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Indianapolis Colts Defense Faces a New Challenge in Jake Locker

December 7th, 2012 at 7:19 AM
By Chuck Chapman

'IMG_8951' photo (c) 2011, Parker Anderson - license: the Indianapolis Colts defeated the Tennessee Titans back in week eight, Matt Hasselbeck was in control of the Titan's offense. The veteran completed 75 per cent of his passes and threw one touchdown, but should have had more if not for the wind and some key drops by his receivers.

If you'll remember, Hasselbeck had a key fourth quarter pass sail over a wide open TE Jared Cook who would have easliy outrun Pat Angerer for the game-clinching score. Instead, the Titans eschewed a long Rob Bironas field goal and pinned the Colts deep playing for overtime. That didn't work out well for them as Hasselbeck never got the ball back when Vick Ballard vaulted into the end zone on the Colts' first possession.

Hasselbeck is back wearing a headset and second year pro Jake Locker has returned from a shoulder injury that kept him out of the teams' first meeting. Locker returned to the starting lineup two weeks after the Colts game and got a big win in Miami, mainly thanks to the Dolphins' four turnovers. Since then, he and the Titans have dropped two straight, all but ending any playoff hopes they had.

Since returning Locker has thrown more interceptions (5) than touchdowns (4) and has completed less than half of his pass attempts in two of the three games. Last week in a loss at Houston, Locker threw for over 300 yards, but much of it came after his three picks helped the Titans get in a 24-3 hole. To say he's less precise in running the Titans' version of the West Coast offense than Hasselbeck is an understatement.

One thing Locker does bring to table that Hasselbeck does not is the ability to escape the pocket and make plays with his feet. Colts defensive coordinator, Greg Manusky, said his group is very aware of the challenge facing them on Sunday:

“Two different quarterbacks of course with Hasselbeck being in the system of the West Coast for a long time, he knows exactly where the ball is going, knowledgeable quarterback that can make all the throws as well. Locker, I’ll tell you, a little bit better athlete, can make all the throws as well but going through that learning process with that West Coast system but doing well.”

"For the most part, he (Locker) can scramble out of the pocket so we’ve got to make sure that we force him into that pocket and get as much pressure on him as possible.”

Adding to the Titans' offensive woes is the loss of two starting offensive linemen for the rest of the season in last week's loss, veterans David Stewart and Steve Hutchinson. That hurts not only in pass protecting against Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney, but in opening holes for RB Chris Johnson.

The Colts held Johnson under 100 yards in their first meeting. If they can do so again and put the outcome of the game in Jake Locker's inexperienced hands, they stand a good chance of finishing Sunday 9-4.

Tags: Chris Johnson, Football, Indianapolis, Indianapolis Colts, Jake Locker, Matt Hasselbeck, NFL, Tennessee Titans

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