I wrote earlier that this was a big game for Jake Locker. His stock has plummeted after a disappointing season – mixed with poor performance and injury.
He should be able to repair some of that lost momentum at the Senior Bowl and the scouting combine. Until then – this was the first of three remaining PAC 10 games with Washington needing to win the lot to be bowl eligible.
This is the third time I have watched Locker in full this year (Nebraska, Stanford & UCLA). I watched part of Washington’s win over Oregon State.
I gave Locker the benefit of the doubt against Nebraska and Stanford. The game against Stanford in particular was especially difficult. This game against UCLA was a much greater opportunity to impress.
Locker did not impress.
He finished with 10/21 passing for just 68 yards and a pick. He added nine yards and a touchdown on the ground.
I appreciate that he was playing with sore ribs and this may have impacted his performance. I could also argue – why were they calling designed QB runs if he was that bad? It’s not like running back Chris Polk wasn’t having a fine game.
It started badly and never really recovered. With 5:05 left in the first quarter, Locker took a play action and received modest pressure from his left hand side. He moved away to provide a better angle for a right arm throw – and panicked into a shot down the middle which should’ve been picked off. It showed a lack of poise (pressure forcing mistake) bad decision making (low percentage throw, unlikely to complete) and a lack of touch (darted into defensive back, needed more air). The fact the pick was dropped afforded only momentary respite.
Two plays later on third down, Locker dodges pressure and is in two minds whether to try and run for the first down or throw a pass down the left sideline. He goes pass – and just throws it off target behind the wide receiver for an interception. Locker needed to lead his receiver more and it was just an inaccurate throw.
Throughout the first half Locker acted on scripted plays without reading the field. Too often he’d take the snap, roll out and throw blind and could easily have thrown a couple more picks.
Overall the lack of development for a fifth year senior is alarming. Yes – this is only year two in a pro-style system. However, we’re not seeing enough to justify a first round grade at this point. Mistakes against Nebraska and Stanford could be forgiven given the circumstance. There’s no excuses tonight other than the injury and Locker admitted afterwards he had no issues with his ribs.
The accuracy issue is the biggest concern for me – you can accept occasional mistakes because they can be limited down the road. It’s the number of high passes, off target throws, bad decisions. Luck, Newton and Mallett are all well ahead of Locker when it comes to accuracy.
He’s not progressing through his reads quickly enough off the snap and he’s locking onto receivers. Locker has the arm to fit the ball into tight windows – he’s capable of making plays other QB’s can’t. However – whilst he struggles with reads and stares down targets, it’ll render any benefit of the physical qualities null and void.
The upside (athleticism, occasional big plays, tremendous character) will never drown his issues making quick reads and accuracte throws.
Locker was essentially a non-factor against UCLA – Washington finding a way to win without him. Isn’t that strange, given how one of the often used excuses when Locker struggles is his poor supporting cast?
You can only give a quarterback the benefit of the doubt for so long and I’m beginning to seriously question whether a team can justify that first round selection on Jake Locker.