Mariota: Versatile Tajae Sharpe 'makes it easy' on QBs

The Tennessee Titans didn't have a single wideout catch more than 36 passes a year ago. We don't expect that to be the case in 2016.

Rookie receiver Tajae Sharpe put on another show in Saturday's 26-16 preseason loss to the Panthers, hauling in six passes for 68 yards as a consistent go-to target for quarterback Marcus Mariota. Sharpe now has a team-leading eight catches for 103 yards over two tilts.

"He makes it easy," Mariota said of Sharpe, per the team's official website. "He is a very versatile athlete, and he's done a lot for us already. He creates separation in and out of his routes and we are going to continue to expect these kinds of things out of him."

The fifth-rounder out of the University of Massachusetts has developed quickly enough to displace the streaky Justin Hunter and allow the Titans to deep-six the Dorial Green-Beckham experiment.

"There's a big trust level," coach Mike Mularkey said of Mariota and Sharpe. "What you're seeing (from Sharpe) is what he basically does in practices. He's made some big catches that we haven't had here in a while. ... Tajae has been a pleasant pick. ... He's consistent."

Tennessee leaned last season almost exclusively on Delanie Walker, who led all NFL tight ends with 94 receptions. Mularkey acknowledged Saturday that Sharpe's emergence "absolutely" takes heat off Walker and "opens up other options for everybody."

Mularkey noted that teams in the preseason aren't "going to go out of their way and try to eliminate Tajae right now," but the rookie is no longer a secret. For a franchise that has struggled greatly to develop pass-catchers, Sharpe's quick start is ideal news for Mariota, Mularkey and the new-look Titans.

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