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The Film Room: Breaking down the positives of Marcus Mariota's rookie season

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Marcus Mariota‘s rookie season ended early due to a sprained MCL in his right knee, but he was still able to pass for 2,818 yards (7.6 ypa) and 19 touchdowns. He also ran in two touchdowns on the ground and caught another one. In this video, we will take a look at his touchdowns to see the general trends of how he scored in his rookie year in the NFL.

In the next article, I will take a look at his interceptions to make a similar comparison and see how he can improve in the future.

Touchdowns by Distance

First, we will take a look at his touchdowns by distance. This chart is directly created by the distance from the line of scrimmage to the end zone. For example, a screen pass at the line of scrimmage that goes for a 16+ yard score will count as "Deep." Additionally, touchdowns ran into the end zone by the quarterback were accounted for here.

Deep (16+ yards)
8
Medium (6-15 yards)
7
Short (0-5 yards)
7

Touchdown Location

The next table breaks down more accurately where the ball was actually caught. As such, the totals may different from the table above. Note: This table only includes his passes.

Deep Left
Deep Middle Deep Right
2
4 0
Medium Left
Medium Middle Medium Right
0
3 1
Short Left
Short Middle Short Right
2
1 6

Touchdowns by Quarter

The following table breaks down his touchdowns by quarter.

1st
5
2nd
5
3rd
6
4th
5
OT
1

Touchdowns by Receiver

Here are the recipients of his touchdown passes during the 2015 NFL season.

Delanie Walker
4
Dorial Green-Beckham
3
Anthony Fasano
2
Craig Stevens
2
Harry Douglas
2
Kendall Wright
2
Bishop Sankey
1
Dexter McCluster
1
Jalston Fowler
1
Justin Hunter
1

Touchdowns by Route

The next table breaks down the touchdowns by route thrown. Similar routes were combined together based on the distance and type of pass.

Slant/Quick-In
4
In
3
Out/Flat/Quick-Out
3
Seam
2
Drag/Drive
1
Endzone Fade
1
Go/Deep Fade
1
Hitch/Comeback
1
Post/Corner
1
Screen
1
Spot
1

My Three Takeaways

  1. 13 of Mariota's 22 touchdowns were while the Titans were trailing their opponent.
  2. Mariota tended to force plays down the field.
  3. Mariota showed advanced pocket awareness and great footwork for a rookie.

Mariota needs to stay healthy and keep progressing. The Titans drafted offensive tackle Jack Conklin from Michigan State with their first round pick this year to help protect him on the right, then took running back Derrick Henry from Alabama in the second. They then took UMass receiver Tajae Sharpe in the fifth round, and while that seems late to expect much from a player, Sharpe was the FBS leader in catches last season and is drawing rave reviews in the offseason. (Every year there seems to be one day three receiver who gets a lot of attention. Also think of Doug Baldwin's rookie season after going undrafted.) In addition to the draft, Tennessee traded for DeMarco Murray and made a great underrated signing of Rishard Matthews.

Now start to consider a bit more with Mariota's second season compared to his first:

- Three of Tennessee's five offensive lineman are recent first round picks in Conklin, Taylor Lewan, and guard Chance Womack.

- The Titans have retained receiving weapons Delanie Walker (over 1,000 yards in 2015), Kendall Wright, Justin Hunter, Harry Douglas, Craig Stevens, and Dorial Green-Beckham, while adding Matthews and Sharpe. Out of those eight players, you would think that Mariota can get comfortable with at least four or five of those guys. Most likely Walker, Wright, Matthews, Green-Beckham, and Sharpe.

- He's gone from having Antonio Andrews as his running back to having Murray and Henry, with Andrews and Bishop Sankey as the backups.

- They're playing on a last place schedule in one of the NFL's worst divisions.

- The defense added second round picks Kevin Dodd and Austin Johnson, while taking Kevin Byard in the third. (Remember, they acquired a bevy of extra picks thanks to trading down.) Which could take less pressure off of Mariota and the offense; Tennessee was dead last on offensive DVOA but actually 23rd on defense, so there's a decent chance they could have a top-20 or top-15 defense, which will keep the O fresh and off the field more often. Additionally, Danny Kelly recently wrote about how the "exotic smashmouth" offense could make the Titans one of the more fun teams to watch this season.

Overall, it seems like there's good reason to suspect that Mariota will improve upon these already-good rookie numbers as he heads into his sophomore campaign.