There was a reason the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans drafted first and second this year. Both finished the 2014 nightmare season with identical 2-14 records, both are hoping to improve this year, and both will unwrap brand-new quarterbacks on Sunday afternoon for the 2015 opener.
More at Titan Sized: Countdown to Mariota vs Winston II
The Buccaneers taking Florida State’s Jameis Winston with their first pick, and the Titans getting the leftovers with Marcus Mariota from Oregon.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell saw an opportunity to capitalize on the situation, and for the first time in history, the quarterbacks taken with the first two picks will face off with each other on opening day.
The Buccaneers are in a similar state of the rebuilding process this year under head coach, Lovie Smith but have a few more pieces around their new franchise quarterback than do the Titans.
They have the same question marks with a new offensive line, and problems with the defense as the Titans, but have a little more experience in the receiving corp, and in the running game.
David Climmer at the Tennessean reported on Sunday that CBS analysts Phil Simms and Bill Cower both seem to favor Marcus Mariota because of his ability to run, and along with ESPN’s Jon Gruden think this may be a big difference in this game.
He also has picked Mariota to win the 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year Award at season’s end.
Although the media and fans alike, will hype this game as a battle between Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston, the Titans quarterback wants not part of this type of matchup.
Mariota said on Monday that he had a lot of respect for Winston, who won the Heisman Trophy as well in 2013.
“It is about us he told Titans Online reporter, Jim Wyatt, it is about the Tennessee Titans and that’s all that matters to me,’’ Mariota said on Monday. “People will obviously try to make debates and opinions about what is going on, but I am focused on what our team has to do and on Sunday.
“I don’t play defense, so I don’t play against Jameis. Obviously people will continue to make that debate, but you can’t focus on it.”
Marcus Mariota looked far more composed during the preseason than did Winston, after the blow-up in game one of the preseason at Atlanta where he picked up his only interception and fumble. Mariota finished up his campagne completing 21-of-30 passes for 326 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He posted a passer rating of 102.9.
Winston finished the preseason with just a 48.9 percent completion rate and a 52.7 passer rating. He ran for two touchdowns and was intercepted twice.
Winston has the Brett Favre gunslinger mentality, and although he is able to recognize defenses, he can be flustered if flushed out of the pocket and forced to make a play with his arm.
Which can make him interception prone at times as was evident last year at Florida State.
Mariota on the other hand, has shown poise in the pocket and has the athletic ability to get away from the pass rush when it comes.
With the teams in somewhat the same boat as the season starts, and whether Mariota wants to make this game between Winston and himself or not, it may well come down to which one of them handles their first start in the NFL the best.
What ever turns out on Sunday, I think for Titans fans it is the most important game of the season.
NFL Nation over at ESPN is predicting the Titans will win only one game in 2015, and that one win was predicted to be in the second game with the Jaguars on November 19th by Jacksonville Jaguar ESPN writer, Mike DiRocco.
So if the Titans can go down to Tampa and come home with a game-one victory, I think it could put a positive spin on the entire 2015 season and set the course for something better that a 1-15, 2-14 season the experts are predicting.