Marcus Mariota starting with Titans’ backups hurt, learning
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota is starting this weekend against the Eagles, no matter how limited his injured right hand might be.
Mariota is Tennessee’s best option with backup QB Blaine Gabbert in the concussion protocol. Austin Davis just joined the Titans and has been given a crash course in the Titans’ offense but is still learning the playbook.
“We’re obviously excited about that because he’s feeling better, and that’s all we were really hoping for along the way the last couple weeks,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said Wednesday.
Mariota hurt his elbow when hit in the season opener, a 27-20 loss in Miami . He tried to stay in that game only to be intercepted twice before giving way to Gabbert. Mariota was active for their 20-17 win over Houston with Gabbert getting the win as the starter, but Mariota came into last weekend’s 9-6 win at Jacksonville after Gabbert was forced out with a concussion.
He used his legs for 51 yards averaging 7.3 yards per carry, and Mariota was 12 of 18 for 100 yards passing against the Jaguars with his longest completion going 22 yards. In the open portion of practice, he also took some snaps from shotgun.
“Just taking it one day at a time,” Mariota said. “We’ll see how it feels throughout the week. I hope it continues to get better and yeah we’ll see.”
Mariota threw down the field only once in Jacksonville, a throw to Corey Davis that drew a defensive pass interference penalty.
Just how limited the Titans quarterback could be again remains to be seen.
Tennessee’s offense has scored only two touchdowns through three games, and a healthier Mariota could be a big key to taking a step forward.
“I don’t anticipate that being an issue going forward with how things have been here the last couple days,” Vrabel said of needing to pare back the game plan.
Helping Mariota and the Titans could be the return of right tackle Jack Conklin, an All Pro as a rookie who tore his left ACL in the divisional playoff loss in New England. Both Mariota and Conklin practiced fully Wednesday, and Vrabel said this was the game they had hoped Conklin might be able to return.
That would leave only three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker as the missing starter that Tennessee expected to have this season. Walker is recovering from a broken ankle hurt in the opener.
Coach Doug Pederson and the Eagles (2-1) are preparing for a healthy Mariota.
“He throws the ball extremely well in the air,” Pederson said. “His ability to make plays with his legs is a tough thing for any defense. But, it is something that I find our defense will have to be prepared for.”
Pederson said it’s hard to simulate what Mariota can do with his legs in the Titans’ offense including scrambling and the run pass option. He compared the challenge to facing Russell Wilson of Seattle.
“Our defense has their work cut out for them,” Pederson said. “You have to stay disciplined, obviously, while trying to limit the number of long distance runs he’s capable of doing.”
Notes: K Ryan Succop was among five Titans who did not practice Wednesday with tendinitis in his left, plant leg. WR Rishard Matthews missed with personal reasons. LB Kamalei Correa (back) was limited. CB Adoree Jackson (concussion) practiced fully and still needs to be cleared by an outside doctor. S Kendrick Lewis (foot) practiced fully.
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