Jake Locker threw 314 passes and was intercepted 11 times. That's a raw interception rate of 3.5%. The NFL as a whole threw interceptions on 2.6% of passes in 2012, so Locker was obviously below-average by those numbers.
As a rookie in 2011, Jake Locker threw 0 interceptions on 66 passing attempts. That is obviously better than league-average. When I have speculated about what kind of quarterback Locker could become, my speculation
has been that he's likely to be a relatively low completion percentage passer, but if he stays the low interception percentage passer he was as a rookie and becomes a low sack percentage passer, he could be a Donovan McNabb-type player. I've already covered
Locker's sack rate this offseason (short version: it's been too high), and now I'm going to write about how he was intercepted.
I did a series like this last offseason, covering over two parts
both Locker and Matt Hasselbeck (albeit saying very little about Locker since he didn't throw any picks). I'm not covering Hasselbeck this year, because I believe interceptions are largely, almost exclusively, a function of the quarterback and luck, and Hasselbeck's playing elsewhere in 2013. Instead, this post will break down all of Locker's interceptions in an attempt to interpret what they might say about whether he could be a low-interception passer in the future.
Typical film breakdown-related caveats apply in spades to this post. I have all-22 for all of these throws, but I do not know either the offensive or the defensive calls on a particular play. I don't know the game preparation or tendencies of the offense or defense, which may affect players' decision-making that leads to an interception. Further, these are only the passes that were intercepted, not the passes that could have been intercepted but were not for some reason or another. I'll touch on those briefly at the end of this post.
INTERCEPTION #1: Week 1, vs. New England
1-10-NE 48 (2Q 14:26) J.Locker pass deep left intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by T.Wilson (K.Arrington) at NE -3. Touchback.
Titans in 21, offset I, Jared Cook in the slot left, and Nate wide left. Patriots seem to be showing man-1, then the safety over Cook retreats to make it look like 2-deep (NE played a lot of Cover-2), and it eventually ends up looking like Cover-3. Locker playfakes, and then it's hard to tell. I think he looks for Nate, then Cook, then back to Nate, who fakes a cut about 12 yards downfield and proceeds deep. I think Arrington, the CB over Nate who retreated deep, may have stumbled a bit, but he recovers quickly and is with Nate all the way downfield. The pass seems to be a bit underthrown; understanding, given the general accuracy of 50 yard passes, but if Nate has a chance of beating Arrington, it's irrelevant. The play turns into a jump ball. Arrington isn't able to make the interception, but is able to tip it up in the air, where it's caught by the closest player, deep middle safety Tavon Wilson. I'd be fine with this play in a risky situation, like third down or down a couple scores, but on first down in a 7-3 game just check it down.
INTERCEPTION #2: Week 2, at San Diego
2-8-TEN 23 (1Q 8:09) (Shotgun) J.Locker pass deep right intended for J.Cook INTERCEPTED by E.Weddle [S.Phillips] at TEN 39. E.Weddle to TEN 31 for 8 yards (J.Cook).
An ugly play all around. Titans are in shotgun 3-wide. The Chargers bring 5 on a blitz; it's picked up, in terms of the 5 OL identifying rushers, but actually blocking them is a little more of a challenge. Corey Liuget walks Velasco back, disrupting Locker's pocket. Jarret Johnson loops, and Hutchinson is slow to pick him up. Liuget's pressure gets Locker to move to his right, freeing up Shaun Phillips, who had been contain and tip-pass rushing until that point. Locker tries to find Cook on the drag as Johnson and Phillips are bearing down on him and badly airmails his throw, where it's snagged by Weddle. Bad blocks by Velasco and Hutchinson, and an awful decision by Jake. Like a checkdown, a sack is sometimes a good play.
INTERCEPTION #3: Week 12, at Jacksonville
2-10-TEN 37 (4Q 2:53) (Shotgun) J.Locker pass deep middle intended for J.Cook INTERCEPTED by D.Lowery (R.Allen) at JAX 43. D.Lowery to TEN 36 for 21 yards (J.Locker).
Down 21-19 late in the game, the Titans are in shotgun 3-wide, with Jared Cook in the slot one of three to the right side. The Jaguars do something interesting on defense from their 4-2-5 nickel, running an overload zone blitz (+LB and S, -RDE) with some sort of coverage.
