NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Context first: They were organized team activities and minicamp practices, with no pads and no hitting during which the Tennessee Titans were eager to get rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota off to a good start.
That said, from what I observed at the five OTA and three minicamp practices that were open to the media, Mariota did work that was beyond any from a Titans rookie quarterback at this stage.
I’m loath to pile on to the hype, but passing on rave reviews is part of the job at this time of year. And I didn’t think they were inaccurate.
He and the offense had one really bad day. Other than that I saw a lot of progress and a quarterback who was better at this stage than I imagined he could be.
Veteran quartebrack Charlie Whisthurst said Mariota looked good from the start and got better throughout.
Mariota’s focused on routes and progressions, not finding a favorite target. The team likes how he varies his throws. Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson finds Mariota "deadly accurate." The quarterback learned quickly from mistakes. He’s a quick learner who threw to tight windows, with anticipation. He gained comfort with calling plays in a huddle.
And he's immensely popular, bringing the sort of attention to the Titans they have not seen in years. His jersey sold better than any one else’s in May.
And, as the most recent signal of how big Mariota is right now. Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones referred to Mariota giving the Titans hope from the stage at LP Field.
I like Zach Mettenberger and think he can probably be a quality NFL quarterback.
But there was not one time while watching practice I thought there was going to be cause for any controversy in camp over Mariota being the starter. He was the best quarterback on the field and the gap wasn't a small one.
When he spoke to reporters, he wasn’t afraid to say "I don’t know," which doesn’t lend itself to great copy but shows he’s not going to overreach as he learns, and that he is completely comfortable with where he is in the process.
It’s just spring work.
But for fans who’s have so little to be excited about for so long, go ahead and be encouraged.