The Tennessee Titans are 18 days away from their first official training camp practice (July 30th), and as we inch closer to the start of the new season we’ll profile their new-look roster…by position.
Today we profile the quarterbacks.
Zach Mettenberger (San Diego), Charlie Whitehurst (free agent)
Marcus Mariota, Alex Tanney
Ten years ago the late Steve McNair was infamously locked out of the team training facility, then traded to the rival Baltimore Ravens on April 30, 2006.
Since then, the Titans have endured a decade-long revolving door of quarterbacks that were injury prone, inconsistent, or both.
Marcus Mariota, (last year’s second overall pick) was the team’s third qb taken in the first round since McNair’s departure. He was also injured and inconsistent for most of the 2015 season.
On the bright side…last year’s rookie out of Oregon showed far more poise and upside than any of his predecessors.
Mariota set a rookie franchise record last season with 2,818 yards passing and 22 total touchdowns (19 passing, 2 rushing, 1 receiving). As a result, he was the only player in the entire league to record a passing, rushing, and receiving touchdown of at least 40 yards.
Mariota is the first rookie in the history of the league to have two games with four td’s and no interceptions, and is the current NFL record holder for touchdowns in his first three games (8).
Oh, and he did it in 12 games.
While the stats are no doubt impressive, Mariota will have to improve in some key areas if the Titans want to increase their win total for a second straight year.
Yes, Mariota threw 10 interceptions last season, but those come with an asterisk. Tennessee fell behind early in the vast majority of his starts, rendering the offense predictable as they had to throw a lot more than they wanted to stay in games.
His pocket presence, however, does not get a pass.
Mariota fumbled the ball eight times while in the pocket last season, and another two times while attempting to run. Six were recovered by the opposing team.
That number must come down this season, the Titans’ low-octane offense has little room for error.
Mariota must also improve his deep ball accuracy. He missed several big play opportunities last season when receivers were in a position to make a play down the field.
Zach Mettenberger (last year’s backup qb) was released this offseason and is now reunited with former head coach Ken Whisenhunt in San Diego.
The Titans are hoping that veteran journeyman qb Matt Cassel will serve as an upgrade after a dismal season in Dallas filling in for Tony Romo last season.
Cassel enters training camp as the primary backup to Mariota, but could be pushed by third stringer Alex Tanney if his 2015 season finale performance carries over this summer.
They will get plenty of work in the preseason as the Titans will be mindful to keep Mariota out of harms way until they host Minnesota in the season opener.
Mariota is the unquestioned starter. His job is safe regardless of how he performs in training camp and preseason games.
Tennessee is looking to run the ball far more often than last season, so Mariota’s progression may not be fully tied to stats. What the Titans are looking for is efficiency out of their second year signal caller.
Move the offense…keep turnovers to a minimum…and run to daylight if the opportunity presents itself.
While “game manager” is a dirty term to fantasy football junkies, it is essentially what the Titans are looking for Mariota to be this season.
And healthy for 16 games, of course.
Success for Mariota will be judged in the win-loss column this season, not necessarily the box score.