Throughout the first several weeks of the season, Marcus Mariota was different. He was timid, forceful and just looking like he was trying to hard. One theory on this was his lack of talent at receiver. He was playing most of his snaps with a fifth round rookie and Andre Johnson -- who was a fraction of his former all-pro self.
Then something changed. All of the sudden the Titans were hitting big plays down the field. This light switch just so happened to flip on when Kendall Wright returned to the lineup.
Wright's career to this point has been frustrating for all parties involved. His talent was obvious, but something always seemed to get in his way. His hamstring injury this preseason was just the latest roadblock. I don't think many fans expected much out of him when he returned, but right now he's turning out to be the Titans clear number one.
The most obvious need for the offense early in the year was speed. They didn't have that guy that could take the top off of the defense and stretch the field vertically, but early on Wright is proving he can be that guy.
Watch him get up the field and behind the safety here. Mariota plays the safety just enough with his eyes, letting Wright gain an advantage. Mariota is on target and Wright is able to haul it in. Ask yourself this -- does any other Titans receiver make this play?
This rep isn't as dynamic, but it's an example of a pass catcher making a play for his quarterback and moving the chains. Wright pushes the defensive back up the seam and gets him to flip his hips. Gipson recovers nicely and closes on Wright, but Kendall is able to fight through the contact to make the grab.
These next two plays are just about getting the ball to one of your playmakers in space. The Titans really don't have much to offer in terms of yards after the catch, outside of Wright. These are simple throws for Mariota to make and they put Wright in position to make something happen. With the success of the rushing attack, a simple receiver screen to the outside could mean a big play if the defense is keyed up in the middle to stop the run. It's all about numbers. I would expect more of this going forward with Wright healthy.
With Kendall entering a contract year, he needed to show out this season. Things looked bleak, but Wright's emergence couldn't have come at a better time for the Titans. He's got from an outcast to a vital piece of the offensive puzzle once again in Nashville. If he can keep up this pace and stay healthy, Jon Robinson should make it a priority to keep Wright in town for seasons to come.