Titans can talk around it, but Marcus Mariota knows he's not close to good enough right now

mdi construction barGLENDALE, Ariz. – The knee injury Marcus Mariota suffered on an awkward slide in the first quarter didn’t cause a big reaction from the trainers and didn’t cost him a snap.

Maybe it was a significant factor in his poor performance, maybe not.

MariotaARIEither way, a quarterback who looked poised after his first two seasons to emerge as a true franchise guy has fallen well short of the mark this year, and Sunday’s 12-7 loss to the Cardinals showed us that again.

A .516 completion percentage, two interceptions and no touchdowns gave him a 39.6 passer rating, his worst of the season by almost 13 points.

“I’m pissed off,” he also said. “That’s all. We just lost.”

He also offered this telling assessment:

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Defense is polite, but it should be pissed at Titans' offense

mdi construction barGLENDALE, Ariz. – Brian Orakpo chose not to talk to reporters after the Titans’ miserable 12-7 loss.

I saw him say that as I approached his locker room at University of Phoenix Stadium and I turned to Wesley Woodyard, a few stalls Image 1away, who then said the same.

So I turned to start to look for someone else, and thought, two big names on defense not wanting to talk after a good-defense, bad-offense game can sure look be taken as the defense being pissed.

Which it has every right to be.

But Woodyard’s wheels were spinning the same as mine, and he called me back, telling me he knew how I might spin it and choosing instead to answer.

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Mailbag: What do the Titans need to add in 2018?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- If you didn't see Friday's Periscope/ Facebook Live, I present it for your enjoyment here.

MDI Construction is about to send me to Phoenix for Titans-Cardinals, But before I go, it's time for the mail...

TitansElfPK: They need a dynamic pass rusher that demands constant attention, a third cornerback, at least one guard and a backup quarterback. If they added those four things and Mike Mularkey and the offensive staff did an honest assessment of their offense and made some alterations, I think they could make a run in 2018.

PK: Steep price. Would I trade two first-rounders, one that’s not going to be high, one that’s presumably not going to be high, for the remainder of Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers career?

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pickers vodka 847x63NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- This weekly post has come to have a soundtrack in my head.

But hey, two of these categories are intentionally difficult, and I'm doing just fine in the third. So on we go with the struggle.

Games of the week (6-3-1)

You’ll have to take my word for it that I loved the Falcons +0.5 against the Saints Thursday night. I don’t get credit for that one but it did continue my recent hot streak.PickersSixString

Jets -0.5 at Broncos

Way too small of spread. Which means the Broncos probably win outright. But I am going against the way I generally pick on the bad side of a spread, because Denver is just way worse than the Jets, no matter where this game is.

Outlandishly specific call of the week (2-5)

Oakland’s Marshawn Lynch tops 100 yards at Kansas City. He’s gotten things going and the Chiefs don’t stop ground attacks.

Titans pick of the week (1-3)

After missing two games with a hamstring injury, Rishard Matthews surfs again. Marcus Mariota and the offense will benefit greatly from having Matthews and Delanie Walker on the field together. I think the Titans receiver scores a touchdown.

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Titans are NFL's top team at preventing big plays

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Take away the run and make them one-dimensional.

It’s a long-standing and popular defensive philosophy. If a team can make it happen, pass rushers are free to go after the quarterback on largely predictable pass plays.

A statistical skew is not uncommon: Teams that are really good in run defense might not look good numerically in pass defense, or vice versa. Some defenses can, in effect, force more yardage into one category.RyanHou

Currently the Titans rank third in rush defense, but 25th against the pass.

Still there are some really good signs about the Titans’ pass defense as compared to the seven around the league that rank worse.

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Titans consider Kevin Dodd an emergency defensive lineman

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Kevin Dodd has been a very quiet outside linebacker since the Titans made him the 33rd pick out of Clemson in the 2016 NFL draft.

He's been a healthy inactive seven times this season.DoddCAR0819 1

But Sunday when the Titans got banged up on the defensive line, they were close to using Dodd as a defensive end, Dick LeBeau said.

My video report on Dodd as a defensive lineman:

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Some of you need to examine your expectations for Titans

TitansStadiumWall2

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Let’s talk a bit about expectations.

Two years ago, the Titans went 3-13 and had the No. 1 pick in the draft.

They didn’t renew the contract of Ruston Webster and hired Jon Robinson. They elevated Mike Mularkey from interim coach to the full job. And they started a major rebuild.

Sometimes those go super fast – as we’re seeing with the L.A. Rams.

More often, they are methodical.

And whether you can tolerate their poor point differential or several other flaws, they are 8-4, currently the third-best team in the AFC.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans have parted ways with longtime college scout Phil Neri, two sources have confirmed.

He was in his 13th season with the franchise and his 40th season as an NFL scout. He came to the Titans after serving as college apple icon 114x114 precomposeddirector of personnel for the Cleveland Browns. His contract was set to expire this spring after the draft.

It’s uncommon for a team to part ways with a scout during the season.

The college football regular season just concluded and the team’s scouts are currently in town for the first wave of draft meetings.

Neri served as the cross-checker for all prospects West of the Mississippi and it’s unclear who is now filling that role.

Titans general manager Jon Robinson did not reply to a request for comment and Neri did not return a text message.

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