Marcus Mariota

Oregon football prediction: Justin "Record Breaker" Herbert

Oregon football prediction: Justin "Record Breaker" Herbert

Justin Herbert’s teammates gush that he has never been better. His leadership skills have grown immensely, altering the perception of his shy personality. He is receiving instruction from legends at his position. He is utilizing the summer break to better connect with his receivers. Long story short, Herbert is putting it all together for an epic senior season that I predict will be record shattering.

The projected top quarterback in the 2019 NFL Draft, Herbert decided to forgo the Draft and come back for his senior season at Oregon. He returns to one of the best veteran offensive lines in the nation and a large array of weapons to sling the ball to. He’s in striking distance of many Oregon records. Which brings me to my prediction…

The senior will break Oregon’s record for career pass completions, set by Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota with 779 completions.

Currently, Herbert has completed 541 passes in his Duck career, ranking him sixth on the list. He needs 239 more completions to top the list. Last season he completed 240 passes.

This prediction is based on:

Consistency from the receivers

Herbert completed 240 passes in a season that was plagued with dropped passes. An estimated 40-50 passes were dropped in 2018 and at times it seemed former receiver Dillon Mitchell was the only player who Herbert could depend on. Mitchell’s departure to the NFL means consistency is crucial this season, something new wide receivers coach Jovon Bouknight has set out to fix.

There are plenty of receivers vying for playing time and the competition has stepped up coming into the 2019-20 season. Between the new addition of graduate transfer Juwan Johnson, improved play from veterans Jaylon Redd, Brenden Schooler, Johnny Johnson III, a healthy Cam McCormick, plus freshman… Oregon should be able to match it’s passing numbers from last season.

Balanced attack

Oregon’s offense must have a balanced attack between the ground and the air. In 2018, CJ Verdell became the third freshman in school history to run for 1,000 yards (LaMichael James, Royce Freeman). Along with Verdell, Oregon returns Travis Dye, Cyrus Habibi-Likio, Darrian Felix plus add recruiting class headliner Sean Dollars to the mix. If the Ducks are keep a similar balance of the rushing attack with Herbert’s cannon in coach Mario Cristobal's "power-tempo offense", the quarterback could reach this record.   

If Herbert stays healthy

Herbert must be healthy and play a full season for this to happen, obviously.

Records don’t mean everything. However in this case, Herbert setting a new record for UO career pass completions would also indicate a strong receiving attack- which the Ducks would undoubtedly need in order to be Pac-12 title contenders.

BONUS

Another streak to keep your eye on: Herbert enters his final season as a Duck with a streak of 28 consecutive games with a touchdown pass, which is good for longest in the nation.

Marcus Mariota set to "let it ride" during pivotal season with the Tennessee Titans

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USA Today

Marcus Mariota set to "let it ride" during pivotal season with the Tennessee Titans

Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota has one year to prove his worth or his career in Tennessee could come to an end next offseason. 

It's as simple as that. His response to the situation: “I just try to be the best I can be for this team, and let it ride,” he told reporters during organized team activities this week. 

The gambling analogy fits. The Titans wagered $20.9 million on Mariota in 2019 that he could still develop into a franchise quarterback by picking up the fifth-year option on his rookie contract signed as the No. 2-overall selection in 2015. Tennessee also hedged that bet by trading for Ryan Tannehill, a 2012 first-round pick by Miami that didn't materialize into the franchise quarterback the Dolphins hoped they were getting. 

Nevertheless, Tannehill can play the position at a high level at times, as evidenced by his 126 career touchdown passes. In fact, he plays it well enough to push Mariota to the sideline should he falter this season.

For now, Tennessee has made it clear that Mariota is the starter.

“His job is not in jeopardy,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters. “I don’t think that’s something we’re even here to talk about."

Sure thing. But that stance could change in a nanosecond. See last year's situation in Tampa Bay between Jameis Winston, the No. 1-overall pick in 2015, and Ryan Fitzpatrick. Winston, suspended to start the season, lost his job, then got it back, then lost it again, and now is once again the starter. In between, Fitzpatrick was both brilliant and dreadful. 

