Marcus Mariota enters his 5th NFL season with his 5th offensive coordinator, but for the first time he is not facing an offensive overhaul.
The Titans elevated Arthur Smith from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator to give the Titans QB some cohesiveness. After four practices Mariota says Smith even took it a step further, “I like the fact that Art (Arthur Smith) is doing everything in his power to make it quarterback friendly. He’s making it friendly for us to be able to operate.”
Just what “quarterback friendly and “friendly” to operate mean has not been clearly defined, however Mariota says a part of it is decreasing the load before the snap, “Coach (Mike) Vrabel talked about being able to command the operation. Art’s really allowed us as quarterbacks to feel comfortable, feel confident in what we’re doing so that all these pre-snap things can be cleaned up.”
Less thinking, more playing, reacting, more confidence in exactly what he needs to do with the football. Combine that with the return of Delanie Waker, the addition of Adam Humphries and continued development of Corey Davis and Mariota should feel much more confident and comfortable at the snap.
That means quicker reads, quicker releases and more aggressive play.
“Well I think that’s part of our culture here.” Mariota said, “He wants us to play fast. He wants us to know what to do and play aggressive. For me, it’s understanding the happy medium. Being able to take chances when they’re there, but also maybe it’s not there, not forcing things.”
It also means playing like Marcus Mariota. That means extending plays with his legs and creating with his athleticism. Some forget this is a guy with an 87 yard touchdown run on his resume and he caught his own touchdown pass in a playoff game.
Yes, Mariota’s health is paramount, but so is his ability to make plays and he says the Titans do not want to take that away, “Coach Art (Arthur Smith) right before we started OTAs just said, ‘hey we want you to go out there and play free.’ For me, I’ve just got to go out there, not overthink things, just play within myself and just allow the game to come me.”
Some of Mariota’s best play has come in no huddle or 2-minute situations and by simplifying what happens before the ball is snapped it can help him and the offense play faster.
It all sounds good, now it is up to Mariota, Smith and the offense to make it happen.