(Sports Network) - With the official christening of the Jake Locker era in Tennessee drawing closer, the promising young quarterback will get one final prep when the Titans conclude their 2012 preseason with a matchup against the New Orleans Saints at LP Field.
Locker, Tennessee's first-round selection in the 2011 draft, was named the team's starting signal-caller last week after coming out on top of a close competition with battle-tested veteran Matt Hasselbeck. He then did his best to prove head coach Mike Munchak made the right call in his first appearance after the announcement, throwing a pair of touchdown passes to help the Titans post a 32-27 home victory over Arizona this past Thursday.
The talented 24-year-old hooked up with impressive rookie receiver Kendall Wright for a 10-yard touchdown in the opening quarter and a 28-yard score to Nate Washington early in the second that gave Tennessee a 14-3 lead. Locker finished with 134 yards on 11-of-20 passing and did not have a turnover while working the first three periods.
Munchak said Locker will play for most of the first half in this Thursday's matchup to sharpen up for his first-ever NFL regular-season start, which will come at home against defending AFC champion New England on Sept. 9.
The Titans hope they'll have Kenny Britt available for Locker to throw to against the Patriots, though the problematic wide receiver stands a good chance of missing the opener due to a probable suspension for violating the league's personal conduct policy. It appears he'll be relatively healthy for whenever his season debut takes place, though, after being activated from the physically unable to perform list on Tuesday.
Britt hasn't played since tearing his ACL last September and underwent additional surgeries on the knee that have sidelined him all throughout camp.
Tennessee did suffer a significant injury against the Cardinals, with return specialist Marc Mariani breaking his left leg while taking back a punt in the first quarter. He was placed on injured reserve on Monday, with Darius Reynaud to take over his special-teams duties.
While fans at LP Field will get to see Locker on the field for a relatively extensive amount of time this week, they probably won't have an opportunity to witness Drew Brees in action. The record-setting New Orleans quarterback isn't likely to play in Thursday's finale, and it wouldn't be surprising if interim head coach Joe Vitt holds out the majority of his other regulars as well.
The Saints have already ruled out dynamic running back Darren Sproles, who'll miss a third straight contest with a minor knee injury but is expected to be fine for the club's Sept. 9 regular-season opener against Washington. Linebackers Curtis Lofton (ankle) and David Hawthorne (knee), cornerback Jabari Greer (hernia surgery) and wide receivers Adrian Arrington (knee) and Nick Toon (foot) will also remain on New Orleans' inactive list for at least one more week.
Brees readied himself for Week 1 by completing 17-of-25 attempts for 179 yards and two touchdowns in the first half of last Saturday's 34-27 win over Houston at the Superdome, with Lance Moore and All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham on the receiving ends of his scoring strikes.
Chris Ivory, aiming to stick as the fourth member of a crowded New Orleans running back corps, helped his cause by rushing for 57 yards on just eight attempts against the Texans. His main competition, undrafted rookie Travaris Cadet, compiled 51 total yards on eight touches (5 carries, 3 receptions).
Third-string quarterback Sean Canfield played the entire way in last year's preseason clash with the Titans, which also came in the final week, and Vitt could choose to go in that direction again for this bout.
Tennessee rolled to a 32-9 rout at the Superdome in that game, the only previous preseason meeting to date between the teams. The Saints prevailed in a Week 14 encounter during last year's regular season, however, scoring a 22-17 win in Nashville.