up and can’t get out like that and even something worse happens.”
Locker’s teammates appreciate what he brings to the offense. Even with sitting out five games after hurting his left shoulder Sept. 30, Locker still ranks second on the team with 103 yards rushing.
“The ability to make plays with his feet certainly gives us a weapon that defenses can’t prepare for,” safety Jordan Babineaux said. “That’s good to see. … Jake is making progress. He’s developing as a player, and he’s starting to understand his comfort level, and you can see that in his performance.”
Another quarterback who can run isn’t what the Jaguars want to see as they try to win their first game at home this season. Andrew Luck ran for two TDs against Jacksonville on Nov. 8, and the Jaguars are giving up 137.3 yards per game.
“He has a great arm, and I know his ability to make things happen with his feet is a dangerous thing,” Jaguars coach Mike Mularkey said.
This will be Locker’s first game against Tennessee’s AFC South rival. For the season, he is completing 59.8 percent of his passes with six touchdowns and only two interceptions. He’s been sacked only four times.
Munchak said they didn’t limit the game plan against Miami to ease Locker back into the game, and the quarterback easily shook off a hard sack by the Dolphins early.
Munchak pulled Locker against Miami early in the fourth quarter with a big lead. He said Locker has a great understanding of what they want him to do.
“I’m excited to see him play again,” Munchak said. “It seems like he hasn’t played in a while. When you have a week off and we waited six weeks for him to play, and he played well, then it’s been like another two weeks, and now he’s going to play again. I’m excited to see where we’re at again as a team after sitting out for a week.”
Notes: TE Craig Stevens (hamstring) did not practice along with S Al Afalava (ankle), RB Jamie Harper (ankle), and WR Lavelle Hawkins (ankle). Munchak said Stevens is expected to practice Thursday. WR Kenny Britt (knee) practiced along with LB Colin McCarthy (right ankle) and OT Byron Stingily (back).
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