Without injured QB Marcus Mariota, the Tennessee Titans will have to rely on veteran backup Matt Cassel against the Miami Dolphins.
Much to the dismay of Tennessee Titans fans, it has been reported by multiple members of the national media that QB Marcus Mariota will miss Sunday’s game against the Miami Dolphins. NFL Network’s Ian Rappaport reported that Mariota could miss even more games.
All hope for the Titans, however, is not lost. Sure, their chances of winning increase exponentially with Mariota under center. But, they do not completely go away with Cassel calling the shots.
Here are three reasons that the Titans can still manage a victory with Matt Cassel.
1. He’s done it before.
As a starting QB with the Titans, Cassel is undefeated. Okay, he’s 1-0. But that still counts.
His lone start in two-tone blue came in Week 17 of last season against a Houston Texans team that had already claimed the title of AFC South Champions. As such, they rested many of their starters.
The final score of the game was 24-17. Cassel completed 16 of his 26 pass attempts for 150 yards and one touchdown. He was also intercepted by Quintin Demps on an unlucky tipped ball. He wasn’t Aaron Rodgers, but Cassel did what he needed to do for the Titans to win the game.
If you look up journeyman in the dictionary, you will likely find Cassel’s picture. Since he entered the league in 2005, he has played for six teams. At each of those stops, Cassel won at least one game as a starter. In fact, Cassel has won at least one start in every season since 2008. The only other quarterbacks with such a streak are Ben Roethlisberger, Eli Manning, Phillip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Aaron Rodgers.
Additionally, Cassel has taken first-team reps throughout the week in practice. Unlike his miserable relief performance last week against the Texans in which he was likely unprepared, Cassel will have a full grasp of the game plan and have a good chance to execute it.
2. The Titans Can Run the Ball
Everyone who thought that free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick would be a good fit for the Titans with less than a week of practice in their offensive system had a vast misunderstanding of what the Titans do on offense.
The Titans do not run a spread or read-option offense. While Mariota certainly is very fast and the offense occasionally caters to his athleticism with a designed run or option play, it is not their offense.
Mike Mularkey’s system centers around a powerful rushing attack with the creative use of motions, three-tight end formations, and play action. Passing concepts come in all shapes and sizes, often from under center. The offense has, multiple times, used pass plays with an empty backfield from under center.
This is why Brandon Weeden, not Kaepernick, was signed to backup Cassel. This is also why Cassel should look comfortable today and not overmatched at all.
Behind perhaps the best offensive line in the NFL, the Titans have a talented duo of running backs that will likely see their biggest workload of the season against Miami. Establishing an effective ground attack by deploying DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry early and often will be a key for Cassel to have success.
He also shouldn’t face a ton of pressure, as the Titans’ offensive line has been superb in pass protection so far this season. Cassel won’t have to be a superstar for the Titans to win. He simply needs to manage the game, make good decisions, and deliver the ball to his playmakers.
3. The Dolphins Aren’t Very Good
Through the first four weeks of the season, the Miami Dolphins have the NFL’s worst statistical offense. QB Jay Cutler has been incredibly ineffective, and the team was recently shut out by the New Orleans Saints’ pathetic defense.
On defense, aside from superstars Ndamukong Suh and Reshad Jones, the Dolphins heavily rely on older players who are past their primes. For example, DE Cameron Wake, formerly one of the league’s premier edge rushers, has shown to be nothing more than a situational pass rusher at this point in his career.
If the Titans defense is able to rebound from a miserable performance last week against the Texans by pressuring Cutler, containing a banged up Jay Ajayi, and keeping receivers Devante Parker and Jarvis Landry mostly in check, Matt Cassel should have no problem keeping up with the Dolphins.
At 2-2 with an injured quarterback, the Titans find themselves in an unideal situation. A win against the Dolphins would help fix it.