The Tennessee Titans lost to the Atlanta Falcons 31-24 during Friday night’s preseason game, but the score is the least of the worries for the Titans. It was the NFL’s first look at No.2 overall pick Marcus Mariota in game situations. To say he struggled with the Falcons’ defensive pressure is an understatement.
So far, all reports out of Titans’ camp was about the flawless ability of Mariota. Well, he didn’t hesitate to show some of those flaws in his first live action. Still, Mariota showed signs of life when he wasn’t giving the ball away.
Despite connecting on 7/8 passing for 94 yards, Mariota left a lot to be desired in the first preseason game. He had two first quarter turnovers, that helped give the Falcons a 17-0 first quarter lead. First, Mariota let go of an ill advised screen pass that hit linebacker Justin Durant right between the numbers. Moments later, Mariota fumbled the ball, leading to Paul Worrilow’s 14-yard touchdown return.
In a blink of an eye, the Titans’ QB found out what life is like in the face of NFL pressure, according to Titansonline.com. However, Mariota displayed plenty of poise in his final possession of the night. He led the Titans on a touchdown drive, while going 5/5 in the passing game.
After the game, Mariota embraced his position as an NFL rookie. “It was an incredible experience to say the least,” Mariota Stated. He even seemed to smile after his second turnover, but knows there’s a learning curve in his first time through the NFL. Mariota continued, “I enjoyed the moment and I’m looking forward to next week.”
The two turnovers were not enough for the Titans to rethink their starting quarterback position, but it should be enough to have an open competition leading into the season opener. Zach Mettenberger played an efficient game, except for one huge mistake.
Mettenberger completed 8/11 passes for 129 yards, with a touchdown and interception. He would love to have that turnover back. It’s the type of play that kills scoring chances, and ultimately will keep him relegated to second string quarterback.
At this point, Mariota will have to completely fall of the rails to lose his stranglehold of the starting position. However, it’s foreseeable having Mettenberger playing in regular season games. Keep in mind, Mariota’s two turnovers came in the first couple possessions. If he does that in a regular season game, there are three more quarters of facing a relentless defense. That’s one reason why Mettenberger should be ready at all times.
In college, Mariota was known to fumble in the face of pressure. Fortunately, the Oregon Ducks never really faced immense pressure from opponents, so he was able to thrive. Still, he must get comfortable with arms swiping at the ball, while sitting in the pocket. In addition, Mariota has to trust his instincts, and hit the open receiver. Once he threw the ball, Mariota had no problem connecting with his teammates.