Michael Griffin says Marcus Mariota's ball security good for Titans defense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Marcus Mariota's best work at a Nissan Stadium practice Saturday came in the red zone, where he guided the first-team offense to a touchdown on the first series he executed from the 25-yard line.

The score came on a fourth-and-1 from the 1. He sprinted out to the right and found Harry Douglas streaking along the back line. Douglas easily pulled it in and got his feet down with cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson trailing.

The second first-team red-zone series wasn't nearly as good for the first-team offense..

Mariota made sure his throw away was well out of the end zone, nearly got picked on the next play, and threw a dump off after what would probably have been a sack. The offense settled for a 28-yard Ryan Succop field goal on that one.

"I thought the red zone went well," Mariota said. "We were pretty efficient with our offense. We took care of the football. That's the most important thing, making sure you don't turn it over and score points."

Cornerback Coty Sensabaugh saw his most extensive time with the first-team defense as Jason McCourty got a second day in a row off to rest. Sensabaugh was the guy who nearly ended Mariota's streak without an interception -- twice.

He got his hands on that red-zone pass and earlier dove for a ball that sailed over tight end Anthony Fasano's head. Sensabaugh got both hands on it but couldn’t pull it in.

Should Sensabaugh have made the plays?

"I'm kind of torn with that question," said Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt, the team's offensive play-caller. "Yes and no, how about that?"

While the defense clearly would like to make a big play against Mariota, it's had three good days in a row, combining an amped up pass rush with more good hits and increased pace and energy.

The unit can be playing well without intercepting the first-string quarterback. Defenders are impressed with Mariota's work and know it's going to be good for the team.

Before practice I spoke about Mariota's interception-less streak. It's not Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak, but it's certainly noteworthy. He's not been dinking and dunking and being super careful.

He was 12-for-21 in 7-on-7 and team periods of practice Saturday. That means he’s 89-for-140 in camp without throwing a pick.

"We're going to get one, you know?" safety Michael Griffin said. "But I just hope and pray he continues to do the things he's been doing. As long as he’s doing that, that's to our favor. Very impressive. That's like three to four games.

"If he continues to do that, we're going to make strides. Especially on defense. That keeps us off the field. That keeps drives going. It's making smart decisions that keep the offense on the field."

Some other practice observations:

  • Receivers Kendall Wright and Justin Hunter both made nice catches that didn't count as they were ultimately out of bounds. Hunter's was from Zach Mettenberger on the right side of the end zone, but cornerback Cody Riggs hit him while in the air, knocking him out before he landed. Hunter went down awkwardly, as he often does, but bounced up.

  • Wreh-Wilson had a good day. It included a big hit in the run game when rookie tailback David Cobb looked to get around the left edge and got slammed by the corner.

  • Another undrafted rookie cornerback, Curtis Riley, had a strong showing. Riley arrived right on time on one pretty pass from Mettenberger to rookie receiver Tre McBride, popped McBride with a shoulder and jarred the ball loose. Riley later hurt an ankle defending a pass he would have held on to intercept if he hadn’t suffered the injury. He didn't finish practice.

  • On a play that was really a sack by linebacker Dezmond Johnson, quarterback Charlie Whitehurst found undrafted rookie receiver Andrew Turzilli, who went to the ground inside the 5-yard line but wasn't contacted by a defender. He jumped up and went for the goal line, but corner Ri'Shard Anderson tracked him and popped the ball free from behind before Turzilli got in. Attentive receiver Deon Long grabbed it in the end zone for a recovered fumble touchdown.

  • Big runs are often deceptive in practice situations, as there is no tackling and backs are told to finish the run no matter if they've been stopped. Cobb had one very pretty run for about a 25-yard touchdown that I thought was completely legitimate.

  • Tight end Phillip Supernaw bowled over defensive back Marqueston Huff to get into the end zone after a catch.

  • Reserve offensive tackle Byron Stingily (concussion) is expected back Monday after the team's day off. Tight end Delanie Walker (thumb laceration) could be back during the week. Defensive end Ropati Pitoitua was given the day off.