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Breaking Down Marcus Mariota vs California: Pocket Throws and Read Progression

One read and tuck? Not so fast.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

I figured with the lull of the offseason it was time to dig into some game tape. Not 2014 Titans tape, we've suffered enough from that mess. In an effort to get to know our new starting quarterback and some of the other draft picks, I figured it would be worth looking at specific games from each player. Today, we're starting off with Marcus Mariota's game against California this past season. There were a few things that consistently stood out to me in this game. I don't want the posts to be just highlights, so some of these plays will be somewhat unspectacular or miscues (today, there's a lot of positive).

It would be a huge mistake for me not to publicly thank SuperHorn for calling my attention to the website Gfycat and helping me figure out how to work them in the editor. It was much appreciated. While we're on the topic, these certainly won't be to the depth and knowledge level that he provides.

We'll start early on in the game with a play I GIF'd last week. Playaction with a roll to the left. Mariota's got several options on the play. (you can right click on the images to pause them, rewind, or show controls).

Here's a freeze frame of the options. He's got plenty of room to run for the first down and also has the red-circled WR open currently. The other receiver though is just starting to beat his man, and Mariota knows it.

He holds onto the ball for a split second longer to deliver a beautiful deep strike. The throw itself looks a bit awkward, but it was effective.

Our next throw is a simple route with simple execution.

The first read is right down the middle of the field to the tight end but the safety drops back to take him away. He's buffered on the other side with the LB, who's looking back in at Mariota. With this gone Mariota progresses towards the outside.

The non-circled receiver is the next read, but his route is just about to end, leaving him covered as well. That leaves the farthest receiver. His DB is a couple yards off him and continues to guard against the deep route. The WR completes his comeback for an easy pitch-and-catch play.

This next play is just fun to watch. There's a misconception out there that Mariota is just a scrambling QB. For the play below, he hangs in the pocket for as long as possible before scrambling out. Its a similar concept to the play above. Immediate read down the middle of the field is covered, but this time the other options are covered just enough that there isn't an easy throw.  Quickly the pressure comes from his left side, so he exits the pocket and hits his RB for a first down.

Now we get to see a touchdown throw. This is a play NFL Network has shown repeatedly and SuperHorn broke it down nicely for us, so I won't go into it too much. He reads left to right on this play, moving his eyes towards the middle of the field. Ball is delivered nice and high to the open WR. Either he catches it, or it sails safely out the back of the endzone.

The next play comes with a question mark. Its hard to understand what Mariota's intentions are on this play, and that may affect what you think of it.

As Mariota begins to throw, the boundary corner has figured it out. He jumps from his man and heads towards the WR. When I first saw this play, it looked like he was throwing into double coverage. After re-watching, its such a split-second decision that I don't know if I can fault Mariota for opting to go this route.

The other noteworthy talking point: ball placement. Did Mariota purposely put this high, much like the previous TD throw, to ensure it was either going to his WR or out of bounds? Or did he simply put too much on it and overthrow his receiver accidentally? Take your guess.

Our next play shows further illustrates Mariota's ability to read and react. Here are the WR routes.

The initial reads to his left are covered, and you can see him once again shift towards the middle of the field to a deep crossing WR. Touchdown, Ducks.

Wash, rinse, repeat. Down below we have a somewhat similar play. Bottom left receiver runs a comeback. Like above, the inside receiver stretches the defense deep. Even the receiver at the top of the screen runs a very similar route, this time leading the way and freeing up space for the inside receiver.

The execution is perfect once again. Mariota stays in the pocket, looks left, and then moves his eyes and his feet to the right, allowing him to hit the deep WR.

One more (and yes it goes for a TD too) to really hammer this point home. He once again progresses from left to right, this time lofting a good ball over the defense. I opted to go with the goalposts view here just so we can see the mechanics from a different angle.

As you can tell, there was a lot to love from Mariota's game against California. I've got to include the usual disclaimers, in that without knowing the play I could be wrong about this stuff. Your view is just as good as mine. There were a couple of instances, both in a few plays above and overall, that I wasn't completely sure if he was looking down the field at his primary read or simply holding the safety before progressing to another. I went with my instincts, and showed you the ones where I think there's more evidence of him going through his reads. You can check out every one of his snaps from this game here at Draft Breakdown (and hat tip to them for compiling so much film).

Update: I found that depending on my computer it would take more or less time for certain images to load. If for instance it looks like the video is zoomed in and you can't see the play, the video may still be formatting.. There were times when it took a few moments for the video to snap back to the right setting. You can also click on the image if you would rather be taken to a full page view of it. Sorry for the inconvenience.