Marcus Mariota Post Injury Debut Set for Saturday Night
That is how long it has been since Marcus Mariota’s last snap against NFL competition not wearing the same uniform.
From the 2016 “Nightmare Before Christmas” in Jacksonville to his 2017 Preseason debut in MetLife Stadium on Saturday night – the wait is finally over. Mariota and the retooled Tennessee Titans offense will test some of their “Exotic Smashmouth” against the New York Jets.
In Mariota’s only other encounter with the Jets, the Titans lost 30-8. He threw for 274 yards, 1 pick, 0 touchdowns, had 1 fumble, and was sacked 5 times. He did, however, score the teams only points – but on the receiving end of an Antonio Andrews pass. Odd day.
Since then, the Titans have one of the best offensive lines in the league. They have new receivers that will keep Mariota from having to catch touchdowns. Tennessee also have some bully running backs that can help provide a punch the team did not have in 2015.
The Jets – who have been on the wrong side of the headlines – released veterans Brandon Marshall, Eric Decker, David Harris, Marcus Gilchrist, Darrelle Revis, and Nick Mangold. They also voided the contract of QB Ryan Fitzpatrick during the offseason. With QB Geno Smith playing for the other New York team, the Titans will face the likes of Josh McCown, Bryce Petty, and Christian Hackenberg. With the news of their top wideout, Quincy Enunwa, being placed on season ending injured reserve, the QBs will not have many threatening targets to throw the ball too outside of rookie Roll Tide WR Ardarius Stewart.
Their defensive unit, however, will have some gang green defenders eyeing to give Mariota a proper welcome back. Despite all signs pointing to the Jets tanking this season, their defensive line remained stocked with talent that will test the fortitude of the Titans offensive line – a unit also loaded with talent.
Leonard Williams, Sheldon Richardson, and Muhammad Wilkerson are all Pro Bowl players. They are not thinking about tanking. They are looking to replicate production of Pro Bowl seasons – and it’s starts Saturday Night.
Mariota will likely only play one series – at least that’s what many fans are hoping. As is customary for all preseason, the starters are eased in week by week, with starters seeing the most time during Week 3. For Mariota, it’s important for him to be reminded of the speed of the NFL against non-teammates. Although Mariota won’t be able to build rapport with rookie WR Corey Davis, he’ll get to show off some of the chemistry he’s had in training camp with former Jets WR Decker.
Jets 1st round selection of 2017, S Jamal Adams, suffered a high ankle sprain last week, so it’s uncertain if he will see any time. The Jets will showcase the other rookie Safety they selected in the 2nd round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Marcus Maye – who has earned strong reviews thus far.The new look Titans WRs will work against ex-Cowboy Morris Claiborne – who is trying to start a new chapter of his career in New York, and returning Jet Cornerback Buster Skrine.
As mentioned above, starters are not going to see much action, so the first series will be where glimpses of what is to come will be displayed.
I do expect the Titans to turn lose their battering ram RB, Derrick Henry, who will look to pound the rock between a stingy defensive front of the Jets. Fans will get looks at the backend of the Titans roster, with players hoping to have some plays that can – at the very least – earn them a spot on the practice squad.
It’s game week! Here’s to the hope that Saturday Night fares well for the Titans. A Preseason win is not important. What fans want to see the most is Mariota finding his rhythm, a few flashes from the new weapons on the roster, a stout defensive showing, and reasons to believe this is not just hype.
The 2017 Tennessee Titans are for real.
Stats referenced at NFL.com
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