JOE BIDDLE: Titans QB coach goes from pupil to teacher
Reported By Joe Biddle, Sports Columnist - bio | email
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -
As a quarterback, Titans quarterbacks coach Dave Ragone was as physically tough as they come.
He was what they call in the sport, a gamer. If he had to run to get a first down, he put his body on the line.
Ragone played for Bobby Petrino at Louisville where he was the Cards' quarterback and a three-time Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year. He led his team to an 11-1 record in 2001.
Scott Linehan was the Cards offensive coordinator and along with Petrino, taught Ragone how to play the position.
"I learned a lot from both of them. They both have great offensive minds,'' Ragone said after Wednesday's afternoon practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park.
Ragone is now trying to pass the torch to Titans starter Jake Locker and backups Ryan Fitzpatrick and Rusty Smith.
Locker enters his third season and is being counted on to lead this Titans offense. He is coming off surgery to repair his shoulder. Not only do offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains and Ragone have to focus on preparing Locker for this season, they have to make sure veteran free agent Fitzpatrick and Smith are ready if, or when, they are called on.
"Not wishing any ill for Jake, but the other two quarterbacks have to pick up the system and be ready to play. We have a good mix in the quarterbacks room and they all are soaking up what we are giving them,'' Ragone said.
It is quite a mix when you look at the trio's background. Locker is a West Coast guy who played at Washington. Fitzpatrick is from Arizona and played his college ball at Harvard. Smith stayed in state and played for Howard Schnellenberger at Florida Atlantic.
While the fans' focus is on Locker, the backups are only one play away from seeing action. The Titans got some insurance in the off-season as they acquired Fitzpatrick, who had fallen out of favor in Buffalo.
Fitzpatrick has nine years in the NFL, but has been plagued by interceptions. He had a pass picked off by cornerback Coty Sensabaugh Thursday and he has to gain the staff and players' confidence while getting far less repetitions in training camp.
The best-case scenario for the Titans would be for Locker to go the distance in the 16-game regular season. He appears to be more in control and confident this season, as he doesn't have to look over his shoulder for Matt Hasselbeck. The Titans released Hasselbeck and he is now with the Indianapolis Colts.
The knock on Locker has been his inconsistency with passes. He has one of the most potentially potent wide receiver groups in the NFL in Kenny Britt, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright along with rookie Justin Hunter and Damian Williams.
In the scrimmages to this point, the receivers have helped make Locker look good. They are all good athletes who can jump to catch high passes, which is where most of Locker's off-target passes go.
It's hard, some say impossible, to coach accuracy. It's up to Locker to improve in that category.
Even if he never becomes one of the NFL's most accurate quarterbacks, he has enough intangibles to be a winning quarterback.
It's precisely why the Titans made him their first round draft pick in 2011.