Rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota continues to show the Tennessee Titans and their fans that you cannot judge a book by it’s cover. With each performance, Mariota chips away at the preconceived notion that he was who we thought he was.
Heading into the draft, the biggest knock on Mariota was his unfamiliarity with the pro style offense. There were concerns about him taking snaps from under center…something that he rarely, if ever did at Oregon.
So far this preseason, Mariota has performed flawlessly while working primarily from under center. No bobbled snaps, no tripping over a lineman’s foot when dropping back. In fact, if you’ve never watched a collegiate game before, then you would have never thought that Mariota came from a spread option attack.
That is a huge plus for the Titans’ offense. We all know that he is comfortable running the spread option attack, and that gives Tennessee an added dimension. It also gives their opponents an additional thing to worry about (prepare for) each week.
Prior to the draft, most people referred to Mariota as a “running quarterback”, and while he certainly has wheels, he has been anything but that so far this preseason. Heading into last night’s game, fellow rookie qb Jameis Winston actually had more rushing attempts than Mariota. Ironically enough, it was Winston that was widely considered as the prototypical statuesque pocket qb.
Mariota has been efficient, and has looked extremely comfortable in the pocket so far. His first real rushing attempts came last night in Kansas City, and he certainly lived up to the “running” part when he did break out…averaging 7.3 yards on his three attempts.
Most encouraging was the fact that Mariota didn’t run recklessly. On his first scramble, he got down before the charging Chiefs defenders could get a clean shot. On his next big scramble, he got out of bounds…after picking up the first down.
Another widely regarded concern from Mariota detractors was his calm demeanor. Pundits questioned his ability to be a leader of grown men…
So far this preseason, Mariota has dispelled that notion as well. He showed poise and resolve after falling behind 17-0 to Atlanta and Kansas City, settling the team down and striking back in both games. That un-rookie like resolve has already garnered the respect of the Titans veterans.
And as for the calm demeanor, yes, Mariota is a cool customer…but he showed last night that he is far from a push-over…
Kansas City’s Pro Bowl linebacker Justin Houston sacked Mariota in the 2nd quarter of last night’s game. Mariota, who apparently didn’t like what Houston had to say after the play, leaped to his feet and charged at him. Something we never saw him do at Oregon.
As you can expect, that too, got the attention of his teammates.
Mariota still has a long way to go, but from what he’s shown so far, he’s proven that he’s more than a timid, run-first, shotgun handicapped qb project.