Mariota wants to protect ball after rough preseason debut
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Marcus Mariota knows exactly what he wants out of his home debut, and it's what his father has been telling him to do since high school.
Protect the football.
''He always told me when you're running with the ball, make sure you're taking care of it whether you're inside, outside the pocket, as well when you're throwing,'' Mariota said. ''Just make a decision.''
Well, the No. 2 pick overall turned over the ball twice in his preseason debut in a 31-24 loss at Atlanta last week, not something the quarterback is accustomed to doing. He sure didn't turn the ball over much at Oregon. Now Mariota will get his second chance Sunday night when the Titans (0-1) host the St. Louis Rams (0-1) and former Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher.
''That really just changed the game,'' Mariota said of having his two turnovers turned into 10 points. ''You know during the season it's going to cost us games just like it did, and that's stuff I can control, too. It's just being able to make smart decisions with the football and take care of it in the pocket.''
Mariota rebounded from that rough start, which included being sacked, by driving the Titans 80 yards to a touchdown. Mariota said finishing that drive as an offense was a good way to close out his stint, and he wants to keep building a rhythm with the offense in his next outing.
''Get first downs, move the chains, get in positive situations and score points,'' Mariota said. ''The way that we're going this training camp I think we're building a solid foundation, and it's just continuing to get better.''
Mariota's parents have been in town from Hawaii the past few days helping set up his new home in Nashville. Mariota said his father has been his biggest supporter and his biggest critic.
''When I'm able to talk with him, it allows me to kind of vent and get things out and see what he saw during the game,'' Mariota said. ''It's good to be able to have that, and I'm very fortunate.''
Mariota has impressed his coaches and teammates this summer. With the Titans wrapping up their training camp Friday at their team headquarters, Mariota wound up intercepted only once by his teammates over three weeks. He was 10 of 13 Friday and finished 170 of 263 in camp in seven-on-seven and team drills combined.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt says he's pleased with the rookie's progress and now just wants to see more of the same without the turnovers.
Against the Falcons, Mariota was 7 of 8 for 94 yards, including connecting on all five passes on the touchdown drive, capped by a TD throw. The rookie also had no issues with the play clock, getting the offense in and out of the huddle and to the line of scrimmage. The only timeout taken with the first-team offense on the field in Atlanta came due to a substitution issue.
''This is a good defense, a good front, so it presents issues for us that I'm sure at times are going to be difficult,'' Whisenhunt said of the Rams. ''It's also a great learning process.''
Notes: Rookie Jeremiah Poutasi, the Titans' third-round pick out of Utah, worked at right tackle with the first-team offensive line for a second straight day. ... Whisenhunt said CBs Jason McCourty (groin) and Blidi Wreh-Wilson (left ankle) and LBs J.R. Tavai (left knee), Zaviar Gooden (left hamstring) and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil (right hamstring) will not play against the Rams.
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