In a recent interview with the Honolulu Star Advertiser, Marcus Mariota told reporters that he plans to add some weight in an attempt to stay healthier in 2019.
“I’m trying to get little heavier for this year. I think it would help me absorb some of the hits. Durability is the (key). I haven’t been able to play a full season yet. I don’t have a (weight) number in mind right now. If I can be a little heavier, move around and feel good, that’s what I’d like. I’ll have to see how I feel.”
I have long been a proponent of Marcus Mariota playing heavier. He weighed in at 6’-4” tall and 222 pounds at the 2015 combine shortly before the Titans made him the second overall pick in the draft and he played at 220 pounds for most of his rookie season according to this interview with Terry McCormick from 2016.
After missing time due to two separate knee injuries in 2015, he added some weight and checked in at 225 pounds for most of the 2016 season. That year was both the healthiest and most productive of his career. He started 15 games and largely avoided the bumps and bruises and sprains that have kept him less than 100% for much of his career before the gruesome fractured leg in Week 16 — there is no playing weight that will save you from a 300-plus pound man falling on your leg from behind — and it showed in his play on the field. He put up 26 touchdowns through the air and 2 more on the ground while also setting career highs in passer rating, passing yards, QBR, and ANY/A. The Titans offense hummed to a 9th place finish in Football Outsiders Offensive DVOA.
Before the 2017 season, Mariota’s trainer caused somewhat of a stir when he told 104.5 The Zone’s Midday 180 that the quarterback was going to report at 215 pounds, 10 to 15 pounds lighter than the team’s desired weight.
“I told him that they can’t hit what they can’t catch so he should think about playing at a weight where he is his fastest. However the Titans coaches always told him they wanted him heavier and to play around 225-230 pounds to be able to absorb hits. Finally this year Marcus agrees with me and will play at 215 and I think you’ll notice a huge difference even though it’s only a difference of 10 pounds. He will be much quicker and faster this year and the goal with that will be to take less hits which will in turn keep him healthy. Unfortunately the first 2 years he’s missed games because of contact injuries so I think with him being leaner and lighter he will reduce the number of hits and thus reduce the risk of injury.”
Obviously, things didn’t work out that way. A non-contact hamstring injury on a touchdown run against the Texans in Week 4 cost him one start and severely hampered him in at least two others. A shoulder injury against the Bengals and a sprained knee against the Cardinals would follow later in the season. While the latter two injuries didn’t cost him any playing time, it clearly affected his level of play.
Mariota played at 215 pounds again in 2018 and got similar results. The nerve issues that plagued the majority of last season have been public knowledge, but Paul Kuharsky reported this morning that the former Oregon star was dealing with several other serious injuries throughout the season.
Obviously, 10 to 15 pounds of muscle isn’t going to solve all of these issues, but it also can’t be ignored that the best and healthiest season of Mariota’s career to this point coincided with his heaviest playing weight. Being fast and quick is great, but frankly, that is also part of Mariota’s problem. He too often believes he can by extra time with his legs and that puts him in harm’s way.
There is no doubt that 2019 will be a key season for Mariota’s future with the Titans. A healthy, productive season could have a big money contract extension waiting at the end of it. Another injury riddled, struggling season might lead to a permanent replacement being added to the roster. The stakes are high and it’s good to see that Mariota is taking a different approach this offseason.