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Tennessee Titans: In year five, Marcus Mariota needs breakthrough season

Tennessee Titans Marcus Mariota
Photo Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA Today

Throughout his first four seasons in the NFL, Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota has dealt with inconsistent play and several injuries. Although the Titans picked up his fifth-year option during the 2018 season, he is facing the heat in his fifth year in the league.

During his first four years with the Tennessee Titans, Marcus Mariota‘s best season statistics-wise came during in 2016. He completed 61.2 percent of his passes, throwing for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions. However, the last two years have been a bit of a struggle for Mariota.

But in 2017, Mariota threw for 3,232 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Despite a subpar season, the Titans still made the playoffs. They even defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC Wild Card Round before losing to the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round.

Last season wasn’t much better for Mariota. The quarterback amassed 2,528 yards passing with 11 touchdowns, and 8 interceptions while dealing with many injuries.

During the first week of the 2018 season, Mariota suffered an ulnar nerve injury and things never seemed to get better from there. He also dealt with neck and foot injuries during the year and missed the Titans win or go home game against the Indianapolis Colts. Tennessee would end up missing the playoffs at 9-7 after losing 33-17, just a year after the team made it to the divisional round.

Preparing for 2019

Mariota believes he knows what he and the Titans need to get back to the postseason.

“Consistency,” Mariota said. “We’ve shown up for games, we’ve played well. We beat some of the better teams in the league, and then we tend to kind of fall asleep. If we can build that consistent — I think it really starts at this time. Whether it’s consistent route running, consistent throwing, consistent tackling — those things can be worked on now. If we are able to do that I think we’ll get to a point where our success can be carried out for the entire year.”

So during the offseason, Mariota spent most of his offseason in his native land in Hawaii, adding weight to his 6-foot-4 body. He hopes to play all 16 games for the first time in his career.

“I think when it comes down to it, just being able to absorb the hits, being able to be healthy for a full … year,” Mariota said via Titans.com. “Those things haven’t really happened yet. So I am doing my best to be able to be on the front of it, and allow myself the opportunity to play all 16.”

Consistency within the coaching staff

While injuries have played a role in the lack of success for Mariota during his career, stability or lack thereof within the Titans organization has also been a culprit. The Titans are going on their fifth offensive coordinator in five years, as Matt LeFleur left to become the head coach of the Green Bay Packers after last season. Having that many coordinators in that amount of time would be a detriment to any quarterback. This is especially true for a young player struggling with inconsistency.

The good news is the Titans promoted Arthur Smith from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. Smith, who has been with the Titans organization since 2011, will be a familiar face for Mariota as that should provide him some comfort for him. Also, most of the terminology is expected to remain the same from when LeFleur was the coordinator.

New weapons for Mariota

Tennessee has also improved the weapons and supporting cast around Mariota. Tight end Delanie Walker, who suffered a season-ending injury against the Dolphins in Week 1, returns. Before he went down, Walker was arguably Mariota’s favorite target and a bit of a security blanket for him.

Also, the Titans signed wide receiver Adam Humphries, who had a breakout season with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last season. In 16 games, Humphries recorded 76 catches, 816 yards, and five touchdowns. Despite his size at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, Humphries isn’t afraid to go over the middle, which is a great attribute for a slot receiver.

Tennessee also drafted A.J. Brown in the second round of this year draft. Brown isn’t just a slot receiver. At 6-foot-1, Brown is also a threat on the outside, something that the Titans desperately need. At Ole Miss in 2018, Brown caught 85 passes for 1,320 yards, six touchdowns while averaging 15.5 per reception.

Make or break season

In year 5 in the NFL, the excuses have gotten old for Mariota. Tennessee has surrounded Mariota with the best offensive weapons of his career and will get his trusty tight end back.

Of course, the best ability is availability, and that is something Mariota struggled with during his career. If the Titans are going to take the next step and win the AFC South, Mariota will not only need to remain healthy, but he will need to have the best season of his career.

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