All eyes on QB Marcus Mariota as Titans open training camp
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Marcus Mariota barked out the snap count loud near the end of Tennessee’s first practice of training camp. Sure enough, a defensive lineman jumped offside.
So much for all that talk about how the quarterback might be too quiet.
The No. 2 draft pick overall showed some of the skills Friday that led to him winning the Heisman Trophy last season at Oregon, completing 13 of 18 passes in team and 7-on-7 drills with no turnovers. He finished up strong completing three of his final four passes, including one to Kendall Wright in traffic that would have been a touchdown.
“I thought he handled himself well,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “He doesn’t seem to get fazed and went through it, didn’t make a lot of mistakes, so it was good.”
Approximately 1,500 fans turned out for their first look at Mariota practicing in a Titans’ jersey, many wearing brand new No. 8 shirts for the rookie who led the NFL in jersey sales in May and ranked second for June. One fan brought a sign declaring the quarterback “Super Mariota,” and Mariota’s long passes to Justin Hunter and fellow rookie Dorial Green-Beckham drew big cheers.
Mariota spoke to reporters Thursday and isn’t scheduled to talk again until Sunday after his first practice in pads as the Titans work to avoid overloading the rookie scheduled to start the season at Tampa Bay on Sept. 13 against Jameis Winston.
The Titans know Mariota, whose 36 victories were more than any other quarterback the past three seasons in college, can throw and run. He threw for 10,796 yards with 105 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions in that span as well, but Mariota racked those numbers up in Oregon’s up-tempo, spread offense.
Even though Whisenhunt is mixing some of those plays into his offense, Mariota now has to call plays in the huddle and take snaps under center.
“He’s handled himself well, he’s been good in the pocket,” Whisenhunt said. “His footwork’s been really good, quick release, he’s seeing things down the field. A lot of the things that you see from a quarterback who’s maybe had more experience in the conventional type offense than one in the spread, he looks good.”
Veteran tight end Delanie Walker sure liked what he saw from Mariota.
“He was loud in the huddle, called the plays out fast, got us to the line, made the right audibles,” Walker said. “That’s what you want to see from a young quarterback, especially having a break and him coming back in on the first day and starting fast.”
Mariota got together with some of his wide receivers and threw with them at a local high school for a couple days before training camp started. Wright said it’s easy to see Mariota has been in his playbook and wants to do everything right.
“Everything he’s done stands out to me from OTAs until now,” Wright said of the offseason workouts. “He’s just grown a lot in that little time, and he’s getting better at his decision making and being really accurate with throwing the ball.”
One area the Titans had worked with Mariota on during the offseason was his cadence calling the snap count to help the quarterback better draw defenders offside. Whisenhunt said it was good to see the rookie draw someone offside.
“We still have a long way to go,” Whisenhunt said.
Notes: Whisenhunt rearranged lockers before training camp opened, mixing offensive and defensive players together. Previously, they were positioned by groups with the offense on one side and the defense on the other side. ... Quarterback Zach Mettenberger had a typo in his jersey at practice with the first “r″ dropped from his name. “Well, he went back to LSU, and I guess the Cajuns they pronounce it a little differently so that’s why it came out like that,” Whisenhunt joked. ... Whisenhunt said DT Sammie Hill may spend a couple weeks on the physically unable to perform list working his way back from a knee injured this offseason.
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