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Marcus Mariota: I'll hand ball off 40 times if we win


Titans second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota was always lauded for his team-first attitude, but now that he has two potentially game-changing running backs at his disposal, he's taking it to a different level.

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"I told Coach Mike (Mularkey) that I'll hand the ball off 40 times a game if we win games," he said, via The Daily Press in Virginia while appearing at the Colonial All-Pro Football Camp at William and Mary. "That's what's important to me, to giving us an opportunity to win. Having those two workhorses back there should help us out."

Although the number sounds ridiculous, it might actually be a decent target for the Titans in 2016. Forty rushing attempts per game would put them seven carries above the Panthers' total from 2015, even if that involved some designed runs for Newton as well.

And with both DeMarco Murray and 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry in the fold, the temptation to build a more functional and expansive version of Chip Kelly's Philadelphia power spread is there. Mariota could obviously make it work more elegantly than Sam Bradford did, and perhaps that is what Mularkey meant by "exotic smashmouth" in the first place.

Cam Newton showed us last year that an MVP-caliber quarterback can come from a run-first offense and create more significant matchups downfield. The Panthers turned Jerricho Cotchery, Ted Ginn and Greg Olsen into one of the deadliest chunk play receiving corps in football. Mariota has more potential at the position with Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Rishard Matthews and Dorial Green-Beckham.

Mariota and the Titans are one of our Cinderella candidates for the 2016 season because of all of this potential. If Mariota can double the Titans' win total from the year before, he'll be well on his way to becoming a staple in Nashville, regardless of whether or not he's handing the ball off on more than half his snaps.