NFL Nation reporter Paul Kuharsky assesses which players on the Titans could earn a starting berth this season.
Why Marcus Mariota could start: He’d have to flop in a big way in camp and the preseason to not start. Before the draft, head coach Ken Whisenhunt said if the Titans drafted a quarterback second overall, he’d be expected to start. Mariota wasn’t a shaky, nervous rookie in OTAs and minicamp. There was no real pass rush and no contact, and in that context the Heisman Trophy winner looked comfortable and in command. Through OTA practices and minicamp, Mariota showed more command than I believed was reasonable to expect. He’s got a good arm, drew raves regarding his accuracy and handled himself like a dream for the team that drafted him second overall. He didn’t face a real rush or get hit, but all the early indications have been positive. Zach Mettenberger was fine through the practices, but there looked to be a clear gap between the two quarterbacks. The Titans have a player to rally around, and as a side benefit, the marketing department is working with something it has not had in some time, too.
Why Jeremiah Poutasi could start: A third-round draft pick, Poutasi has found things tough in the early going. But he’s set to battle with veteran addition Byron Bell for the right tackle spot. Poutasi is big and strong and can move. The question is if the Titans will trust an inexperienced kid to help protect their prized rookie quarterback and to help get a long-anemic running game going. The popular guess is that Bell will start the season as the guy, with Poutasi eventually taking over. I understand the concern over inexperience. But the 66th pick in the draft should be ready to go on opening day and should be a difference-maker at that.
Why David Cobb could start: Who starts at running back for the Titans isn’t the biggest concern. Bishop Sankey started only nine games last season, but he wound up with 58 more carries than anyone else. Cobb could wind up in a similar situation this season. The Titans intend to be a committee, but Cobb is the better inside running option and should be the guy in short-yardage and goal line situations. The starter? I don’t know that it matters. Sankey is in line to be better than he was as a rookie, but Cobb should get a good deal of work and depending on the game, he could be the first back they turn to.