Mariota typically on the mark in preseason openers
Expect Marcus Mariota to raise expectations for what follows with his performance Thursday in Philadelphia.
After all, that is what the the Tennessee Titans quarterback has done every other year of his NFL career at this time.
Mariota has not always played long in Week 1 of the preseason. But without fail he has played well.
In four career preseason openers the second overall pick of the 2016 draft has thrown three incomplete passes, never more than one in a single game. In all, he has completed 84.2 percent of his passes with two touchdowns and one interception in those games. The interception was during his rookie season.
A year-by-year look at Marcus Mariota's passing stats in Week 1 of the preseason:
"It allows you to build rhythm for sure," Mariota said this week of the early taste of game action. "It’s an opportunity to get in these real game situations and these real game scenarios. No matter what, I think we always approach every preseason game with the mentality to go out there and score points and nothing is going to change moving forward."
That comfort typically extends throughout the entire exhibition season. His preseason passer rating has topped 100 every year -- 102.9 in 2015, 104.1 in 2016, 110.0 in 2017 and 105.1 in 2018. Each of the last three years he has done enough in the first three games that his coaches have allowed him to sit out in Week 4 in order to ensure he is fresh and healthy for the start of the regular season.
That's the good news.
The bad news is that the good feelings and good play rarely have carried into the start of the regular season.
The Titans are 1-3 in season-openers with Mariota at quarterback. The one win came in 2015 when he posted a perfect passer rating in a rout of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and their rookie quarterback, Jameis Winston. That day Mariota was 13-15 for 209 with four touchdowns.
Each of the last three years Tennessee has started with a loss and Mariota's completion percentage in those contests ended up lower than his season-ending figure. He has not thrown a touchdown pass in the first week of the regular season since 2016 and last year he got hurt and couldn't finish the game at Miami.
"It’s always a challenge to face your defense day in and day out, but it’s a nice change of pace when you get the opportunity to play somebody else," Mariota said.
And it usually brings out his best.