The blitz is picked up (+1 CJ on Paul Posluszny), and Cook is open over the middle of the field for a big play if Locker can get the ball over linebacker Russell Allen's zone coverage. Spoiler alert: he doesn't, getting just enough to tip the ball away. Dwight Lowery is the beneficiary of a fortunate deflection. That this play is an interception is the result of some nigh-inevitable bad luck; random tips like this end up interceptions sometimes, incompletions other times. That he doesn't get the ball over Allen? Certainly a good defensive play, and beyond that I'm not sure how much blame Locker deserves for this one.
INTERCEPTION #4: Week 12, at Jacksonville
2-13-TEN 10 (4Q :04) (Shotgun) J.Locker pass deep right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by M.Harris at JAX 42. M.Harris to JAX 42 for no gain (K.Wright).
An incredibly hopeless "chuck it up and pray" Hail Mary. At Football Outsiders, we consider this an incompletion.
INTERCEPTION #5: Week 13, vs. Houston
1-10-TEN 10 (2Q 8:42) J.Locker pass short middle intended for J.Cook INTERCEPTED by T.Dobbins (S.Cody) at TEN 10. T.Dobbins to TEN 3 for 7 yards (J.Locker).
Three-wide under center, with Jared Cook inline. Cook runs a short curl and is open in front of some off coverage. Only NT Shaun Cody gets his hands up on Velasco and tips the pass. This time, Tim Dobbins is the beneficiary of a fortunate deflection. I noted in last year's series passes tipped at the line were a relatively common source of interceptions for Matt Hasselbeck. Locker had the second-highest batted/tipped at the line rate of any quarterback with at least 100 passing attempts in 2012, so some number of interceptions for him off those is no surprise. If you want to blame the offensive line for that, I can't prove you're wrong, but I'm not sure I agree with you either-Hasselbeck had a very low rate of tips after having a ton in 2011 and good quarterbacks generally have fewer tipped balls while the top five is a who's who of bad and/or inexperienced quarterbacks (e.g., Brandon Weeden and Chad Henne).
INTERCEPTION #6: Week 13, vs. Houston
3-8-TEN 29 (2Q :10) (Shotgun) J.Locker pass short right intended for K.Wright INTERCEPTED by G.Quin (J.Watt) [C.Barwin] at TEN 41. G.Quin to TEN 19 for 22 yards (K.Britt).
Late at the end of a half? From the playline, you'd expect this to be a Hail Mary-type interception you can reasonable discount. Instead, it's another tip at the line. Houston, thanks primarily to Watt, had a ton of these in 2012 and the luck fairy strikes again in their favor as Watt's tip goes to Quin. This isn't a very costly interception, but it's not the sort you can dismiss as a Hail Mary either.
INTERCEPTION #7: Week 13, vs. Houston
1-10-TEN 16 (4Q 2:05) (No Huddle, Shotgun) J.Locker pass short right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by D.Sharpton (Q.Demps) at TEN 29. D.Sharpton to TEN 31 for -2 yards (K.Britt).
Shotgun 4-wide (well, 3WR+Cook in the slot). The Texans are in a very vanilla 2-deep look that probably ends up being quarters. Nate runs a short curl and turns around, then coughs up the ball when he's hit by Demps. Luck strikes again for the Texans as Daryl Sharpton nabs his deflection. A comeback here, down 14 points with 2 minutes to play, is unlikely enough this interception doesn't hurt much, and a dropped/defensed pass is another common cause of interceptions. Not Jake's fault.
INTERCEPTION #8: Week 14, at Indianapolis
1-10-TEN 1 (3Q 5:40) (Run formation) J.Locker pass short right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by C.Vaughn at TEN 3. C.Vaughn for 3 yards, TOUCHDOWN.
Okay, for I believe the first time in history, I'm going to wimp out and not actually watch this play again. It's the infamous hitch on the goalline that resulted in the world's easiest pick-6 and probably would have been 99 yards on a touchdown if it had been a hitch-and-go instead. A year after Chris Johnson turned this
into 2 yards, this was 2012's play that made me want to jump out of my seat at Lucas Oil Stadium and go pummel a Titans player. If you really want to relive this play, read Matt Bowen's breakdown
. In terms of responsibility, this one's all on Jake.
