The Titans choose their starting QB...

The Titans choose their starting QB...

From Comcast SportsNet
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Tennessee Titans aren't waiting any longer: Jake Locker is their starting quarterback. Titans coach Mike Munchak said Monday that Locker will start this season over veteran Matt Hasselbeck, choosing to go with the passer Tennessee hopes to build around after drafting Locker out of Washington in April 2011. Munchak announced the decision after practice, saying Locker gives the Titans their best chance to win the AFC South as their quarterback this season and hopefully for many seasons to come. "By no means has this job been given to him," Munchak said. "He's earned it." The Titans (No. 21 in the AP Pro32) had let the quarterbacks compete through the offseason, with each starting a game this preseason and splitting snaps in practice. Munchak says Hasselbeck was way ahead of Locker last season, but Locker caught up and won the job with his ability to move the team and score points. The eighth pick overall in 2011, Locker will play 40 to 50 snaps Thursday night against Arizona (No. 23) with three weeks to prep for the opener Sept. 9 against New England. "It's really cool," Locker said of the decision. "It's something I'm proud of, but it's not going to change my approach on how I practice or my preparation for a game. That will still all be the same, but it is cool to be given this opportunity." Locker also said the competition with Hasselbeck allowed both to push each other in a positive way. "It forced you to come back and try to rebound or build on what you had done before," Locker said. Munchak said giving Hasselbeck the news was a tough conversation. Munchak helped talk the veteran into signing a three-year deal with the Titans last July after the NFL lockout ended, and Hasselbeck turned in the fourth-best season in yards passing in franchise history. Only Hall of Famer Warren Moon had thrown for more. Hasselbeck also helped Munchak go 9-7 in his debut season as head coach, just missing a playoff berth on a tiebreaker. Munchak said Hasselbeck was exactly what they needed with his leadership and experience. The veteran said he's been in Locker's shoes and knows it's an exciting move for the young quarterback. "I had the chance to help lead a franchise and help build a program, and I had a chance to be the guy under center, and he's got that chance right now," Hasselbeck said. "As hard as it was, Munch made his decision, and as hard as it was for me to hear that, I'm also excited for Jake. I'll help and support him any way I can, and I'll be happy to do it." Locker has the mobility Hasselbeck is lacking going into his 14th season. Combined with his toughness and strong arm, Locker started 40 games for the Huskies, throwing for 7,639 yards with 53 touchdowns and 35 interceptions. With the Titans, Locker threw for 542 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions coming off the bench in five games as a rookie. "When Jake did get a chance to play last year, he was ready to go," Munchak said. "He played well and handled situations. He moved the team. He brought excitement and energy, and when the season ended, we thought we had something special, like we did when we drafted him." In his NFL debut as a starter last week -- a 30-7 win at Tampa Bay -- Locker struggled and was intercepted on his second pass. He was just 4 of 11 for 21 yards but also ran twice for 24 yards, including a long scramble of 21 yards. It's that mobility paired with a revived Chris Johnson that the Titans hope will rev up an offense that was next to last in rushing last season.

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Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

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USA Today Sports

Twins double up Orioles Monday night after erasing Baltimore's early lead

BALTIMORE (AP) -- Max Kepler homered and drove in four runs, Miguel Sano and Jorge Polanco each had a career-high four hits and the Minnesota Twins roared back to beat the Baltimore Orioles 14-7 Monday night.

Minnesota trailed 5-0 in the second inning and 6-2 entering the fifth before cranking up the offense against Ubaldo Jimenez and an ineffective Baltimore bullpen.

A two-run double by Kepler helped the Twins knot the score in the fifth, Minnesota sent 11 batters to the plate in a six-run sixth and Sano added a two-run homer in the ninth.

Joe Mauer had three hits, two RBIs and scored twice for the Twins, who reached season highs in runs and hits (21).

Adam Jones hit a three-run drive in the second inning off Kyle Gibson (1-4) for Baltimore.

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It was his 125th home run at Camden Yards, moving him out of a tie with Rafael Palmeiro for the most in the history of the 26-year-old ballpark.

That proved to be the highlight of an otherwise ugly night for the Orioles.

Jimenez frittered away a five-run lead and missed a chance to earn his first win since April 19. The right-hander allowed six runs and nine hits in four-plus innings, a performance that lifted his ERA to an unsightly 7.17.

Jimenez was replaced by Tyler Wilson (2-2), who gave up six runs in 1 1/3 innings.

Down 5-0, the Twins got an RBI groundout from Mauer in third before Kepler led off the fourth with a home run.

It was 6-2 before Minnesota bunched together five hits in the fifth. After Kepler chased Jimenez with a two-run double, Eduardo Escobar hit a sacrifice fly and Polanco tied it with an RBI single.

Highlights of the Twins' sixth inning included a tiebreaking double by Mauer, a two-run double by Escobar, an error by second baseman Jonathan Schoop and a run-inducing balk when Stefan Crichton dropped the ball in the midst of his windup.

Recalled from Triple-A Rochester before the game, Gibson gave up six runs in five innings, but nevertheless earned his first victory in seven starts this season.

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Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

Jay Gruden views Chris Thompson as the NFL's best third-down running back

In 2016, Chris Thompson simply needed to prove to Jay Gruden that he could handle 16 NFL games.

Now, looking ahead to 2017, the fifth-year running back hopes to show his head coach he can shoulder 16 NFL games and a larger workload.

"I have a feeling that I might get a little more this year," Thompson said Monday at the Redskins Charitable Golf Foundation. "[Gruden] knows now that I'm healthy and I can stay healthy, which I think that was one of his biggest concerns. So now he sees that I can handle the load, I think that I'll get a lot more opportunities this year."

Last season was by far the best in the 26-year-old's career. He played a full slate of games after playing in just 19 over his first three seasons combined, and he set career highs in rushing attempts (68), yards (356), receptions (49), receiving yards (349) and total touchdowns (5).

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He also held up well in pass protection, a key duty for him as the team's third-down running back. And it's all of those qualities — being able to contribute on handoffs and with catches while also providing help in keeping Kirk Cousins upright — that make him an excellent fit for a popular NFL duty.

The most excellent in that duty, actually, if you ask Gruden. 

"I think Chris Thompson's role is big," he said. "When you're talking about third downs, that's the most important down in football. There's nobody better as a third-down back in my opinion than Chris. He's got a huge role on this football team." 

Gruden went on to indicate that an increase in Thompson's responsibilities is likely coming, though No. 25 will still do the majority of his work when the offense needs him most.

"Whether he does some more stuff on first- and second-down will be determined," he said. "I'm sure he will. But he's so valuable on third-down that I gotta keep him in that role for now."

A 2013 fifth-round pick who came into the league with a history of injuries, Thompson has now fully gained the trust of his coaches and teammates. The 5-foot-8 running back may be small in stature, but the Redskins know he's not small in importance.  

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