Tennessee Titans

49ers' Trent Williams one of only two NFL OTs to accomplish this feat

49ers' Trent Williams one of only two NFL OTs to accomplish this feat

It would be difficult for anyone to replace Joe Staley and live up to the high level of performance he provided for the 49ers for 13 seasons. But if there's anyone who can do it, it's the man who already has been tasked with the job.

Trent Williams might have sat out the entirety of this past season, but his reputation as arguably the top offensive lineman in the NFL has not dissipated much. He is physically imposing, tremendously skilled and, though you have to rewind a bit, the tape doesn't lie.

Trading for Williams was considered one of the top moves of the NFL offseason, and aside from the fact that he fills a major need, it's easy to see why. When it comes to all-around performance by offensive tackles over the last four seasons, he is in very elite company.

Since 2016, he is one of only two offensive tackles to rank in the top-10 in Pro Football Focus' pass-blocking and run-blocking grades in the same season.

Lewan, the Tennessee Titans' standout tackle, has made three Pro Bowls since entering the league in 2014, and he was one of the best all-around performers at his position this past season. His PFF pass-blocking grade (83.5) and run-blocking grade (80.7) ranked ninth and eighth, respectively, among all qualified offensive tackles.

Those are great numbers, no question. But they also show how dominant Williams was in 2016.

PFF ranked Williams as the best offensive tackle in the entire league in 2016 with an overall grade of 92.8. That was the fifth-highest single-season grade posted by an offensive tackle since 2006. And, when spliced further into pass-blocking and run-blocking grades, Williams' 2016 performance is shown to be far superior to Lewan's in 2019. That season, Williams posted individual pass-blocking and run-blocking grades of 91.4 and 88.4, respectively. He was the third-most efficient pass-blocker among qualified tackles, and only one other player posted a superior run-blocking grade.

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If there has been any knock against Williams throughout his career, it's that he has been injury-prone, having not played a full season since 2013. That said, the extended rest his body got this past season surely can only help, and he doesn't appear to have lost a step based on offseason workouts. 

Clearly, when he is on the field, there aren't many tackles -- if any -- better than him.

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Raiders' Marcus Mariota was 'killing' Titans defense as scout team QB

Raiders' Marcus Mariota was 'killing' Titans defense as scout team QB

When Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota lost his starting job to Ryan Tannehill last year, he took it in stride. He didn't complain or mope, instead, he set off to do what he could do to help his team win.

As scout team quarterback, that included dismantling the Titans' starting defense, according to former teammate Logan Ryan.

"He started killing us every single week," Ryan told "The Double Coverage" podcast. "Like, he started ripping us in practice. Marcus Mariota was the practice quarterback and he was destroying us. And it made us better."

Mariota's time in Tennessee was plagued with injuries, staff and system changes and inconsistent play followed. The 2015 No. 2 overall pick never had a coach that truly was behind him and believed in the abilities that saw him win the 2014 Heisman Trophy and open eyes during his first two seasons as a starter.

The Oregon product now has that in general manager Mike Mayock and head coach Jon Gruden. To be sure, the Raiders still are Derek Carr's team, but the Silver and Black believe in Mariota.

He wasn't fully healthy in 2019 and Mayock said it would take time to "rebuild" him. Mariota battled a nerve issue during the 2018 season after taking a helmet shot to his elbow during Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins.

He's coming into Las Vegas a 1B not a 2. He'll push Carr to be better and make the quarterback room as strong as it has been.

As he showed last year, Mariota is a great leader, a fantastic teammate and the potential for him to be a good NFL quarterback still exists. The Titans were impressed by how well Mariota ran the Baltimore Ravens' offense when mimicking Lamar Jackson ahead of their playoff game.

That's no surprise. Mariota entered the NFL in a time when a host of Mike Mularkeys and Ken Whisenhunts were trying to force athletic, spread-style quarterbacks into old-school offensive systems. The "exotic smashmouth" the Titans ran under Mularkey was a detriment to his growth as an NFL signal-caller. Instead of doing as the Ravens did with Jackson and playing to Mariota's clear strengths, the Titans tried to force him to be a three-step drop pocket-passer.

Even when Mariota showed off what he could do, the Titans tried to fit a square peg into a round hole.

When healthy and confident, Mariota is capable of being a game-changing quarterback.

When he was coming out of college, both Gruden and Mayock -- who were television analysts -- raved about Mariota's ability. Gruden even likened him to Russell Wilson.