The same juggling act could happen in Tennessee if Mariota isn't careful. Should a juggling act transpire, Mariota could be looking for work next offseason. 

Mariota has had an up-and-down career. At times he has looked brilliant. Other times, very ordinary. Meanwhile, other young quarterbacks have passed him by. Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes II, Houston's Deshaun Watson, Chicago's Mitchell Trubisky, Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams, Dallas' Dak Prescott and San Francisco's Jimmy Garoppolo would not be traded straight up for Mariota. All were drafted after 2015 with the exception of Garoppolo, taken by New England in 2014 before being traded to the 49ers midway through the 2017 season when he became a starter. 

If you're the Titans and your once promising franchise star has been surpassed by six younger quarterbacks, it doesn't make much sense to give him a $100 million contract extension. You would, instead, do what Miami did by moving on from the failed experiment and going down another path. 

The irony in all of this is that Mariota might be better off elsewhere. Vrabel is his third head coach in four years and he's working with his fourth offensive coordinator in five seasons. One must wonder if Mariota would be in a different place in his career had he landed on a team with more stability at the top and a better supporting cast. 

Mariota is smart, accurate, takes good care of the ball from a passing standpoint (just like at Oregon he can become careless with ball security while avoiding pressure) and he still has wide receiver speed to make things happen with his legs. 

Mariota had several outstanding games last season when not bothered by injuries that impacted his passing abilities. 

The Titans have plenty of reasons to gamble on Mariota. The Titans narrowly missed the playoffs last season with their starting quarterback battling injuries and producing just 11 touchdown passes. If he comes near the 26 touchdown passes he threw in 2016, Tennessee could very well make the postseason and extend Mariota.

That all said, Tennessee also has legitimate reasons to prepare for the worst-cased scenario that could see the two parties part ways less than a year from now. 

Where are the #ProDucks, #ProBeavs and other NFL players with local connections?

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USA Today

Where are the #ProDucks, #ProBeavs and other NFL players with local connections?

Free agency and player movement have led to some familiar faces from the area finding new addresses and opportunities while some others have called it a career. 

Former Oregon defensive lineman Haloti Ngata retired last week after 13 seasons and could be bound for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Former Oregon offensive lineman Max Unger also retired, and although he probably won't end up in the Hall of Fame, he should be considered the second best offensive linemen to ever come out of UO.

[ALSO READ: Max Unger leaves NFL as one of the best OL products Oregon has produced

Offensive lineman Andy Levitre (Oregon State) was released by Atlanta. He spent most of last season on injured reserve with a torn bicep.  His career could also be over. 

Finding yet another job is former UO running back Kenjon Barner, who signed as a free agent with Atlanta. Barner has played Carolina, Philadelphia, New England, then Carolina again and now the Falcons. 

Former Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion is looking for a job after spending his entire career with the Los Angeles Rams. Mike Remmers (Oregon State) was released by Minnesota on Mar. 11.  Linebacker D.J. Alexander (OSU) is a free agent. 

Receiver De'Anthony Thomas (Oregon), who fractured his leg during practice on Oct. 11, remains a free agent. Defensive lineman Dion Jordan, (Oregon) who was with Seatttle last season, remains a free agent.

Ndamukong Suh, the defensive tackle out of Nebraska and Grant High School, is a free agent. He spent last season with the Rams. 

Below is a team-by-team list of former Ducks, Beavers and others from around the state, currently on NFL rosters. If we've missed anyone, please let us know with an email to AaronFentress@CSNNW.com:

 

 ARIZONA CARDINALS
 

  • Joe Walker, Oregon, linebacker: Signed away from Philadelphia's practice squad last September. Appeared in 14 games and had eight tackles. 

 

 

 ATLANTA FALCONS

 

  • Kenjon Barner, Oregon, running back: Signed as a free agent this week. 
  • Sean Harlow, Oregon State, guard: Signed to the practice squad in October after being released by the Colts. 
  • Rocky Ortiz, Oregon State, running back. 

 

 

 BALTIMORE RAVENS

 

 

 

 BUFFALO BILLS

 

 

 

 CAROLINA PANTHERS

  • None.

