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Rishard Matthews: Marcus Mariota is a great leader

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This is the time of year when players all say nice things about one another -- especially free agents who haven't spent much time around their new teammates.

But when it comes to new Titans receiver Rishard Matthews and quarterback Marcus Mariota, we'll listen for a few reasons.

"He's a great leader," Matthews said, via the team's official website. "He is doing what he needs to do to lead this team. He is a hard worker in the weight room and on the field. And he is taking the right steps to learn the offense and control the offense. He is doing a great job. ... And I think the room that we have is really good."

Matthews, who signed a three-year, $15 million contract to go to Tennessee after a breakout contract year in Miami, is betting on the same potential we saw out of Mariota last year. But he's also betting on Mariota's ability to lead a unit that now has -- surprisingly -- a decent cadre of playmakers on offense. The Titans now have two reliable tight ends, three first- or second-round picks at wide receiver and two name-brand wide receivers acquired via free agency over the last two seasons (Harry Douglas and Matthews). DeMarco Murray is a bonus at this point, but could bring some added pop to the running game alongside Derrick Henry and Bishop Sankey.

During the pre-draft process, Mariota endured the typical fire hose-style criticism from analysts and scouts. Aside from the moniker of "system quarterback," it was questions about his ability to be a unifying force at the NFL level.

The odds are stacked against him, especially now that he is on a second head coach in as many years. The expectations, though, will be relentless. Even if Kendall Wright never developed as expected and Dorial Green-Beckham came into the league a little raw, the burden will now be placed on Mariota to make it all work. Doing so would make him a truly special player.

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