Marcus Mariota enters his second season with the Raiders as the backup to Derek Carr.
Hopefully, for Mariota, the season will be free of injuries. Last season he was recovering from a torn pectoral muscle amongst other ailments that sidelined him for a majority of the 2020 campaign.
Being in a backup role last season might’ve been a blessing in disguise. He was in a situation with no pressure on him and was able to return when he was truly healthy.
“He’s a great talent,” Gruden said of Mariota. “He took a team to the playoffs in the Titans [who] went from worst to first with him. And he’s got as much football character as anybody you’ll meet. He’s a great athlete and a great teammate and we’re excited to have him here.”
From the sound of what’s emerging from training camp, Mariota is showing shades of who he was earlier in his career with the Titans. With Tennessee, he was the man there before regressing and losing his job to Ryan Tannehill.
Although the talk around Mariota is positive, it doesn’t mean much until he proves it during a real game. Or maybe pre-season would be an opportunity for him to showcase it. Either way, he’s on a road to redemption.
“Last year was hard because he was hurt all the time. He didn’t have the offseason program and then he missed ten weeks of the season,” Gruden said. “This complex thing we’re trying to pull off here, I don’t know what you saw today, but we’re not going to call exactly the same plays when Marcus is in the game than when Derek is in the game. You wouldn’t either.
“That’s why we have a very fast playbook. And I think for Marcus to be great, he has to run plays that he’s good at and he likes. That’s what we do for every quarterback. I was excited today with some of the things that we looked at and there’s a lot more in the bubble that we got to get to later in the next couple weeks.”
Gruden running different plays for Mariota in practice could be his best chance to be on the field for special plays. Similar to what the Saints have done with Taysom Hill.
One storyline to keep an eye on in the coming weeks is the quarterback situation in Indianapolis. Just this week, Carson Wentz injured his foot. While not much is known around the severity, sources say the longtime Eagles QB will be out "indefinitely". Could Mariota be a solution? If so, could the two teams come together to make it happen? Only time will tell.