 

 

 CHICAGO BEARS

 

  • Kyle Long, Oregon Ducks, guard: Signed a new contract this offseason. 
  • Ryan Nall, Oregon State (Central Catholic H.S., Portland), running back: Spent last season on the practice squad.  

 

 

 CINCINNATI BENGALS

 

     

     

     CLEVELAND BROWNS

     

     

     DALLAS COWBOYS

     

     

     

     DENVER BRONCOS

     

     

     

     DETROIT LIONS

     

     

     

     GREEN BAY PACKERS 

     

    • Evan Baylis, Oregon, tight end: Signed to the Packers' practice squad in December and to a futures contract in January. 
    • Eddie Pleasant, Oregon, safety: Signed by the Packers in December. 

     

     

     HOUSTON TEXANS

     

    • Brennan Scarlett, California and Stanford (Central Catholic H.S., Portland). 

     

     

     INDIANAPOLIS COLTS

     

    • Josh Andrews, Oregon State, gaurd: Signed off the Eagles practice squad in December. 

     

     JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS

     

    • None. 

     

    KANSAS CITY

     

    • Henry Mondeaux, Oregon Ducks, defensive line: Signed a futures contract in January. Spent some time last season with New Orleans. 

     

    LOS ANGELES CHARGERS

     

    • Arrion Springs, Oregon Ducks, cornerback: Spent last season on the practice squad for Kansas City, Oakland, Cleveland and New Orleans. 

     

    LOS ANGELES RAMS

     

     

     

    MIAMI DOLPHINS

     

     

     

    MINNESOTA VIKINGS

     

    • None.

     

     

    NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS

     

    • Ryan Allen, Louisiana Tech (West Salem H.S.), punter: Signed a one-year deal this month. 
    • Patrick Chung, Oregon Ducks, safety

     

     

     NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

     

    • None. 

     

     NEW YORK GIANTS

     

     

     

    NEW YORK JETS

     

    • None. 

     

     OAKLAND RAIDERS

     

     

     

    PHILADELPHIA EAGLES

     

     

     

    PITTSBURGH STEELERS

     

    • Kameron Canaday, Portland State, long snapper: Played special teams. 
    • Steven Nelson, Oregon State, defensive back: Signed a $25 million contract this week. 

     

     

    SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

     

     

     SEATTLE SEAHAWKS

     

     

     TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

     

     

     TENNESSEE TITANS

     

     

     WASHINGTON REDSKINS

    • Byron Marshall, Oregon Ducks, running back: Resigned with Washington for $725,000.  

    Tennessee Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota's NFL career is at a crossroads

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    USA Today

    Tennessee Titans' quarterback Marcus Mariota's NFL career is at a crossroads

    Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota shouldn't be considered a bust four years into his NFL career with the Tennessee Titans. That designation would be patently unfair. 

    However, it's clear that the 2014 Heisman Trophy recipient has yet to distinguish himself as a star in the NFL, of as even a legitimate building block at the most important position for a potential championship contender. 

    A proper grade for Mariota's career to date would be: Incomplete. 

    For that reason, and the realities of financial obligations surrounding the most important single position in any team sport, Tennessee was wise to acquire quarterback Ryan Tannehill and a sixth-round pick in 2019 for a fourth-round pick in 2020 and a seventh-round pick this year.

    Mariota is due to make $21 million this season on the final year of his rookie deal. Tennessee has not indicated that it will seek to sign Mariota, 25, to an extension until after he proves himself this upcoming season. And why should they? Mariota has not demonstrated that he is worthy a team tying up $100 million with huge long-term cap hits to a quarterback that has not proven to be a franchise guy. 

    That's exactly the reason why Miami moved Tannehill, 30, after seven seasons with the Dolphins. In 2015, he signed a contract extension worth $96 million that tied him to Miami through 2020. But instead of continuing with that deal, Miami decided to move on from Tannehill and take a cap hit of about $13.4 million this season in order to free up money sooner and find another quarterback in the process. 

