NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Perhaps lost in the praise regarding Marcus Mariota's accuracy through training camp is the role his receivers have played.
Mariota threw a bad interception against Atlanta where he didn’t react well to how the Falcons stacked up against a screen pass.
But he connected on each of his other seven passes and has hit on 62.7 percent of his passes in training-camp practices.
He’s the No. 1 factor there, but his targets have been a big piece of it, too.
“We’re better, we’re in the second year in the system, we’ve got guys who understand that a little bit more,” coach Ken Whisenhunt said. “It’s good to see it operate kind of like you think it should. If you take the two interceptions out of [the Falcons game], we go 24 for 26 [passing]. That’s pretty astounding.”
Said Mariota of 230 passes thrown in camp practices before one was intercepted: “It’s a unit effort. Without those guys being in the right spots, the offensive linemen blocking up front and providing some time, none of that would have been possible. Again, it’s training camp, it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just practicing good habits and establishing those in order to hopefully [do] that in the season.”
Some balls that should have been taken away were not over the first two weeks of camp practice as defenders failed to corral them. And receivers have certainly dropped some.
But the occasions when the target goes one place and the ball lands somewhere else entirely are way down in Year 2 of Whisenhunt's offense and Year 1 of Mariota.
Receiver Hakeem Nicks said those good results are from Whisenhunt putting people in the right spots, Mariota making the plays and the receivers getting to their spots.
“I think that’s a tribute to the hard work we’ve put in as a receiving corps,” Nicks said. "We all have put in the hard work to discipline ourselves up.”
Receivers coach Shawn Jefferson has made it clear: When the games count, no one is getting on the field he doesn’t trust to get to the right place at the right time.
“This is how it’s going to work,” he said. “The guys who consistently make plays, those are the [expletive] who will be in. That’s just plain and simple. The guys that I trust, without a doubt, to make plays, those are the guys that get into the game.
“If you don’t make plays, guess what? You’re going to be right next to me.”