NFL Preseason Preview - Arizona (1-2) at Tennessee (1-1)
By Scott Garbarini, NFL Editor
(Sports Network) - The Tennessee Titans have resolved a cloudy situation at
quarterback entering their most important game of the preseason, while the
Arizona Cardinals' scenario at the position appears to be coming into focus as
they pay a visit to LP Field for Thursday's battle between the two teams.
Mike Munchak chose upside over experience when the Titans' second-year head
coach announced on Monday that youngster Jake Locker would be the starter
under center for the team's Sept. 9 regular-season opener against New England.
The 2011 first-round draft choice, who attempted only 66 passes as a rookie
reserve, is getting the nod over grizzled vet Matt Hasselbeck, the owner of
147 career starts and who opened all 16 games for Tennessee last season.
Locker was tabbed in spite of a rough outing in the Titans' 30-7 rout of Tampa
Bay this past Friday. The athletic 24-year-old completed just four of his 11
throws for a mere 21 yards and was intercepted once while directing the
offense for nearly all of the first half.
"When Jake did get a chance to play last year, he was ready to go," said
Munchak when revealing his decision. "He played well and handled situations.
He moved the team. He brought excitement and energy, and when the season ended
we thought we had something special, like we did when we drafted him."
Hasselbeck went 4-for-5 for 29 yards after relieving Locker late in the second
quarter, albeit against a Tampa defense comprised mostly of second-stringers.
Locker and Tennessee's starters are set to work into the third quarter of
Thursday's matchup, though the up-and-coming gunslinger still won't have the
services of top wide receiver Kenny Britt, who remains on the mend from a
series of offseason knee surgeries.
Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt has yet to officially declare a No. 1
quarterback for his team's Week 1 bout with Seattle, though indications
suggest that John Skelton has the clear inside track on pre-camp favorite
Kevin Kolb for that post.
Kolb delivered a third straight bland outing in Friday's 27-17 victory over
Oakland, mustering a meager 22 yards on 3-of-6 passing and taking three sacks,
one of which resulted in a safety. The 2011 trade acquisition has produced a
15.1 quarterback rating in Arizona's three preseason efforts, having hit on
only 5-of-15 attempts for 47 yards with an interception.
Skelton, on the other hand, went 3-for-3 for 23 yards in his lone possession
of the night and capped the drive with a three-yard touchdown toss to fullback
Anthony Sherman. He'll be drawing the starting assignment on Thursday and is
slated to play into the third quarter, perhaps a strong clue as to what
direction Whisenhunt is leaning in the race.
While Arizona may be feeling a bit better about the quarterback position
following Skelton's short but solid showing against the Raiders, the offensive
line looms as a major concern after starting left tackle Levi Brown tore his
triceps tendon in Friday's win. The injury will keep the former first-round
pick out for a minimum of three months, if not the entire regular season.
D.J. Young, an undrafted rookie in 2011 who spent virtually all of last season
on the practice squad, will get the first crack at filling Brown's spot, with
journeyman D'Anthony Batiste also a candidate to take over.
The Cardinals have better news regarding the statuses of some other key ailing
players. Running back Beanie Wells (knee surgery) and tight end Jeff King
(quadriceps) are ready to make their 2012 debuts after sitting out the first
three games, while wide receiver Andre Roberts should be good to go as well
after being held out against the Raiders with a sore neck.
Ryan Williams, expected to split carries with Wells in the team's backfield
this season, returned from a long absence last week and contributed five
rushes for 25 years. The 2011 second-round pick sat out his entire rookie
campaign after tearing his patella tendon last summer.
Tennessee has won three of its five all-time preseason meetings with the
Cardinals, breaking a deadlock in the set by virtue of a 24-10 triumph in
Nashville in 2010.
08/21 17:54:13 ET
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