    Miami took a chance on Tannehill and it didn't pay off. Tennessee is trying to avoid making the same mistake with Mariota and has signed Tannehill as insurance in case the former Duck is injured or simply does not perform well. The Titans will be in a position to either sign Mariota long-term should he elevate his play, or franchise tag him in 2020 and make him prove it again, or let him go with no cap ramifications and go with Tannehill in 2020, or completely start over at quarterback without a huge financial obligation at that position. 

    Titans general manager Jon Robinson has stated that Mariota is the starter and that Tannehill is being brought in as the backup. But he is no ordinary backup. He is a former full-time starter that has had some success and would offer a much better option to turn to than Blaine Gabbert did last season. 

    Robinson met with the media today and talked about Mariota's progress from his injury that slowed him last season. 

    “He said he's feeling good, working out and moving around, throwing,” Robinson said told reporters. “I think he's going to come back here a little bit before the appointed time (April 15) and get some work in. I'm looking forward to getting back to work with him, excited to have him back on our football team. Look forward to it.”

    Mariota has been brilliant at times. In his second season he passed fro 26 touchdowns with nine interceptions and appeared to be on the fast track to stardom. But his season ended late in the year when he fractured his fibula. The impacts of that injury appeared to linger the following season and he regressed, passing for just 13 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Tennessee used a potent running game and solid defense to overcome the lack of a quality passing game and reached the playoffs where Mariota orchestrated a second-half comeback at Kansas City that resulted in a playoff victory for the Titans. 

    Last season, Mariota began slowly after an elbow injury cost him some time. But he was magnificent on several occasions.

    • Sept. 30 vs. Philadelphia: Mariota had arguably his best performance as a professional when he threw for 344 yards and two touchdowns with one interception and had the game-winning touchdown pass in overtime to defeat Philadelphia 26-23. He also rushed for a touchdown. 
    • Nov. 5 at Dallas: Mariota threw for 240 yards on 21-of-29 passing with two touchdowns and ran for another in a 28-14 Monday night win at the Cowboys.
    • Nov. 11 vs. New England: Mariota completed 16 of 24 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions in a 34-10 win over New England.
    • Nov. 26 at Houston: Mariota completed 22 of 23 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns in a loss to the Texans. 

     

    The problem was that Mariota had trouble staying healthy, twice going down with injuries. He also closed the season with zero touchdown passes over his final three appearances, all victories, to finish with 11 touchdown passes and eight interceptions on the season. 

    In 29 starts over the past two years, Mariota has thrown just 24 touchdowns with 23 interceptions. Compare those numbers to Tannehill​​​​​​'s final two healthy seasons in Miami (he missed the entire 2017 season with a knee injury) when over 24 starts he threw for 36 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. 

    On paper, one would wonder why Tennessee is even bothering with allowing Mariota to be the presumptive starter in 2019. But there are plenty of reasons why one shouldn't give up on Mariota just yet. 

    First, and maybe foremost, he has had three head coach in four seasons. Ken Whisenhunt was the man in 2015 when the Titans drafted Mariota but was let go after a 1-6 start and replaced by Mike Mularkey.  Mariota had his best season under Mularkey and won a playoff game the following season. But, the Titans let him go following the 2017 season to hired Mike Vrabel. He is now on his second offensive coordinator after Matt LaFleur left Tennessee after one season to take the same job in Green Bay. The Titans elevated former tight ends coach Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator. 

    Needless to say, a revolving door of head coaches and offensive coordinators is not very quarterback friendly. 

    Also, Tennessee has been very average at wide receiver during Mariota's career. Dorial Green-Beckham led team wide receivers in 2015 with 549 yards. Rishard Matthews led the team in 2016 with 945 yards and in 2017 with 795. Corey Davis, the fifth-overall pick in 2017, led Titans' wide receivers with 891 last year and appears to be on track to becoming a legit star. Maybe. 

    The lack of a true No. 1 receiver over the years and then the season-ending injury to tight end Delanie Walker last season, have certainly worked against Mariota's progress as a quarterback. But blaming the receivers only goes so far. 

    What we know about Mariota is that he still can move around at an elite level with his feet, he is extremely accurate on short and intermediate throws and he doesn't make a ton of mistakes, although he still suffers from some ball security issues in the pocket that popped up from time to time when he was at Oregon. 

