The Tennessee Titans aren't getting a lot of credit for the changes they made over the last week. While it was one of the best performances by a rookie quarterback in years statistically, it still is being shrugged off as a defensive blunder from the New Orleans Saints.
No, the Titans aren't getting credit in the national media for increased pass protection, a better job getting their best players on the field, running the ball better, or helping Dorial Green-Beckham progress. However there is one thing that has analysts think they know that the Titans should do, that is their go to comment every time Marcus Mariota is brought up. They all ask, "Why isn't Mariota running the ball more?"
The college game is different and everyone seemed to know it when they were criticizing Marcus Mariota. He ran a lot in college because that was the scheme he was in and because of his top end athleticism he could take the easy yards when they are there. That is part of why the Heisman winner was so productive in college, but it wasn't the only reason.
The fact is that the easy yards in the running game aren't easy, because everyone in the NFL is faster. He isn't running by a freshman linebacker that runs a 5.0 40-yard dash. This week for example, he would be running next to Thomas Davis and Luke Keuchly who are great at diagnosing a play and making great tackles in open space.
Not only is he smart enough to not run, he shouldn't run. Marcus Mariota is 5th in the NFL in yards per attempt among QBs who have thrown it 200 or more times with 8.1 yards per attempt. So why does it make sense to make a quarterback who is that productive in the passing game, run the ball?
Look at what is happening with Andrew Luck. Luck has always been quick to run across the middle when free yards are there, but over his career he has taken a lot of hits from defensive linemen and linebackers who weren't in position to stop him from getting the first down, but who could tackle him as he dove to get those yards. His body is slowly starting to deteriorate (at least this year) and his shoulder injuries aren't just going to go away.
Marcus Mariota is already playing behind a shaky offensive line that has seen a lot of change. Why would you risk him running the ball and getting hit when he is already taking too many sacks as it is? No, he is much more effective as a pocket passer than a runner despite his athleticism like Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. Could all those guys run more on designed plays? Sure, but you don't force a QB to run when he is passing at such a high clip.