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Marcus Mariota: He's Even Better Than You Think

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Analyzing the stats of Mariota's first three NFL starts

Jim Brown-USA TODAY Sports

After drafting Marcus Mariota, most Titans fans were excited about the future, but many people outside of this fanbase were skeptical about his transition to Whisenhunt's "pro style" offense. In camp, we heard nothing but glowing things about Marcus. He took weeks to throw an interception in practice. He looked good in preseason. But we still needed to see it in real live NFL games to be sure.

Fast forward 3 weeks, and Marcus Mariota has been beyond good. He looks well ahead of where even his biggest supporters thought he would be at this stage. That being said, the heartbreaking loss to the Colts overshadowed a lot of what Mariota has accomplished so far, even for Titans fans. I want to rectify that. Let's look at Mariota's stats to try to gain an understanding of just how good he's been.

How does Marcus compare to other rookies in years past?

Jimmy stole my thunder yesterday and gave the hat tip to some guy with a dumb middle initial, but it's worth reiterating. Marcus Mariota's stats this year, through 3 games:

833 yards, 8 TDs, 2 INTs, 8.59 yards/attempt (Y/A), QB rating of 109.2.

Extrapolate those numbers to 16 games, and Marcus will throw for 4,442.7 yards and 42.7 TDs. Round those however you see fit, and through 3 games Marcus Mariota is on pace to break the rookie record for passing yards and shatter the rookie record for passing TDs.

How does Marcus compare to other QBs around the league this year?

Through 3 weeks, Marcus Mariota is 8th in the league in passing yards, tied for 4th in passing TDs, 7th in QB rating, and 6th in Y/A.

I've made it known here before that Y/A is my favorite QB stat. More than aggregate yards or completion percentage, Y/A lets you know how many yards you can expect to gain every time your QB attempts a pass. Marcus has a middling completion percentage, but his yards per attempt is top 6. That means he's getting a lot of production out of every completion. The two ways to do that are successfully throwing the ball down the field for big yards, or making good decisions and placing short passes accurately enough to allow your WRs to get big YAC. Mariota is doing both. And it has resulted in passing numbers we haven't seen in Tennessee in a very long time.

Individual stats are nice, but is Mariota improving the offense?

In 2014 the Titans best offensive game produced 28 points. They only scored over 20 points 5 times. The Titans scored 13 points or fewer 7 times. The 2014 Titans were 30th in points per game, 29th in yards per game, and 22nd in passing yards per game.

How about 2015? The Titans have scored 42, 14, and 35 points. 42 and 35 would have been far and away our highest scoring games last year. The Titans are 5th in the league in points per game, 10th in the league in yards per game, and 15th in passing yards per game.

We have jumped significantly in every single category, and are a borderline elite offense through 3 games.

Conclusions

I get there are a lot of caveats to this data. We've played less than steller defenses. It's only 3 games, and not nearly enough of a sample size to be extrapolating for a season. Those are correct and fair criticisms, and we'll need to let this year play out a little farther before we celebrate too much. But last year, we never even came close to this kind of offensive fire power, and we're doing it in Mariota's first 3 games of his career.

Marcus Mariota has transformed this offense into a top tier, productive offense in spite of the problems we still have in terms of personnel. Marcus isn't just having a good season for a rookie, or for a "spread QB." He's having a really good season by NFL standards. He is already producing like a top player in the league.

The future is bright.