    Mariota, just like when he was at Oregon, has not proven to be a great downfield passer. He doesn't scare teams deep. Your best NFL quarterbacks - Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes II, Drew Brees, Matt Ryan, Russell Wilson, etc,. - can all strike fear in the hearts of defenses with the threat of the long touchdown pass. With Mariota, so far, not so much. 

    One thing that must be pointed out is that Mariota's overall efficiency last season was at a career high. His passer rating of 92.3 ranks behind his second season (95.6) only if we include the two interceptions he threw during the season-opening loss to Miami that occurred on two throws made after he injured his right elbow and still tried to play through the numbness in his passing hand. 

    Take those passes out of the equation and Mariota's passer rating pops up a bit to a career-high of 96.6. But that would only rank 15th in the NFL during an era when a rating of 100 or better is the gold standard. 

    Plus, with the season on the line, Mariota was unable to play against the Colts in the final regular season game. The Titans, who started Gabbert, lost 33-17. 

    It's safe to say that the 2019 season is Mariota's final audition for the Titans in an attempt to convince them to give him a fat new contract. He must stay healthy. Put up 35-30 total touchdowns. Lead the team to the playoffs. And show that he is worthy of a long-term investment.

    Should he fail, Mariota could be on the move next season and it might be to find a job similar to the one Tannehill has now. 

    Marcus Mariota questionable for do-or-die Tennessee Titans game

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    USA Today

    Marcus Mariota questionable for do-or-die Tennessee Titans game

    The Tennessee Titans face a must-win game Sunday night at home against the Indianapolis Colts with a playoff berth on the line and they might be without the services of quarterback Marcus Mariota.

    The former Oregon star suffered a stinger during last week 25-16 win. Mariota missed practice on Wednesday but participated in limited capacity on Thursday and Friday. Tennessee coach Mike Vrabel told reporters that the tea would monitor Mariota's progress and make the best decision for team. That could mean starting backup Blaine Gabbert is Mariota isn't quite ready to go. 

    "So we'll kind of just keep seeing where it goes, and figure out who gives us the best chance, and how he feels," Vrabel said. "We want to make sure he can go out there and do his job at a high level."

    Mariota appeared confident that he could perform if called upon. 

    “I am doing everything I can, day and night, to try and make sure that I can be ready,” Mariota told reporters on Wednesday. “This is for everything. There is no timetable. If I can go and it is Sunday at 5 o’clock, by all means. We’re just taking it one day at a time and I am going to do my best to be available.”

    The winner of the Titans-Colts game is guaranteed to receive the second AFC wild card berth. The loser it out. The winner of this game would win the AFC South title if Houston loses to Jacksonville. 

     

    Marcus Mariota goes down while Tennessee Titans keep playoff hopes alive

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    USA Today

    Marcus Mariota goes down while Tennessee Titans keep playoff hopes alive

    Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota left today's critical home game against Washington in the second quarter after being sacked and falling on his previously injured right elbow resulting in a stinger.

    The former Oregon star did not return to the game and backup Blaine Gabbert helped lead the Titans to a 25-16 win to keep the team's playoff hopes alive. Tennessee (9-6) could get into the playoffs with a win next week at home against Indianapolis (8-6) and a Baltimore (9-6) loss at home to Cleveland. The Ravens won 22-10 Saturday night at the Los Angeles Chargers (11-4). Or, the Titans would need to win and hope that Pittsburgh (8-5-1) loses one of its final two games at New Orleans (12-2) and home against Cincinnati (6-8). 

    Mariota completed 10 of 13 passes for 110 yards and the Titans were at the Washington 14 while trailing 10-6 when he went down injuring the same elbow he banged up in the season opening loss to Miami. The injury suffered against Miami caused numbness in his right hand that prevented him from properly gripping and throwing a football. 

    Gabbert completed 7 of 11 passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the win. 

    Titans' coach Mike Vrabel said he wasn't sure exactly what happened to Mariota or if he would speak about the injury tonight.

    "When he does, he will be able to talk to you about what he felt," Vrabel said. "And I'll talk to the doctors here in a little bit."