"I don't understand why he isn't the No. 1 player in this draft on Mel Kiper's Big Board," Gruden said. "I don't know anybody in this draft that can do for a football team what Mariota can do. He can read the field. That whole thing about Oregon being a no-huddle, dive-option team, that is just a narrative resulting from a lack of information. The Ducks run a lot of pro-style concepts. Mariota does a lot with the protections. I've seen him throw the ball with touch and timing in tight windows.

"Mariota is the same size as Jameis Winston. He runs 4.52 40, he is incredibly elusive, and man, is he a playmaker and a great competitor. I see him functioning in the pocket, out of the pocket, and if you want to run a zone-read, he'll rip the defense apart. He is like Russell Wilson, only he is 6-4."

Mariota also has done something Carr hasn't been able to do -- win in Kansas City. While that win didn't come against Patrick Mahomes, Mariota did lead the Titans to a come-from-behind playoff win at Arrowhead Stadium. In that game he caught his own deflected pass and ran it in for a touchdown and threw the game-sealing block on a Derrick Henry run.

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The Raiders have faith Carr will have a big season. He has the weapons to have a career year as he enters Year 3 in Gruden's system.

But the Raiders also have faith in who Mariota can be when healthy and confident. That rebuilding process might take some time, but the talent clearly still is there.

There's no doubt Gruden was grinning hearing Ryan talk about his weekly practice torchings.

Why Marcus Mariota is an ideal addition to Raiders' quarterback group

Why Marcus Mariota is an ideal addition to Raiders' quarterback group

The Raiders are adding a veteran quarterback to the roster, but he won’t be supplanting Derek Carr. He’ll be supporting and possibly competing with him down the road.

Marcus Mariota has agreed on a contract to join the Silver and Black, a league source confirmed on Monday night, after spending his first five NFL seasons in Tennessee.

NFL Network first reported the news. Terms of the deal were not immediately disclosed. 

Mariota was the Titans unquestioned starter from his rookie season until around the middle last year, when Ryan Tannehill took it and ran all the way to the AFC Championship Game.

Mariota wasn’t returning to Nashville -- Tannehill signed a monster extension on Sunday – but finds a home in Las Vegas with a head coach and general manager who loved him coming into the 2015 draft.

Both Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock were television analysts then, and lavished praise on an Oregon product who was eventually taken No. 2 overall. That was clear during Mariota’s episode of Gruden’s QB Camp series on ESPN. Mayock listed the Heisman Trophy winner as his top quarterback prospect back in 2015, during his long tenure as NFL Network’s preeminent draft analyst.

Carr’s also a big fan and has gotten to know Mariota in brief meetings over the years. In a strange twist, Carr and Mariota suffered broken legs on the same day in 2016.

Mariota will end up as a primary backup for Carr as it stands on Monday night. We can’t lock that pecking order down for sure, not with Tom Brady still an unrestricted free agent. National reporters have said the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are pushing hard for the six-time Super Bowl winner, with the L.A. Chargers also trying to woo him. If Brady’s willing to consider the Raiders, however, there’s a real chance Gruden and Mayock would make a starting quarterback switch.

Right now it’s Carr and Mariota, in that order. It’s a strong depth chart as is and could be supplemented by Nathan Peterman, who received an original-round RFA tender Monday, or a quarterback drafted next month.

Mariota’s career hasn’t gone according to plan, with a 29-32 record and a 1-1 mark in playoff games he started. That falls below expectations for his draft slot, but there’s talent, athleticism and smarts to produce a career renaissance working with Gruden. He’ll be the type of reclamation project Gruden enjoys, with real upside if Mariota can get on track. Let’s not forget that Mariota’s a playmaker at his best, a peak Gruden will try and evoke on a regular basis.

It’s not unthinkable Gruden could develop a set of plays to capitalize on Mariota’s athleticism even if Carr remains the unquestioned starter.

Mariota’s competitive enough to push for a starting spot but has the high character and football IQ to contribute as a No. 2.

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The Raiders also have a quality contingency plan should Carr falter at any point in the team’s first season in Las Vegas. It’s an ideal situation for the team and a player certainly looking to kickstart his career after losing a starting gig.

Per NFL rules particular to this offseason, Mariota and all other additions are prohibited from traveling to team facilities for meetings or physicals that formalize contracts. And, at this point, NFL offseason programs have been postponed indefinitely.