Veteran Matt Cassel to start for Titans with Mariota out
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) Veteran quarterback Matt Cassel has been lobbying coaches to keep the Tennessee offense the same as it has been with Marcus Mariota behind center.
Yes, even down to letting the quarterback run with the ball.
''I've been learning about the zone read all year,'' Cassel said Wednesday. ''I've been watching a lot of it. Now I don't know how many times I'd actually pull it in, but at the same time, I've been lobbying for it for sure.''
With Mariota breaking his right leg in last week's 38-17 loss to Jacksonville, that means Cassel will make his first start of his 12th season in the Titans' finale on Sunday against the Houston Texans.
Running isn't something Cassel has done much of in recent seasons, but he has 264 rushes for 1,010 yards with five touchdowns.
Cassel said he's all in, even if coaches put in the triple option. Then he turned serious.
''I wouldn't anticipate much change in the offense,'' Cassel said. ''We've had a lot of success this year doing what we do, and obviously there'll probably be some elements of our game plan that change just based on my skill set based on what Marcus has to offer.''
Tennessee's playoff hopes ended last weekend in a combination of the Titans' loss and the Texans (9-6) beating Cincinnati .
The Titans (8-7) are playing for the franchise's first winning record since 2011 and a divisional win to set the tone for 2017.
Those goals rest with Cassel now that Mariota is on injured reserve. Mariota had surgery for his broken right leg Wednesday. The Titans confirmed Wednesday night that Mariota's surgery was considered a success.
Cassel has gone from Tom Brady's backup in New England to a high-priced starter in Kansas City.
Over the past four seasons, he has started games for Minnesota in 2013 and 2014 and eight of his nine games played with Buffalo and Dallas last season. He is 1,530 of 2,598 for 17,137 yards with 102 touchdowns and 78 interceptions.
The Titans signed him this offseason to serve as the experienced peer to advise and assist Mariota's development, which Cassel was happy to do after having gotten so much help from Brady at the start of his career.
Titans coach Mike Mularkey said Cassel is just one of the great signings by first-time general manager Jon Robinson.
''He's just been great for our football team, great for Marcus, I think,'' Mularkey said. ''We've got a lot of guys in this locker room that we've added that show how to come to work and do things and how to prepare, and then when they get their opportunities, they have a lot of confidence in them.''
Mularkey also made it clear that Cassel running is something the Texans don't have to worry about in preparing to defend Tennessee.
Cassel came off the bench last week and threw for 124 yards and a touchdown. The last time he played against Houston, Cassel threw for 201 yards with three touchdowns and a 122.9 passer rating.
That was Oct. 17, 2010, when Cassel was with the Chiefs as part of a Pro Bowl season.
Houston coach Bill O'Brien knows Cassel well from their time together in New England.
''The guy's a really good player, smart guy, great guy,'' O'Brien said. ''We have an idea of what he's all about as a player, but within their scheme, I would say it's tough because he just hasn't played that much. There's definitely a lot of unknowns going into the game.''
Notes: Titans CB Jason McCourty (chest) and LB Sean Spence (illness) did not practice Wednesday. TE Jace Amaro (quad) was limited, while CB LeShaun Sims (concussion) practiced fully.
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