Can Tennessee Titans Quarterback Marcus Mariota Adapt To A New Offense?


Following his record-breaking, Heisman-winning campaign during the 2014 college football season, the Tennessee Titans opted to select former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota with the second overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft. In the days prior to the draft, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston seemed practically guaranteed to go first overall to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, despite the Titans possessing the second pick and ultimately drafting Mariota, no one had a clue where the speedy field general would end up.

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Tennessee already had a young, serviceable quarterback in Zach Mettenberger and an offensive scheme that many deemed ill-fitting for Marcus Mariota’s skillset, and it was widely believed that the Titans would either trade back in the draft or select USC defensive tackle Leonard Williams. Along with this, there was no shortage of suitors attempting to trade for the second pick and select Oregon’s first ever Heisman winner. The Bears, Browns, and Chargers were all reported as being interested in trading up to the second pick and taking Marcus Mariota, and former Oregon head coach Chip Kelly seemed to do everything in his power to bring the fellow former Duck to his Philadelphia Eagles.

One of Marcus Mariota’s biggest question marks heading towards the NFL Draft was his ability to adapt to a new system. The Oregon football team is widely known for its fast-paced spread offense and Mariota took every snap from the shotgun position, which is atypical for an NFL quarterback. Critics questioned his ability to take a snap from under center and succeed in a Pro-style offense, or basically any NFL offense aside from the Chip Kelly-run Eagles. On top of all of this, Tennessee Titans head coach Ken Whisenhunt is widely known as having a strong belief in his Pro-style system and his track record does not include many instances of adapting his offense for particular personnel. Despite all of the uncertainty of how Mariota would fit with the Titans, they still ultimately selected the dual-threat quarterback with their first-round pick.

ForMarcus  Mariota to work well with the Titans, it will require some adapting from both Ken Whisenhunt and Marcus himself. Whisenhunt would be wise to implement several designed run plays for a quarterback with 4.52 speed, and Mariota will have stay in the pocket more than he was asked to at Oregon. Whisenhunt has claimed that he intends on utilizing Mariota in a similar fashion to the Seahawks’ use of Russell Wilson, which likely means Mariota will be expected to be a pocket passer with the ability to scramble on a broken play or surprise the defense with a designed run.

As great of a runner as Marcus Mariota is, the Pac-12 Player of the Year often lacks the credit he deserves for his passing abilities, despite his stellar numbers in college. In 2014, he threw for 4454 yards and had an unreal TD/Int ratio of 42/4. For the Hawaiian phenom to find success in the NFL, he will have to rely more on his passing than he did in college, but it is clear that he has the ability to morph his game into more of that of a pocket-passing quarterback than a wild runner. It may not be easy from the start and will require a lot of work from both Marcus Mariota and Ken Whisenhunt, but the Titans may have potentially found the face of their franchise for years to come.

Mariota and the rest of the Tennessee Titans will begin training camp on July 31st.

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