Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens examines a viable target that Marcus Mariota forgoes because he lacked the basic footwork to do the job.
To the degree of expectation that Matt LaFleur has for this incarnation of the Titans offense, Marcus Mariota’s footwork has never been tied to his routes — not at Oregon, not with Whisenhunt, and not during the exotic smashmouth years with Mike Mularkey. When forced to move his feet, reset, and fire, Mariota struggled with accuracy.
People presume quarterbacks with Mariota’s athletic ability are all good improvisers. Mariota is not; he’s a task-oriented passer who does his best work when the steps are clearly outlined (1-2-3). When forced to perform off-script, he doesn’t perform well if the solution isn’t abundantly obvious.
This year could prove challenging for Mariota because he spent the offseason drilling his footwork but the live action reveals that the issues that plagued him throughout his career haven’t improved with a spring and summer of footwork training.
There are two other plays from this game that I’ll be sharing this week at Footballguys that underscore Mariota’s footwork-induced accuracy issues when he must move within a framework and maintain a good throwing base.
This play below isn’t one of these situations. It’s far more basic because Mariota forgoes a quick third-and-two target on a shallow route that he should have let go. Unfortunately, Mariota’s feet get in the way of him doing so and it forced him to create off-script with dire results.
Mariota can’t get his feet in position on a quick drop to execute this quick-game concept and it’s indicative of a quarterback whose game lacks the polished skills necessary to exploit easy plays. The best quarterbacks find and exploit the easy plays. Until Mariota’s feet provide him a clear road to deliver accurate targets, they’ll remain an obstacle for his growth. Expect growing pains this year.
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