    ProDucks/ProBeavs update: Johnny Hekker reaches legendary status

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    ProDucks/ProBeavs update: Johnny Hekker reaches legendary status

    Johnny Hekker (Los Angeles)

    Former Oregon State Beavers’ punter Johnny Hekker may have pulled off one of the most savage moves in NFL history. Not just by a member of Special Teams, but in the entire NFL. 

    On a 48-yard field goal attempt, Hekker as the holder caught the snap, placed the ball down, and proceeded to look and point at the Detroit Lions bench. The kick was good but Hekker stole the show. Sure sure, there are claims that he was just pointing out the fact that the Lions may have had 12 men on the field, but regardless it was awesome.

    The Los Angeles Rams improved to 11-1 on the season and face the Chicago Bears (8-4) next in Soldier Field.

    Marcus Mariota (Tennessee Titans)

    Under two-minute drill, one timeout, 81 yards to go, and down 22-19… This is the scenario where Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota shined. The fact that the Titans even had a shot in the end is remarkable with the pace of this game vs. the New York Jets. Tennessee quickly fell into a 16-0 hole and slowly climbed its way out by the arm and feet of its third-year quarterback. The final drive started where Mariota is so dangerous: the open field, with a 26-yard scamper to the 45-yard-line. Then finding his tight end down the middle of the field for another big gain, before finding his favorite wide receiver Corey Davis for an 11-yard touchdown pass.

    Over the last two season, Mariota leads the NFL in game-winning drives. 

    Mariota finished the day 20-for-35 for 282 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and rushed for 43 yards on four carries. 

    The Titans improved to 6-6 on the year with a 26-22 win over the New York Jets (3-9). 

    Kiko Alonso (Miami Dolphins)

    The Miami Dolphins (6-6) picked up a huge 21-17 win at home over the Buffalo Bills (4-8). Former Oregon linebacker Kiko Alonso lead the Dolphins defense with 11 total tackles, eight solo and one tackle for loss.

    Not just a team-high in tackles, Alonso is currently second in the NFL in tackles with 106 on the season. The NFL leader in tackles is Darius Leonard of the Indianapolis Colts with 122. 

    Next up the Dolphins host Tom Brady and the New England Patriots (9-3) where Alonso will have his hands full with rookie running back sensation Sony Michel. 

    Troy Hill (Los Angeles Rams)

    The former Oregon corner now with the red-hot Rams made a stellar game-sealing interception against the Detroit Lions on Sunday. The interception itself was quite impressive: in the back corner of the end zone, Hill didn’t necessarily have the best body position on the Lions receiver, but he had the hops and got way up to make the catch, and then got both his feet in bounds.

    Hill has two interceptions on the season.

    The interception came with :13 left on the game clock and the Rams sealed the victory, 30-16 over the Lions. 

    Highlight: Marcus Mariota leads Tennessee Titans on game winning drive

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    USATI

    Highlight: Marcus Mariota leads Tennessee Titans on game winning drive

    There was some Mariota magic in Tennessee on Sunday: Trailing by three with 1:46 to go and the ball on their own 14 yardline, the former Oregon Duck led the Titans down the field for the go-ahead score on a pass to Corey Davis with just :36 left in the game.  The Titans would seal the victory on with an interception two plays into the Jets final drive. 

    Despite having a statistically good month, including a near perfect game vs. Houston (22/23 for 303 yards and 3 TDs), the Titans were just 2-5 in October and November.

    Leading the late fourth quarter drive and holding on for the win is a key step for Mariota and the Titans who's playoff hopes were on the brink coming into the game. 

    The Titans have the easiest remaining schedule left on the season (tied with a few other teams), according to the NFL Network's Scott Hanson. 

     

    Marcus Mariota efficient but not productive enough in loss at Houston

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    USA Today

    Marcus Mariota efficient but not productive enough in loss at Houston

    Former Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota completed 22 of 23 passes (95.3 percent) for 303 yards and two touchdowns Monday night at Houston. 

    However, his team lost 34-17 to fall to 5-6 on the season making reaching the playoffs a serious uphill climb. 

