NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Marcus Mariota's production the past two weeks has him back on a path where he looks to be one of the league’s most promising young quarterbacks.
In one department, the second-year Tennessee Titans signal-caller already ranks with the league’s best.
Mariota is really strong.
Trainer Ryan Flaherty has worked with Mariota through two NFL offseasons. He has several other big-name, high-profile quarterback clients.
For his second season, the Titans wanted Mariota to move up from 218 pounds to 225. He reported back to the team in late July weighing 224.
Titans strength-and-conditioning coach Steve Watterson said Mariota, as with everything else the Titans have asked of him, has completely bought into the team’s strength program.
Watterson simply looked to pick up on Mariota’s solid background from college. He rates Oregon strength coach Jim Radcliffe as one of the best in the nation at the job.
“It prepared me from the moment I got here,” Mariota said. “Coach Rad does a great job with how we can take care of our bodies, how we can be better athletes. I really feel like that program prepared me for what’s going on here.”
Backup Matt Cassel and practice-squadder Alex Tanney also brought solid weight-room credentials to Tennessee.
The three quarterbacks are competitive when they lift together.
“I have to almost be a governor when we do the workouts,” Watterson said.
Cassel's been with five other franchises over 12 seasons.
“He’s a beast, that’s the best way to put it,” Cassel said. “He does all of the exercises and he lifts sometimes like even the linebackers do. There are no lifts that are off limits. He works extremely hard. He’s one of the hardest workers in there I’ve ever been around.
“He’s extremely strong, without a doubt. Part of the position is being in shape, being able to take some of those hits that you take over the course of a 16-game season. He does everything he can possibly do to get himself prepared not only mentally but also physically in the weight room.”
The Titans’ goal is full-body training, to eliminate a weak link in the chain that could start a problem. There is frequent emphasis on rotators in the shoulder and hips.
A recent QB session in the weight room included a long list of explosive training routines: Power cleans, multi-grip bench training, leg step-ups for speed and other arm and back exercises.
“We ended the routine with ankle bands, having them go through a whole host of drills similar to what they go through on the field,” Watterson said. “Rubber bands around the ankles, driving their knees up as if they are running, pulling back the knee with a backpedal, lateral steps as if they are in their drops.”
Mariota is completely invested.
“I try to get stronger every year, that's part of me trying to be better as a football player,” he said. “If I can physically maintain my strength or get healthier or get better, I'll put myself in the best position to make this team better.”