If there was a single topic that has dominated the headlines for the Tennessee Titans, it has been their injury situation throughout training camp and the first two preseason games.
Starting safety Johnathan Cyprien was lost for the year before the first preseason game because of a torn ACL. All Pro right tackle Jack Conklin has yet to return after tearing his own ACL in January’s divisional playoff game.
Rashaan Evans, this year’s first round pick, has missed considerable time and both preseason games with an “undisclosed” injury, and we still have no clue when starting receiver Rishard Matthews will take the field this year. In fact, we’re still not sure why he’s sidelined either.
And that’s not even counting last year’s first round pick Corey Davis, who dominated the first two weeks of camp with his mysterious absences and rest days.
The second year receiver made his preseason debut last Saturday night.
Head coach Mike Vrabel’s secretive approach to disclosing injury information about his players is not helping. With nothing concrete to work with, fans and media alike have been running wild with their own theories.
But lost in all of the injury news is the hot start of the team’s most important player, quarterback Marcus Mariota…who is healthy, by the way.
Before the start of camp, and before players started dropping like flies, the lead story all offseason was Mariota’s disappointing 2017 campaign, and how important it was for him to quickly gel with new offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur.
After two preseason games, they both get two thumbs up.
Tennessee’s starting offense, led by Mariota, has generated just three drives through two preseason games…and that’s a good thing.
It’s good because Mariota has been super efficient. He engineered two scoring drives in three offensive series…and did so while looking in full command of the new offense.
For the preseason, Mariota has completed 60% of his passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. His passer rating is a whopping 143.1.
The one sack occurred when Mariota gave himself up on a slide just behind the line of scrimmage.
And most importantly, Mariota has not thrown an interception…nor has he fumbled the ball. There hasn’t even been as much as a botched snap when he has been under center.
And to do so without his full complement of weapons on the outside has to be an encouraging sign for the offense…and the team overall.
Cyprien has been replaced by veteran free agent acquisition Kenny Vaccaro, who most see as an upgrade if not equal. Evans has returned to practice. Conklin is progressing so far with no setbacks, and Matthews’ new extension tells me that his injury is not serious enough to keep him off the field much longer.
Now, hopefully, Titans fans can turn their attention to Mariota as he looks to stay hot in his dress rehearsal against the perennial playoff bound Pittsburgh Steelers Saturday afternoon.