INTERCEPTION #9: Week 14, at Indianapolis
2-8-TEN 22 (4Q 5:42) (Shotgun) J.Locker pass short right intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by D.Butler at TEN 35. D.Butler to TEN 28 for 7 yards (M.Roos).
Shotgun 4-wide (well, 3WR+Stevens in the slot), with seams from the interior players and option routes to the inside, it seems, for the outside men. The Colts blitz with 5 and are in something like Cover-1 Robber. Locker doesn't trust his protection (-pickup on CJ, maybe) and rolls right. He throws for Nate, only they're not on the same page. Locker seems to expect the curl, Nate turns upfield, and Butler has an easy interception. As Dowell Loggains would say in his weekly media session after this game, part of Locker's growing process is knowing there's a time to make plays and there's a time to get what you can get.
INTERCEPTION #10: Week 16, at Green Bay
1-10-GB 47 (1Q 3:23) J.Locker pass deep left intended for K.Britt INTERCEPTED by S.Shields at GB 21. S.Shields to GB 21 for no gain (K.Britt).
This one's on Mitch Petrus. It's listed in the play-by-play as intended for Kenny Britt. It looks like it's intended for Kenny Britt. Per Loggains in his weekly media session, it was actually intended for Nate Washington, who ran a deep out from the slot as Britt ran his downfield route. Because of the pressure Locker can't finish his follow-through, so the throw sails on him. Too bad, as Nate was open.
Blue is what was supposed to happen; red, what actually does happen.
INTERCEPTION #11: Week 16, at Green Bay
3-20-TEN 30 (1Q :47) (Shotgun) J.Locker pass short middle intended for D.Williams INTERCEPTED by E.Walden at TEN 34. E.Walden to TEN 14 for 20 yards (C.Stevens).
I'll part ways with some of you on this pass. Williams is running a short crosser. The throw goes off his hands. Williams' fault, right? Not in my book. The short crossing route is designed to be thrown in front of the receiver. This ball is thrown behind Damian, and I think he does a good job to come as close to catching it as he does. He can't quite haul it in, and Walden is the beneficiary of the deflection.
So, what does this all mean? I count one interception that's not Locker's fault, five on throws that should not have been attempted, one caused by pressure, and four that are the normal result of indeterminacy, bad luck, and that sort of jazz. How does that compare to what happened last year?
Miscommunication does not seem to have been a major factor for Locker this year. This could be a good sign for Locker's development, or it could be a sign he's a "see it, throw it" passer who lacks anticipation skills (I'm leading towards this).
I had Matt Hasselbeck down for two interceptions that were clearly his fault last year, on significantly more attempts. Locker had 5 I'm putting in that category, for a Major Error rate four to five times Hasselbeck's. (Obvious disclaimer I need to make anyway: Rate stats based on an N of 2 or 5 are subject to heavy skew by non-predictive events.) A more comprehensive review of all attempts could produce a significantly different Major Error rate, or what K.C. Joyner used to refer to as a Bad Decision percentage.
The simplest thing to do now is to hand-wave this away and say it doesn't matter. The Titans are installing a new offense. The receivers will be running different routes. Some different offensive linemen will be blocking for Jake Locker. If Locker did make bad decisions, it's because he was playing in a bad offense, or at least one he wasn't suited for. Fair, and one of the reasons people do stupid things is because they're in situations where they're not comfortable. But people just don't do stupid things in uncomfortable situations. Playing quarterback in the NFL is always and everywhere a high-pressure environment, and we won't actually know Jake Locker's comfortable in the new offense until he plays enough games in the new offense without making too many stupid decisions.
I don't know what Jake Locker's interception rate will be in 2013. It could be high. It could be low. As long as he's in the lineup, you can pretty much guarantee he'll have some unlucky interceptions. The big difference will come in the number of interceptions he throws that are the result of bad decisions on his part. That's under his control, and Dowell Loggains', and a big part of their challenge this offseason. If Jake Locker can't be a low interception quarterback, he's probably going to be a quarterback not long for a starter and playing for new coaches in 2014. No pressure, Jake, no pressure at all.