Titans want Mariota to improve pocket awareness


Marcus Mariota stands poised to make a leap forward in his second season, dragging a perennially poor Tennessee Titans squad up the standings.

The Titans' brass spent the offseason bulking up to aid the quarterback in his development, but much of Mariota's improvement will fall squarely on his own shoulders. Pocket awareness and deep passing acumen are among the areas coaches have stressed this offseason.

"I've really emphasized getting rid of the ball instead of taking sacks," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said, via The Tennessean. "Marcus has been told an incompletion is OK. Live another down. But a sack can be catastrophic, so throw the ball away and move on to the next down."

Mariota took 38 sacks in 12 starts as a rookie and was sacked on an NFL-high 26 percent of plays in which he was pressured. Poor blocking surely caused that disappointing sack stat -- and got the quarterback injured -- but the Titans believe better awareness of what's going on around him will propel his Year 2 bump.

Getting the ball out quickly will also aid in mitigating his sack rate, but Mariota understands that sometimes patience is needed in letting routes develop, especially if the Titans' deep passing attack is to improve in 2016. Mariota owned the worst passing accuracy on balls traveling 20-plus air yards last season.

"You have to have a deep passing game within your offense," Mariota said. "It's got to be incorporated in some form or fashion. You can't just limit yourself to underneath routes and let the defense kind of sit on those things. I'm all for it. I love throwing the deep ball."

The Titans focused this offseason on building around Mariota. Drafting offensive tackle Jack Conklin in the first round, running back Derrick Henry in the second, trading for tailback DeMarco Murray and signing receiver Rishard Matthews. Despite the additions, the biggest factor in the Titians' offensive improvement will be Mariota's personal growth.