The opening weeks of Marcus Mariota's career focused almost exclusively on the rookie becoming a pocket passer. Now the coaching staff would like to get his legs more involved.
"We're tinkering a little more with his running ability," interim coach Mike Mularkey said, via The Tennessean. "As he's gotten healthier, we've put more things in there that has given him the (ability to) run. It doesn't mean he's going to, but it gives him the opportunity to run.
In his first six starts, Mariota ran the ball just 11 times. In his past two contests the quarterback has toted the rock 10 times. In last week's loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, his 23-yard touchdown score was one of the few times he's kept it on a read option.
A Week 6 knee injury played a factor in Mariota's mobility.
After rushing for 2,237 yards in three seasons at Oregon, Mariota entered the draft with questions about leading an offense and playing from the pocket. He's checked both boxes emphatically this season. Now, Mularkey would like to add a little spice by encouraging his healthy quarterback to be a bigger threat to run in read option plays.
"I like those plays because it keeps defenses honest. It helps the run game," Mularkey said. "One thing he is trying to do -- and I'm adamant about -- is what he does after he hands the ball off. If he can hold somebody for any type of time, even for a split second, it's a guy that's not going to be in on the play -- whether that's a guy in the secondary or a safety (wondering) 'Does he have it or doesn't he?'"
When Mariota is a threat to run, it opens up lanes for running backs and keeps defenders off balanced. We've seen Russell Wilson destroy defenses with the read option game while avoiding big hits. If Mariota masters that aspect of quarterbacking, the Titans could have the most dangerous dual-threat weapon in the NFL.