Has Marcus Mariota Fixed One of His Biggest Weaknesses?

NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Marcus Mariota
NASHVILLE, TN - NOVEMBER 05: Marcus Mariota /

Tennessee Titans third-year signal caller Marcus Mariota has made a major improvement in one particular area this season.

While Marcus Mariota has led the Tennessee Titans to a 5-3 record this season, his 2017 stats still leave a lot to be desired. He only has six passing TDs through seven starts, his 1,519 passing yards rank 27th in the NFL, and his 85.4 QB rating is nothing special. But there is one statistical category that Titans fans should be extremely encouraged by: his fumble total.

Draft analysts had differing opinions on Mariota coming out of college, but one generally agreed upon observation was that he fumbled far too often. Mariota fumbled a total of 27 times during his time at Oregon, losing 11 of them. And this trend certainly didn’t slow once he got to the NFL. Mariota fumbled 19 times in his first two seasons in the NFL, losing 11 to the opposing team.

Those 11 lost fumbles were tied with Jacksonville Jaguars QB Blake Bortles for the most fumbles lost in the NFL over that two-year span. While fumbles don’t tend to get as much attention as interceptions, a turnover is a turnover, and some of those fumbles were back-breaking for the Titans. Fumbling the football was arguably Mariota’s most obvious weakness coming out of college, and through two seasons he hadn’t shown any signs of improvement.

Turning it Around

But this season has been a completely different story. Marcus hasn’t fumbled the ball once this season. And I’m not talking just about lost fumbles; he hasn’t put the ball on the ground at all. What’s responsible for this huge turnaround? Hard to say. Fumbling the ball is oftentimes more due to a mental error than a physical one (securing the ball properly).

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When asked about his turnover issues in the past, Marcus has said that he often tries to “do too much”. The lack of fumbles this season is most likely due to Marcus repressing his urge to force a play. He definitely has improved in terms of throwing the ball away, and that kind of mindset also translates to fumbles. He also has probably developed a better feel for pressure, and his improved mental clock helps him to secure the ball or throw it away before getting stripped.

As a fan, you have to love that your QB takes the time to recognize his weaknesses and work hard to improve upon them. We should celebrate his zero fumbles the same way we would celebrate his throwing zero picks. Mariota obviously has made a concerted effort to handle the football more carefully this year, both in the pocket and on designed runs. This is a storyline that has kind of flown under the radar, but his improved ball security definitely has made a positive impact on the Titans this year and is an encouraging sign for the future.