NFL

Early Projections: Marcus Mariota

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Photo by: Associated Press

The 2016 season for the Tennessee Titans offense was introduced with the belief “Exotic Smashmouth Football” will be productive. Considering the offense scored 381 points, won nine games and narrowly missed the playoffs, many would believe Tennessee is primed to take the next step: Winning the AFC South and making the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

Quarterback Marcus Mariota was the lynch-pin for the mantra. Mariota completed 276-of-451 passes for 3,426 yards, 26 touchdowns, nine interceptions and a 95.6 passer in his 2016 campaign before suffering a fractured fibula in Week 16 at Jacksonville. Marcus also added 60 rushing attempts for 349 yards and two touchdowns. The 3rd year signal caller has shown very great signs of improvement with respect to his quickness and agility during OTAs.

“I feel good,” Mariota said after Wednesday’s session. “I think practices have been clean, and obviously execution-wise you can do a little better in certain areas, but all in all I think everyone has done a good job.”

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Mariota’s 95.6 passer rating ranks third in franchise history for a single season, behind only Warren Moon’s 96.8 in 1990, when he was the Associ­ated Press Offensive Player of the Year, and Steve McNair’s 100.4 in 2003, when he was the NFL’s Co-MVP.

The key right now is to limit Mariota’s activity in the spring and early summer and have him ready for the season. Many believe Marcus is ready to ascend to the upper echelon of quarterbacks in the NFL. However, the QB is worried about the little things.

“Just being able to do rollouts, do everything normal, and just be the same guy, the same player that I was,’’ Mariota said. “I think this is kind of the final step for me.

“It is close, and I am able to do a lot of things on the field, which kind of sucks because I feel like I can be out there and practice. But I just have to stay the course and stay focused on getting healthy and I’ll be ready to go once the season begins.”

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