Around the NFL  

 

Walker: Marcus Mariota has to play 'backyard football'

Print

The consternation about the Tennessee Titans' offense hasn't subsided heading into Saturday's playoff tilt versus the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Titans limped into their first postseason berth since the 2008 season, averaging 20.9 points per game, second-worst among 2017 playoff teams. The play of quarterback Marcus Mariota has been the subject of concern all season.

Mariota's 79.3 passer rating is the lowest among any qualified passer on a playoff team this season. The third-year pro earned career worsts in passing yards per game (215.5), passing TD (13), interceptions (15) and passer rating. Mariota's passer rating fell from 95.6 in 2016 to 79.3 in 2017, the fourth-biggest drop-off from last season among QBs (min. 200 attempts), per NFL Research.

Those struggles put Mike Mularkey on the hot seat before the Titans squeaked into the playoffs, and could keep the coach in limbo depending on what happens Saturday.

Titans tight end Delanie Walker noted this week that Mariota needs to make more plays outside the offensive design for Tennessee to beat K.C.

"Sometimes you've got to play backyard football," Walker said, via The Tennessean. "Sometimes you've got to overcome coaching. And I think that's what makes some players great, when they know how to do that."

While the "overcome coach" line will get played up, Walker clarified that he was talking about plays being designed a certain way but players needed to adjust in the heat of the moment -- as Mariota did in the Week 17 against the Jacksonville Jaguars, stiff-arming safety Barry Church to run out the clock for the victory.

"Sometimes coaching is like, they draw it on the paper, you run a straight line and you break out," Walker said. "Sometimes you've got to overcome coaching. That defender is never going to let you run a straight line, so figure out how to make that line straight without running it straight, you know what I'm saying? That's overcoming coaching. If Coach tells you it's a nine-technique, but then in the game you've got a six-technique, OK, figure it out and block it. That's what you've got to do.

"Marcus, basically, a play was broken. He made a play on his own. He didn't find nobody else, so he took off running, and that's basically what he did."

It's not the first time we've heard players criticize the offense or point to Mariota needing to play a bigger role in getting out of the rut. Two weeks ago, Rishard Matthews said the Titans needed to be less predictable and allow the quarterback to run more hurry up.

From Walker's perspective, Mariota and the Titans need to be better playing school-yard ball when plays break down.

"You can go into practice with the plays, what the coaches want, a perfect play," Walker said. "It ain't going to always look like that. You've got to overcome coaching."

If Tennessee's offense remains stuck in the mud against Kansas City, a coaching change could follow to help jumpstart a franchise quarterback that has regressed under the current staff.

Print