    Mariota, who played despite the discomfort of a stinger injury he suffered last week in a loss at Indianapolis in which he left the game before the end of the first half, started Monday's game by completing his first 19 passes - breaking his own team record (15) - including a 61-yard touchdown to tight end Jonnu Smith to make the score 10-0, Titans in the first quarter. 

    From that point on, however, Houston's defense stuffed the Titans despite Mariota's numerous completions. Part of the problem for Tennessee was that all but three of Mariota's 22 completions traveled more than 10 yards down the field. Even his scoring pass to Smith did not. That completion came after Mariota read a Texans' blitz and dumped the ball short over the middle to Smith and he raced down the field for the score. 

    Mariota did throw deep down the right side line for a 48-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Corey Davis in the quarter. But for the most part, Houston did a good job of limiting Mariota to short passes that resulted in little yardage, which is the reason why Tennessee scored just 17 points and converted on only four of 12 third-down attempts. 

    Part of the problem was the relentless pressure Houston threw at Mariota. He was sacked six times a week after the Colts got him down four times in less than a half and then out of the game. 

    "Stats are stats," Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters regarding Mariota's play.  "The loss is really what I'm going to try to focus on."

    Mariota, as usual, placed the blame on himself. 

    "I can do a better job, though," Mariota told reporters. "I didn't help our guys up front -- I was holding the ball too long. I got us in negative situations, taking some of these sacks. I'll look back at the film and get better from it, and improve."

    Mariota has played quality football as of late. Since getting sacked 11 times by Baltimore during a 21-0 loss on Oct. 14, Mariota has thrown seven touchdowns with just two interceptions while completing 68.5 percent of his passes. For those reasons, Mariota and the Titans aren't quite done, yet. They are just one game out of the AFC wild card hunt behind Baltimore (6-5) and Indianapolis (6-5). But the Titans are tied with Miami, Denver and Cincinnati. 

    Tennessee could get back over .500 in a hurry. The Titans' next three games are: home against the New York Jets (3-8) and Jacksonville (3-8) and then at the New York Giants (3-8).  For that to happen, Tennessee must protect Mariota better and he needs to find a way to complete more passes down the field for big gains. 

    Mariota expected to start tonight vs. Texans

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    usa today img.

    Mariota expected to start tonight vs. Texans

    Nothing better than a Monday Night Football showdown under the lights in Texas featuring two elite young quarterbacks. For awhile there, it was looking like the Titans would be without their starting quarterback after Mariota left last Sunday’s game vs. the Colts with an apparent arm injury. But as the week progressed so did Mariota’s status.

    According to Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, Mariota “was limited the first two days of practice and today [Friday, Nov. 23rd] he was out there throwing. To be honest with you, I could not tell that anything was wrong. He looked good to me. … He was full-go, took all the reps, and he is ready to roll.”

    Great news for the Titans and fans can breathe a bit easier as Tennessee travels tonight to face Deshaun Watson and the Texans in Houston, Texas. 

    AFC South Division

    This AFC South inner-division battle is of the utmost importance to both squads. Tennessee (5-5) is sitting third in the division and needing this win to keep any sort of playoff hopes alive. Houston (7-3) sits at the top of the pack but needs this win to keep the momentum moving forward heading into the last stretch of its schedule. 

    How Tennessee can win

    Well for starters, a healthy Mariota is a happy football team. Mariota continues to shine on the big stage. The last time the Titans played a Monday Night Football game was at the Dallas Cowboys where Mariota went 21-for-29 for 240 yards and two touchdowns, one on the ground with his feet where he is so dangerous in their 28-14 win. The following week, Mariota and the Titans took down Tom Brady and the New England Patriots 34-10, again with Mariota’s impressive stat line.

    Two keys for the Titans in this one: containing wide receivers DeAndre Hopkins and Demaryius Thomas and the Texans pass rush lead by J.J. Watt.

    How Houston can win

    Contain the mustache that is Mariota and stop the run. Mariota has proven the past two weeks that he can get the job done in the air, on the ground, and even as a receiver. It will be vitally important to always keep in check where QB1 is on the field. The other part is J.J. Watt will need to have a stellar performance against Dion Lewis and Derrick Henry.

     

    Game time set for 5:20 PM (PT).