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