Checking in on Mariota: NFL Debut Edition

Marcus Mariota

It looked like it might get rough for a while there.

Our beloved former Duck Marcus Mariota got off to a less than perfect start in his debut with the Tennessee Titans, throwing an interception and having a fumble returned for a touchdown on the two first possessions of his NFL career in a preseason matchup with the Atlanta Falcons.

Marcus Mariota has been great during training camp for the Titans despite a shaky start to his NFL debut.

John Giustina

Marcus Mariota has been great during training camp for the Titans despite a shaky start to his NFL debut.

Leading up to the exhibition, Mariota had been exceeding expectations – one of the biggest storylines of Titan training camp was Mariota’s composure and accuracy. Eight-year veteran backup Charlie Whitehurst told USA Today Sports, “His poise is unlike most rookie quarterbacks I’ve seen.” Head coach Ken Whisenhunt also raved about the young QB’s maturity. He had yet to throw an interception in practice after roughly 186 attempts, according to an interview with ESPN’s Ed Werder.

That changed awfully quick Saturday. Atlanta’s Justin Durant intercepted a screen pass from Mariota at 6:34 in the first quarter, which set up a field goal for Atlanta. On the ensuing Titans possession, Mariota had the ball stripped from him and returned for a Falcons touchdown. Needless to say, the man who had enjoyed so much success at Oregon was not overly pleased.

In an article from Lindsay Jones of USA Today, Mariota was described as “seething,” with coach Whisenhunt saying he looked “pissed.”

“You lose the game with turnovers,” Mariota said. “I was upset with myself because both I could have controlled.”

Mariota showed flashes of his potential in his NFL debut

Craig Strobeck

Mariota showed flashes of his potential in his first NFL action.

But, in typical fashion, Mariota responded to these mistakes with an impressive 90-yard touchdown drive, going 5-5 on the drive. The rookie quarterback finished the game with a solid overall effort, going 7-for-8 with 93 yards. This was the Mariota that Duck fans came to know during his time in Eugene.

I fully expect Mariota to have both ups and downs this season with the Titans, a 2-14 team in 2014. However, as the Oregon faithful already know, this kid is special in terms of on-field ability and off-the-field temperament. And as the Titans add more and more talent around Mariota, he could elevate them to heights they haven’t known since the early 2000s.

With Marcus Mariota gone, is Jeff Lockie next in line?

Kevin Cline

With Marcus Mariota gone, is Jeff Lockie next in line?

While the future looks bright for Tennessee’s young signal-caller, there is no questioning the fact that Mariota’s departure from Oregon to the NFL has left a significant void at the quarterback position for the Ducks.

With Vernon Adams officially joining the Ducks at practice last week, the battle for Mariota’s heir apparent is officially on. Jeff Lockie brings experience with the system and proven leadership this offseason, while Adams brings the excitement, raw talent and more playing experience. Buckle up folks; this ought to be a good one. I’m sure Marcus will be watching.

 

Top photo by Kevin Cline

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Jay Garnett

Jay Garnett

Jay is a transplant to Duck Nation. He grew up in southern Maine, tragically knowing nothing of Oregon football prior to the 2007 college football season, when Dennis Dixon willed the Ducks into the national consciousness before tearing his ACL late in the year. Since then, the Ducks have consumed every Saturday from August to February. Jay graduated from the U of O with a degree in Journalism in the spring of 2014. Perhaps more impressively, he didn't miss a single game in Autzen stadium during his four years in Eugene.

  • douglas fur

    Sam Bradford’s experience is a cautionary tale. Now he’s at Philadelphia people are beginning to say he’s not that bad a qb. The worst draw first format of the NFL draft had made him a target for what could have been career ending injuries. The second chance Chip has given him may change the outcome of Bradford’s biopic.
    I think the Titans have a better appreciation of Mariota and look like they are building a whole team around him. Still a two win team needs a lot of changes so there’s still a chance Marcus will get trashed before he can prove himself.
    DRB ’74*

    *way back when there was a constant dread of what will go wrong for the Ducks.

    • Anthony Joseph Gomes

      bradford was injury prone and played behind the worst Oline in the NFL with the possible exception of the tennessee titans. if that isnt a recipe for failure i dont know what is.

      • douglas fur

        Worst case Marcus gets trashed, retires and goes to medical school in sports medicine/ reconstructive surgery*. Conspiracy theory. Mariota and Chip have a deal for him to go to Philly, rehab and lead them to the Superbowl.
        The certainty is we have to listen to “The Ducks are all flash and no substance” for 10 more years. I say more power to that. The more teams believe that the W’s for our team.
        DRB’74
        *hmm if he goes to Oregon School of Medicine could he cash in on his remaing year of eligabilityity and play for the Ducks?

  • MAITAIDUCK

    Yes he had a couple bumps but came through like a MAD MAN after! The TO’s had more to do with his protection than anything. He will be a great QB in the NFL and I don’t say that just cause I’m a Duck.