I meant to get this out a lot sooner, but welcome to the first edition of Keeping Up With Marcus Mariota for the 2019 season. As the title indicates, these articles take a look at Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota and how well he did per game.
In a 43-13 scorcher of the Browns, Mariota completed 14 of 24 passes (58.33%) for 248 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and a 133.3 passer rating. Normally a stat line like this would be worthy of praise, and at the very least Mariota did not turn the ball over a single time.
However, on tape this looked far less impressive than the box score stats would indicate. That’s not to say Mariota was in the wrong for executing the game plan, but that’s essentially what he did. Arthur Smith gave him a friendly environment to work with and he wasn’t asked to do too much against Cleveland.
I’m not going to go into extreme detail about the offense’s day since MCM’s own Mike Herndon already did that beautifully, but I will touch on some of the plays where Mariota struggled.
Mariota’s target here is Corey Davis (red circle). The play is a designed RPO with zone blocking to the right. Mariota rolls out of the pocket on this play and the route combination schemes Davis open.
Mariota, however, can’t deliver the ball accurately.
This is a perfect play call from Arthur Smith. The zone block run fake to the right opens up so much space for the two receiver set on the left. Mariota is expected to hit this throw and Davis is certainly open on it. Definitely one the QB would love to have back.
Inside the red zone, the Titans have an opportunity to take the lead (not like that was ever a problem eventually...). They’d ultimately score on this same drive, but could’ve done it a little quicker.
Mariota is targeting A.J. Brown, who had a sensational rookie debut, as the receiver runs an out route near the front of the end zone.
This pass needs to be placed far right, leading Brown a little close to the pylon while eliminating the possibility of the defensive back guarding him from interfering at the catch point. The problem is the throw is nowhere near Brown’s area code. And no I don’t believe this is a miscommunication between quarterback and receiver, Mariota just sailed this pass over the rookie’s head.
If you needed another indication that Mariota is shaking off the Week 1 rust, this pass just outside the hashes is something he usually makes more times than not. As you may have guessed, the pass has to be thrown lower. Davis is a consistent receiver at the catch point so you can trust his strong hands to cradle in this pass, if it were more accurate of course.
Finally, Tajae Sharpe runs an excellent corner route on this play. This is encouraging to see for a receiver so well liked by the Titans coaching staff for so long and perhaps he has a place as a WR4 in Tennessee.
Less encouraging is Mariota missing him outright. To be fair I do like that Mariota anticipates Sharpe getting open (he’s throwing this just before Sharpe breaks on his route), so I can’t fault the quarterback for his decision. What’s not to like he misses an open Sharpe.
Mariota did have a far better second half statistically, and that’s where all three of this passing touchdowns occurred. But for the most part, he wasn’t asked to do a whole lot. A large chunk of his yards came when A.J. Brown and Derrick Henry earned massive yards after the catch on two plays, so there didn’t seem to be any of the typical “no look passes” Titans fans have come to appreciate from MM8.
Fortunately, it’s great to see Mariota throwing in a scheme that gets receivers open constantly, at least for the time being. With the improved talent in the receiving corps thanks to the additions of Adam Humphries and A.J. Brown, we’re seeing the zone blocking, quick passing scheme become more fully realized. Arthur Smith deserves a ton of credit for his game plan against the Browns defense, especially against a talented pass rush.
Mariota should get more comfortable as the season progresses, especially in a contract year. I do think the vast majority of his bad tape came from flat out misses on passes he’s usually accurate on, so in Week 2 I expect him to come out a little sharper. In conclusion, this was not as good as the stats indicate, but the scheme around Mariota gives me hope for better things to come.