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RB Johnson: QB Locker can help Titans' run game

By TERESA M. WALKER - AP Sports Writer
    2013-09-05 16:54

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Chris Johnson looks around the Tennessee Titans and sees an untapped run threat. Not Shonn Greene, though he expects the running back to be a big help too.

Try quarterback Jake Locker.

Johnson said Thursday athletic quarterbacks have made teams like Carolina with Cam Newton, Washington with Robert Griffin III and Seattle with Russell Wilson difficult to defend. Colin Kaepernick helped lead San Francisco to the NFC title with his legs too, and Johnson said he thinks Locker can help out the Titans a lot.

``He hasn't really had time to show what he can really do, and I feel like this year he will,'' Johnson said of Locker.

The Titans loved Locker for both his arm and his legs coming out of Washington as the No. 8 pick overall in 2011. Locker set school records at Washington where he ran for 1,939 yards in his career with his 29 career touchdowns third all-time for all players. But the quarterback got hurt in the season opener a year ago and ran only 41 times for 291 yards in 2012. Still, Locker averaged 7.1 yards per carry when he took off.

It's that mobility that has Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin paying close attention with the Titans visiting the Steelers for the season opener Sunday. Locker missed the Titans' win over Pittsburgh last October, one of the five games the quarterback sat out with his injured shoulder.

``I'm really impressed by his mobility, his accuracy on the move that he has displayed in the preseason,'' Tomlin said of Locker. ``We have some concerns about containing him. Obviously, when you watch those plays both in the preseason and late last year, his mobility and his escapability is a part of that they do both by design and by ad lib. That is something you have to be concerned about if you are around defense.''

New Titans tight end Delanie Walker got to watch Kaepernick while with the 49ers last season. Walker said he thinks people overlook Locker's ability to run, which could be an advantage for the quarterback.

``What happened with Kap is nobody knew who he was and what he had,'' Walker said. ``With Jake, nobody knows what he can do because he had an injury and not played a whole season. He's going to come out strong, and I think he's going to surprise a lot of people.''

The Titans didn't show much this preseason with Locker mostly running on rollouts, buying time to throw downfield. He ran only seven times for 35 yards. Coach Mike Munchak says Locker's ability to run definitely adds to what the Titans can do offensively.

``I think you're going to see some yards probably every week from the quarterback position, not just plays we call for him but plays where he'll just make plays on plays that break down,'' Munchak said. ``He has that ability to go ahead and hopefully extend drives. That's the plus side.''

But the Titans don't sound ready to make quarterback draws or other designed runs a regular part of the game plan. Munchak said they hope Locker doesn't have to run that often.

``That's not our goal by any means,'' Munchak said.

For his part, Locker will make his 12th start for the Titans on Sunday. He said he's always looking for opportunities to run, especially if his receivers are covered downfield. His goal? At least run for 3 or 4 yards because his ability to scramble is an asset.

``You've got to use it when you have the opportunity to,'' Locker said.

Notes: RT David Stewart did not practice Thursday with a sore right calf. Munchak said he expects Stewart to practice Friday. LB Akeem Ayers (right ankle) was limited. FB Quinn Johnson (quad) and LB Zaviar Gooden (ankle) did not practice.

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AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

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