Only five NFL quarterbacks had more rushing yards than Marcus Mariota during the opening weekend of the 2021 NFL season. All of them had to work much harder than he did.
Mariota carried just once in the Las Vegas Raiders’ thrilling overtime victory over the Baltimore Orioles and went 31 yards on the opening series of the contest. Those in the top five all had at least four attempts. Lamar Jackson, the leader, carried it 12 times for 86 yards.
It turns out, though, that will be the last time Mariota carries the ball – or does anything else – in a game for some time. NFL.com reported Thursday that the former Tennessee Titans quarterback will miss “multiple weeks” with a quad injury. According to Ian Rapoport, the best-case scenario is for Mariota to return before the end of October.
Mariota was hurt on his rush, which was his longest run in nearly four years. It also was his only snap of the contest.
“We lost a big part of our offense,” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said the day after that game. “Hopefully, it’s not going to linger on. He missed the whole preseason with a quad strain. He strained it again (Monday) night. The severity of that injury kept him out of the game.
“It’s too bad. It was a 31-yard gain. It really gave us an element that we haven’t really had around here.”
Mariota is in his second season with Las Vegas as the backup to Derek Carr, but Gruden and his staff apparently planned to use him as a change-up in certain situations this year. Two plays into the contest, he came on for a third-and-1 from the Raiders’ 34. On a zone read, he kept the ball and raced to the Baltimore Ravens’ 35 before he was stopped.
The fact that he is now hurt is nothing new for the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner out of Oregon. In five seasons with the Titans, who selected him second overall in 2015, he dealt with knee sprains, a broken fibula, a hamstring strain and a nerve issue in his throwing arm. He was Tennessee’s starting quarterback for his first four-plus seasons but never played a full 16 games.
Mariota started 2020, his first year with the Raiders, on injured reserve due to a strained pectoral muscle. He was not available until the second half of October and played in just one game.
Among all quarterbacks who have played for Tennessee during the Titans era (1999-present), Mariota’s 1,399 rushing yards rank second to Steve McNair (1,999). His average of 22.2 rushing yards per game is second to Vince Young (25.6). His average of 5.8 yards per rush is best among those who had at least 100 attempts.
It looked on Monday as if he has not lost a step. Yet that was not the only thing about his performance that was all too familiar.