2017 Grade: .577

2017 3rd Down: .229

Week 1 vs. Oakland: Mariota had more highlight plays than he did misses – the surest fire way to land a good grade. He was precise, created yardage with his legs both by running and setting up to throw, and threaded some tight needles. He was excellent on third down, registering 10 points on 10 drop backs. The most impressive part of his game is his eye discipline. The combination of holding a safety with his eyes, the quick release and the big arm make these 20-yard dig routes extremely difficult to defend.

Week 2 vs. Jacksonville: After scoring just seven points on his first 18 drop backs, Mariota flipped a switch. His final nine drop backs netted 13 points with four gorgeous downfield dimes. He continues to be one of the best in the business at manipulating defenses with his eyes. His issue remains accuracy, which is something that rarely improves, but he makes up for it in other areas (athleticism, release and anticipation.) The two GIFs are the Jekyll and Hyde of Mariota. Poor accuracy and read on one, terrific eye discipline on the other.

Week 3 vs. Seattle: Tennessee’s defense, ground game, and screen-passing-game did the heavy lifting in the victory over Seattle. Credit Mariota for throwing accurate passes in the underneath areas, making plays with his legs, and not making any poor decisions throughout the course of the game. This formula, with the addition of Mariota’s play-making skill set, makes the Titans a dangerous team.

Week 4 at Houston: The same inconsistencies in mechanics that plagued Mariota in 2016, showed up in this game. Throwing from a stiff base forces his arm into awkward positions, like the GIF below, causing the ball to sail on him. Still, his explosive running ability, and live arm when the mechanics are correct, could make him the most electrifying player in the game someday — he’s just still not there yet.

Week 6 vs. Indianapolis: Marcus Mariota is that starting pitcher that gives up a couple of runs in the first inning, then shuts the opposition down for eight consecutive innings. He has flaws in his game that lead to stretches of bad play but, when he’s on, he’s as deadly as anyone. The touchdown throw to Tywan Taylor, and the third quarter corner-route to Eric Decker were both things of beauty. The GIF below is a clear mis-read by Mariota.

2016: Boom or Bust

Marcus Mariota is going to be that quarterback that frustrates Titans fans for a decade – for polarizing reasons. He is oozing with talent – the NFL’s most-deadly threat when it comes to using his legs from the quarterback position. The spin, velocity and overall arm talent that an “ideal quarterback machine” would spit out, he is just missing a few essentials to become a superstar.

His mechanics are wildly inconsistent. When pressure arrives, all footwork is fleeting and his accuracy goes from not-so-great to horrendous. There are glimpses where he will slide around in the pocket and set his feet, but those occurrences are in the vast minority. Typically, he’s searching for an escape-route from the pocket by looping around either tackle and it, A.) Takes his eyes away from the play and, B.) Results in some huge losses. His first instinct has always been to take off – dating back to his days at Oregon. That tendency is why his third-and-long conversion rate has never been passable.

Occasionally, this boom-or-bust style will result in some long-gains on the ground or by creating an uncovered-receiver down the field. Mariota does not struggle with the deep ball. His wrist-strength and ability to flick the ball down-field with trajectory and touch is impressive.

But it is the missed-throws that drown this talent out. Poor consistency in his arm angles, the aforementioned sloppy feet – it’s anyone’s guess where the ball will be located on any given throw.

Mariota doesn’t value ball-security. He will uncork a throw without acknowledging coverage as he escapes the pocket. He can be victimized by under-cutting an out-route, a ranging safety that picks off a lobbed ball, and he is careless with the football in his hands in the pocket and on the run.

The Titans offense is based on his dynamic skill-set. The NFL hasn’t seen a player like him since Robert Griffin III in 2012. He gets up field fast and has the agility to plant his foot and make tacklers miss. The Tennessee run-game is one of the best in football and it will utilize play-action with a lot of two-pattern plays where the third-option is to run.

Tennessee’s offensive line is among the league’s best and Mariota often has ample time to go through reads. At times, he will get complacent and hang-out on his spot and becomes a sitting duck for pass-rushers.

The offense is creative in the way it manufactures open-receivers using the running-backs and flooding areas of the field with multiple routes in one area. When the running-game isn’t going, the offense bogs down and Mariota struggles to beat teams from the pocket with any deal of consistency.

If he cleans up his footwork, drives the football to the perimeter, improves his subtle pocket mobility and makes less snap decisions, he’ll be the best quarterback in the league. I just don’t think that list of warts is an awful lot to overcome. Until then, he’s firmly entrenched as a middle of the pack quarterback.

Stat Sheet

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