Titans vs. Dolphins: The Future Starts (Over) Sunday for Tennessee

Nate Dunlevy@NateDunlevyGuest ColumnistNovember 9, 2012

Locker's return is a reason to watch this week.
Locker's return is a reason to watch this week.Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Since last we saw Jake Locker, the Tennessee Titans' season has been lost, then saved, then set on fire.

As the Titans travel to Miami to take on the 4-4 Dolphins, they are past the point where the 2012 season can be salvaged.

At 3-6, post-season hopes are long since dead, but the Titans do have one thing to look forward to this week.

Jake Locker is going to be back under center.

Jim Wyatt of the Tennessean reports that Locker had a clean week of practice and will get the start. It will be his first appearance since September.

This is outstanding news for the Titans if for no other reason than they can start building for 2013.

As long as Matt Hasselbeck was the starting quarterback, there was little hope that the team was developing offensively in a way that would matter next season.

The return of Locker means Titans fans have a reason to watch every game the rest of the year.

Winning is nice, but even in losses, if Locker plays and plays well, there can be reason for optimism in Nashville.

No one expects defensive coordinator Jerry Gray to return next year, so there's hope that much of what plagues the defense will eventually be fixed by someone else.

Locker is the future of the Titans, and he has played credibly this season, despite a brutal opening slate.

The Dolphins are a great test for Locker. They have a good defense and will allow everyone to get a benchmark of where Locker is.

Not only will he playing opposite another young gun in Ryan Tannehill, but he's playing a defense that Andrew Luck destroyed in Week 9.

Tannehill and Luck, along with Andy Dalton, will likely be Locker's top competition in the AFC for years to come. They are the men against which his career will be defined.

Locker's return should eventually mean the continued growth of Kendall Wright and hopefully the return of Kenny Britt to the magical land of Offensive Viability.

The Titans think they know what they have in Locker, and now it's time for him to take the helm for good. With any luck, Hasselbeck will never start another game for Tennessee.

Win or lose against Miami, this could be the start (over) of something big.