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Despite better protection, Titans' Marcus Mariota playing worse

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Poor pass protection got Ken Whisenhunt fired as much as anything else. In the team's first offseason without him and former GM Ruston Webster, the Tennessee Titans made pass protection for Marcus Mariota priority one.

That meant a new scheme, Russ Grimm as the new offensive line coach, Ben Jones as the new center and Jack Conklin as the new right tackle.

The results have been good.

GM Jon Robinson said this week on Titans Radio that he worked up numbers on how much quarterbacks around the league were being pressured and knocked down.

By his count, the Titans have given up pressure on 13.1 percent of Mariota's 107 pass attempts. The NFL average is 20.61 percent.

ESPN Stats and Info's database says the Titans have given up pressure on 15.9 percent of Mariota's pass attempts and that the NFL average is 19.1 percent.

In both sets of numbers, the Titans are faring well.

"They've done a great job," Mariota said of his linemen. "Ben [Jones] and the rest of the crew. Whether it's communicating what they're seeing, getting everybody on the same page, it's been great. Those guys have really helped me out."

So the Titans have made gains in their main mission with Mariota.

But the better protection has not resulted in better play.

Last season, often under siege and hurt twice, his passer rating was 91.5, third-highest ever for the franchise. So far this season, the formula -- which uses completion percentage, yardage, touchdown and interceptions -- is producing a 79.3.

There are other factors, of course.

Mariota's receiving corps underwent a great deal of change, but is still lacking. He's been victimized by mistakes and the failure of targets to fight for and win contested passes.

Greg Cosell, a devout film student who produces "NFL Matchup" for ESPN, said on Nashville's Midday 180 the Titans offense "has absolutely no speed," which isn’t helped by condensed formations. Aside from target issues, the quarterback is throwing erratically and his ball placement isn't precise enough so far.

Those are things the run-based Titans need to get better at in order to win more frequently.

The run game and the pass protection have improved.

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