Marcus Mariota says he's focusing on routes, progressions -- not a favorite target

Marcus Mariota may eventually benefit from having a go-to receiver who is consistently in sync with his play. AP Photo/Mark Humphrey

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- A security blanket sure sounds like a good idea for a rookie quarterback who attempts to find his way in the NFL.

The Tennessee Titans and Marcus Mariota, however, will emphasize routes, route combinations and progressions, not people.

“I don’t think you can key in on one guy, the defenses in this league are too smart for that,” Mariota said early in organized team activities. “So for me, I’m just going to build a relationship with every guy, learn how every guy is, build that chemistry and be ready to go.

“It comes down to executing every play that the coaches ask from you. I’m not too big on having a favorite play or having a favorite receiver. I think if you’re able to distribute the ball to everybody, everyone is going to make plays for you and you’ll put your offense in the best situation.”

As an Oilers and Titans tight end, Frank Wycheck was a safety valve for Steve McNair. Now a sports talk host on 104.5 The Zone, Wycheck thinks Mariota could benefit from a similar relationship.

“When you’re in a pinch, you go to someone you trust,” he said.

It wouldn’t make a lot of sense for Mariota to express a preference for someone at this early stage. It would be difficult for him to establish a more extensive rapport with one guy above others at this point.

But in time, it won’t be a bad thing if he feels comfortable with one particular outlet.

Some of that comfort level can show on options routes, where the quarterback and a target are both reading the same thing and deciding where to go based on what they see.

Wycheck did a load of that with McNair, sometimes by design but sometimes by feel.

Said coach Ken Whisenhunt: “You have criteria for it, and you have guys who are better at it maybe than other guys and you use the guys that have a good feel for it. I don’t think it’s difficult for Marcus, some of it is just getting a feel for body language and the reads of these guys, and it’s going to take some time. But I don’t think it’s a big deal.”

Whisenhunt pointed to Delanie Walker as a player who is good at option routes. He said Kendall Wright is getting better at setting things up and attacking guys, Harry Douglas did plenty of it in Atlanta and Justin Hunter showed a surprisingly good feel for it in 2014.

Walker doesn’t think he’ll wind up a primary guy in that way.

“I think the receivers have more options routes than the tight ends this year, and it’s basically what coverage you see,” he said. “The quarterback has to be on the same page with what he sees and what you see ...

“I think the best person that can run an option route is going to get to run it, and I think with a young quarterback that’s the smartest way to do it, to have that one guy run it so him and that guy can be on the same page instead of having everyone do it and everyone do something differently.

“So the best way is for one guy who does it very well to do it. It’s early. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get a chance. But right now out of anybody, I think it would be Kendall.”

Mariota and Wright both came out of high-powered college offenses featuring spread concepts.

We’ll see in time whether that’s a factor in any sort of special connection.