NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota took the field at Nissan Stadium Saturday for the first time since he suffered a gruesome broken right leg last December. This past Saturday night was a milestone of sorts for Mariota, both literally and metaphorically.
The Titans have been cautious with Mariota throughout training camp, calling primarily pocket passes rather than read-option or play-action. They took off the training wheels a little bit under the lights Saturday night.
Mariota perfectly sold a play-action pass on the goal line and took off for the end zone from about 10 yards out. The post-scrimmage stats will only show a 2-yard touchdown run, but the play meant much more. Mariota showed a willingness and ability to switch gears, hit optimal speed, and use his legs as a weapon again.
"It was so good that I got so excited that I forgot to run the next play," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "We were supposed to have another goal-line play, and I went right into the two-point play. It was good to see him out and the play executed so well."
Mariota and the Titans' first-team offense went 2-for-2 in recording touchdown drives in Saturday's padded scrimmage. It was Mariota's touchdown run, during a situational drill, that left the lasting impact.
During this past Friday's practice at Centennial High School in Franklin, Tennessee, Mariota took off for a 5-yard scramble, then quickly slid before a defender could touch him.
Mariota finished sixth among NFL quarterbacks in rushing last season with 349 yards. He raised some eyebrows with his decision to come back four pounds lighter than he was listed last season, but the reasoning was to make him faster and more effective as a dual-threat quarterback. He gave the coaches and fans a brief preview of both Saturday.
Titans defenders won't dare come within a few feet of him at practice. They know the value of keeping their franchise quarterback upright. But with every rep or run, Mariota gets a little bit closer to returning to what makes him such a unique talent.