During mini-camps earlier this summer, both Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston impressed their new teams and were praised for their accuracy and leadership qualities. In the relatively low-intensity practices, the quarterbacks looked good and impressed their fan bases, coaching staffs and their teammates.
Thus far in the preseason training camp, Mariota is without an interception in his first five practices, completing 89-of-140 passes. An impressive feat, considering he’s a rookie QB facing a defense coached by Dick LeBeau – the inventor of the zone blitz scheme — who likes to hide and mix pressures. Mariota answered questions many critics had about his ability to step into a huddle and run an NFL-style offense.
Kurt Warner is a legendary NFL quarterback who also played under Titans’ coach Ken Wisenhunt, but as an Arizona Cardinal. He was especially high on Mariota during an interview with The Tennessean’s John Glennon.
“One of the things that most impresses me is how he handles the situations, controlling the line of scrimmage and controlling the huddle. So all those questions I had [about Mariota being able to transition into an NFL quarterback], I’m seeing now he’s way ahead of the ballgame in regards to where you maybe thought he was before to where he’s at now… .”
Warner added, “I think you’re seeing a kid that’s much further along than definitely I would have expected him to be coming from where he was, and much further along than where most people expected him to be.”
The former NFL star isn’t the only one impressed however, Mariota’s coaches and teammates were high on him as well, and impressed with his attention to detail and ability to comprehend some of the more complex parts of the game.
John McNulty – the Titans’ quarterbacks coach — gave an example of the hardworking qualities that makes Mariota special in the form of a story, as a small “glitch” in making hand-offs to the running backs. It was a small detail that the coaches expected to hammer out during the early parts of training camp, but when Mariota showed up for the first day of practice, the problem was gone.
” … It’s just getting out from under center, and getting to different landmarks quick enough so he wasn’t cutting the back off. It just was a little glitch on how he was taking the snap from under center,” McNulty told ESPN’s Paul Kuharsky. ”We worked on it here, but obviously he had a million things to think about. So we figured, ‘All right, we’ll get that ironed out eventually.’ He came back from the summer and he had it down like he’d been doing it for 20 years.”
McNulty was also high on Mariota’s ability to master more of the playbook, saying “He’s able to get to Chapter 2 and 3 on each play where with a lot of rookies you’re just hoping they pick up Chapter 1 and will eventually get to the next couple things,” McNulty said. “We didn’t have to start over with him, we get to higher-level protection stuff and what-ifs.”
Winston, on the other hand, has struggled to a certain extent. He started the week poorly, throwing 3 interceptions in a single blitz period — and they said Mariota would be the one struggling in the pocket with pressure in his face — then two more interceptions in short yardage situations a day later.
Although Winston played in an NFL-style system in college, it didn’t translate to him being “more” ready for the NFL than Mariota. Just to note their total interceptions from their last college season, Winston and Mariota went 18 and 4 respectively.
When the Bucs and Titans face-off, we’ll see who is truly NFL ready.
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