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Breaking Down Every Marcus Mariota Interception from 2017: Introduction

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Marcus Mariota threw 16 total interceptions in 2017. This new series will attempt to analyze each and every one.

NFL: Los Angeles Rams at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Tennessee Titans struggled on the offensive side of the ball for the majority of 2017, finishing 23rd in the NFL in total yards and 19th in average points per game.

The Titans were one of only two playoff teams to finish outside the top 12 of all teams in both of those categories (the other being the Buffalo Bills).

The Bills determined the reason for their offensive struggles was at the quarterback position, and in the offseason they traded away Tyrod Taylor and selected polarizing prospect Josh Allen in the 2018 NFL Draft.

The Titans came to a different conclusion concerning their subpar offensive output, choosing to part ways with head coach Mike Mularkey and his staff after the statistical regression endured by franchise quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Judging solely by the statistics, Mariota had a poor season. He threw a career-low 13 touchdown passes and a career-high 15 interceptions in the regular season, despite throwing only 14 passes that Pro Football Focus deemed “turnover-worthy”.

Including two postseason games, Mariota totaled 16 interceptions on the year. His yards per attempt and passer rating both hit career-lows, as well, with 7.14 and 79.3, respectively.

Statistics can often be misleading if they are not accompanied by proper context, so this new series of articles will attempt to apply context to one particularly glaring stat: those 16 interceptions.

While Mariota’s third season saw improvement in a few areas of his game, including a decreased fumble rate, improved deep ball accuracy, and efficiency with play-action passing, he also failed at times to properly set his feet and to correctly diagnose defensive coverages.

Some of Mariota’s struggles could be explained by him trying to do “too much,” often bypassing an open check-down option to try and fit the ball into a tight window downfield in an effort to make a big play for the team.

Other struggles were purely mechanical, perhaps a product of an offseason spent rehabbing rather than perfecting his craft. And a handful of his intercepted passes were the result of poor play from his teammates.

Overall, Mariota could’ve (and should’ve) avoided many of the turnovers he committed last season.

Before we get into the play-by-play breakdowns of each interception, let’s see if we can find some patterns in Mariota’s struggles.

His 16 interceptions came on (in order) targeted depths of approximately 10 yards, 20 yards, 24 yards, 5 yards, 24 yards, 9 yards, 12 yards, 5 yards, 15 yards, 6 yards, 16 yards, 23 yards, 20 yards, 17 yards, 20 yards, and finally, 17 yards. His average depth of target on interceptions was 15.2 yards downfield.

Now for some interesting tables breaking down where the interceptions came from...

By Game Situation

Game Situation INTs Thrown
Game Situation INTs Thrown
Own Territory 12
Opposing Territory 4
First Half 10
Second Half 6
2-Minute Drill 2
1Q 3
2Q 7
3Q 2
4Q 4
While Tied 4
While Leading 4
While Trailing 8

By Personnel

Grouping INTs Thrown
Grouping INTs Thrown
11 Personnel 12
12 Personnel 3
13 Personnel 1

By Formation

Formation INTs Thrown
Formation INTs Thrown
Under Center 3
Shotgun 13
With Play Action 4
No Play Action 12

By Defensive Look

Defensive Look INTs Thrown
Defensive Look INTs Thrown
Zone Coverage 9
Man Coverage 7
Vs Blitz 3

By Area of Field

Area of Field INTs Thrown
Area of Field INTs Thrown
Deep Left 4
Deep Middle 2
Deep Right 2
Intermediate Left 0
Intermediate Middle 4
Intermediate Right 1
Short Left 0
Short Middle 1
Short Right 2

By Target

Targeted Player INTs Thrown
Targeted Player INTs Thrown
Rishard Matthews 5
Delanie Walker 4
Corey Davis 3
Taywan Taylor 1
Harry Douglas 1
Jonnu Smith 1
Phillip Supernaw 1

By Route Targeted

Route INTs Thrown
Route INTs Thrown
Post 5
Option/Miscommunication 4
Corner 2
Out 2
Curl 1
Fade 1
Dig 1

What deductions, if any, can be made from these numbers?

One NFL season offers too small of a sample size to draw any definitive conclusions. Assessments like “Mariota is bad out of shotgun” or “Mariota is bad without play-action” are extremely fallacious and as ridiculous as concluding that Rishard Matthews is worse than Harry Douglas because Mariota threw 4 more INTs when targeting Matthews. There are far too many factors at play that are not expressed in the above numbers and not enough data presented overall to form any real ideas.

That said, the numbers do somewhat support the idea that Mariota may have been pressing to make a big play, as 12 of his 16 picks came when tied or trailing. It is also encouraging to note that these numbers don’t indicate worrisome struggles against a specific coverage (nearly even in interceptions against man or zone coverage) or to any area of the field.

Regardless, while it is interesting to peruse the above statistical splits, we’ll have to analyze the tape before we can form any real opinions about the root problem(s) behind Mariota’s interceptions.

The following suite of articles will attempt to determine where Mariota struggled most on these intercepted passes and how deserving of blame he alone is for those turnovers.

This analysis will also live on Twitter, but the written articles will provide much more detail than the tweets.

I would be remiss if I didn’t thank the large group of people who helped me breakdown and diagnose these plays and concepts, including a special thanks to MCM’s Mike Herndon and Super Horn.

DISCLAIMERS:

  • I’ll be attempting to diagram the various offensive and defensive concepts ran by the Titans and their opponents for each of these 16 plays, but of course I can only guess at the actual playcalls. These diagrams will be based on how the play developed. Many modern defensive concepts are fluid and determined by what the offensive players are doing on the fly after the ball is snapped. At the same time, many offensive routes are determined mid-play by the opposing coverage.
  • I’ll also be guessing at routes that appear to be option routes, but obviously I can’t know the full extent of the options and how many routes were actually option routes without access to the playbook and each of the playcalls.
  • The analysis will be presented chronologically in the order that the interceptions were thrown, and thus the articles are meant to be read in that order. I’ll be referencing previous posts and plays as we move through the breakdowns.
  • And finally, be warned: this series will not paint Mariota in the brightest of lights. Quite the opposite, in fact. These articles will illuminate his struggles.

Fear not, Titans fans. There is more than enough reason to be optimistic about Mariota’s future as the face of the franchise; he is certainly among the best young players at his position in the NFL. However, it’s important to analyze and critique him objectively. The young signal-caller is still far from perfect at this early stage of his career.

Click here for the first of 16 individual breakdowns.