Titans, Seahawks put QB battles on display over weekend
Both the Titans and Seahawks entered this the first week of preseason play with quarterback battles ongoing — the Titans between veteran Matt Hasselback and youngster Jake Locker; Seattle with Matt Flynn, rookie Russell Wilson and incumbent starter Tarvaris Jackson.
We did not see Jackson on Saturday night when these two teams met, but the other four QBs all saw a decent amount of playing time. How’d they look and what does it mean for these unsettled situations going forward?
• Matt Hasselbeck (5 for 9, 45 yards, 2 INTs): Health is the big factor here, and Hasselbeck didn’t really show any ill effects from all his 2011 ailments aside from being pretty rusty. His day got off to a terrible start when he misfired on a quick out pass to Nate Washington, and the ball ricocheted off multiple bodies into the hands of Brandon Brower for a pick-6. Hasselbeck’s second pick was a glorified punt — on 3rd-and-15 from the Seattle 48, he lofted a bomb that was intercepted at the Seattle 6.
The problems holding Hasselbeck back against the Seahawks were the same problems that he had in Tennessee’s offense last season: The offensive line struggled and the run game couldn’t really get on track. As a result, Hasselbeck had to try to throw to open up the run, a fact that ex-Titan Eddie George lamented on Tennessee’s broadcast of the game. The good news is that running back Chris Johnson can work out the kinks this year in the preseason, as opposed to early in the regular season like he did post-holdout in 2011.
• Jake Locker (7 for 13, 80 yards): Locker saw at least three passes go through the hands of his intended receivers, so his numbers could have been better. He did seem to have pretty strong early chemistry with rookie Kendall Wright, which is a positive sign for the Titans; that duo combined for three completions and 47 yards in Locker’s one quarter of work.
Outcome: Locker did not do anything to leapfrog over Hasselbeck in this competition, but he probably didn’t lose any ground, either.
• Matt Flynn (11 for 13, 71 yards, 1 INT): Flynn’s yards-per-completion average (6.45) speaks pretty accurately to how his day unfolded. The Seahawks already led 7-0 when he took the field, thanks to Browner’s INT, and Flynn completed all five of his passes on Seattle’s opening drive. But only one of those passes, a 10-yarder to Deon Butler, stretched the field even a little. Most of Flynn’s day was spent checking down to safety valves or swinging passes to Leon Washington and Robert Turbin out of the backfield.
Given that Sidney Rice is still out and Doug Baldwin did not play Saturday, you can understand why Flynn went a little game-manager on this outing. Still, it’ll be hard to nickel and dime his way around all season.
• Russell Wilson (12 for 16, 124 yards, 1 INT, 59 yards rushing, 2 total TDs): If you saw Wilson play at Wisconsin, then his first Seattle outing wasn’t much of a surprise. The Seahawks utilized play-action on a majority of Wilson’s passes — and on his 32-yard touchdown jaunt in the fourth quarter that came on a naked bootleg to the left, really the only time Wilson ran a play-action to his non-throwing side.
Wilson really does his best work when he has to improvise and can get out of the pocket (he also had a 23-yard scramble) or on those play-actions when he gets his feet moving. The results are a little shakier when he sticks in the pocket on straight passes. He had a brutal fourth-quarter interception that resulted from him trying to float a pass down the seam, into zone coverage, to Sean McGrath. Maybe it’s his lack of height or just the nature of his game, but those traditional dropbacks don’t suit Wilson all that well.
Still, he showed off why Seattle has kept him in the conversation. Wilson is an exciting quarterback capable of creating big plays.
Outcome:Wilson needs to be almost error-free this preseason to wrestle the job away from Flynn — and he wasn’t Saturday. So, despite Flynn’s ho-hum performance, it still looks like it’s his job to lose right now.