Tennessee Titans: Mariota and Winston change roles


Peyton Manning and Ryan Leaf in 1998. Andrew Luck and RGIII in 2011, and now Jameis Winston of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Marcus Mariota of the Tennessee Titans in 2015.

High profile quarterbacks that were taken first and second overall in their respective drafts.

In 1998 and 2011, those qb’s were critiqued and compared at every turn. This year will be no different with Winston and Mariota.

But the narrative hasn’t played out exactly the way we expected so far.

Heading into the draft, the popular scouting report on Jameis Winston was that he was more of a prototypical NFL pocket quarterback, and that playing in a pro-style offense in college gives him an edge in reading NFL defenses.

Conversely, Marcus Mariota was widely regarded as a spread option running quarterback with upside, who will have to be brought along slowly due to his unfamiliarity with the way the pro game is played.

With two weeks of training camp practice, and a preseason debut under their belt, it seems as if Winston and Mariota have changed roles.

When the rookies and veterans took the field together for the first time, it was Winston…not Mariota…that struggled out of the gate. Tampa’s defense got the best of the rookie qb, forcing several turnovers early on.

In Nashville, Mariota was error free the first two weeks. He did not throw an interception in any team drill prior to Friday’s preseason opener. Yes, he was the beneficiary of some cornerback drops, but he didn’t play it conservative to keep that streak in tact.

He was winging it all over the field, and he was doing it from under center.

Both Winston and Mariota played into the second quarter last weekend. Both got sacked, both turned the ball over, and both looked like they were in over their head early in the game.

To their credit, both rebounded and led their teams to touchdown drives, but it was the way they did it that intrigued me.

Of all the things that Mariota did Friday night (both good and bad), he didn’t do the one thing we expected him to…

Take off and run.

Mariota did his damage from the pocket, even after taking a shot from the Falcons’ defense early on. He hung in there and moved the ball…all without using his legs.

Saturday night Jameis Winston took center stage, and had an equally horrific start to the game…turning the ball over and placing his team in an early deficit.

Winston also rebounded, and started moving his offense. But he did it with his legs too, escaping the pocket to extend a first quarter drive…and scoring on an 8 yard run late in the second quarter. He finished with four rushing attempts in the first half, and averaged nearly five yards a carry.

Something we would have expected to see out of Mariota, not Winston.

The qb’s may very well return to their “scouted” personalities in their next outing, but for a night I’m sure the Titans were encouraged by Mariota’s newfound pocket presence, and the Bucs were encouraged by Winston’s newfound athleticism.

Winston vs Matiota. September 13, 2015.

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