TEMPE, Ariz. – Under Ken Whisenhunt, the Titans failed to sufficiently protect Marcus Mariota. He said all the time if he offered all the tackle help we were looking for, there would be no one to catch passes.


The perception is that Mike Mularkey is stubborn in just the opposite way – that he dedicates so many people to protection that there aren’t enough people running routes.

The narrative that the Titans run a ton of two-man routes has really taken off, and I set out in recent days to see if it’s really accurate.

We’ll start off with Pro Football Focus, which keeps records of such things.

According to PFF, by their standards, the Titans have run a grand total of six pass plays where they sent out just two men on routes, tied for the ninth-most.

Now that would seem to be a rigid standard. PFF says the Titans have run 53 pass plays with three-man routes, the third-most in the NFL, and 107 with four-man routes, the 13th most.

But that conflicts with Mike Mularkey’s assessment.

What’s the basis for how many of the five eligible run routes?

“The sell of the run, the more guys you have involved, the better the sell and obviously you’ve got more guys in protection,” he said. “We have two-man routes. We have one-man routes. We’ve hit some touchdowns on third-and-1s that were one-man, we call them race routes. All based on how well we sell the run, how well they are trying to stop the run.

“But two-man routes? I want to say four or five a game. The bulk of the time it’s four men out.”

And one of those four is chipping to help block on his way out.

“I can’t say a percentage,” Marcus Mariota said. “I think most of our concepts there is more than two options.”

But Rishard Matthews took the question a different direction.

Matthews is likely talking two receiver routes as opposed to two targets.

Per Greg Cosell of NFL Films on The Midday 180, The Titans are using three wide receivers only 42 percent of the time, the lowest percentage in the league. That lines up well with Matthews’s 50-50 estimation.

As we look at some plays after the fact, there are probably a share that are essentially two-man routes that are in actuality broader in scope.

apple icon 114x114 precomposedFewer targets mean more protection which should mean more time to find those targets. And Mariota would need more time to find those targets because if only four or five defenders are rushing, then seven or six are in coverage and have to be sorted through.

“First and foremost, if you’re able to protect yourself and give yourself time to hopefully exploit whatever the defense is trying to do,” Mariota said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s a two-man route, a three-man route or a whole progression type of deal. If you create time for yourself I think you have an opportunity to attack.”

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TEMPE, Ariz. -- Marcus Mariota took the media by surprise Wednesday.

On the side of the practice fields at Arizona State, he opened with his typical 'Good afternoon,' but then apologized for his post-game press conference Sunday following the Titans' 12-7 loss to the Cardinals.

There was then what was going to be an awkward pause and transition, so not being bashful I told him I wasn't speaking for everyone but he didn't own me an apology.

The whole thing led me to dig into how healthy a release must have been for a guy renowned for his level-headed demeanor.

My video report:

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CHANDLER, Ariz. – The hamstring injury Marcus Mariota suffered earlier this season remains a problem and it’s complicated by lingering issues with his surgically repaired leg/ankle from 2016, which could require a clean-up procedure after the season, a source told me.

Mariota broke his right fibula on Dec. 24, 2016 in Jacksonville and had surgery, which required the insertion of a plate. The break was of his lower leg, near his ankle. He spent the offseason rehabilitating, with his work prior to training camp maxing out at running seven-on-seven passing drills with no linemen.MariotaTightBAL

The left hamstring strain occurred as he ran a touchdown into the right side of the end zone on Oct. 1 in Houston.

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CHANDLER, Ariz. – Three things Mike Mularkey said in a conference call with the media on Monday left me a bit angry.

Let’s run through them, shall we?

Asked what he tells Marcus Mariota “to keep him going,” he said:

TitansWall“He doesn't need a lot of talking to. I think a couple of us just said something after the game just to comfort him after a loss.

To which I say: I understand if that is the general MO for Mariota and how to best deal with him. But things are not working right now. So rather than rely on what you’ve always done with him, why not change it up and try an in-game conversation that might help reset him? Sticking with

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CHANDLER, Ariz. – Mike Mularkey insisted the Titans' confidence is high heading into the three games that will determine if they get a post-season berth.

It’s a good week to be away from Nashville, where the confidence is, understandably, much lower.

apple icon 114x114 precomposed“It’s the same team that won six out of seven prior to (Sunday),” Mularkey said in a conference call. “I’m pretty confident and I think our team is, in what we are doing. We know we can fix some things and clean up some things and knowing that if we don’t in all three phases we still have a chance to win every week, which we did yesterday all the way until the last drive.”

That’s too much satisfaction about having a chance to win and not enough disgust at a failure to win for me.

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mdi construction barGLENDALE, Ariz. -- Exotic reared its ugly head at two crucial moments for the Titans.

The Titans gave the ball to Eric Weems, a special teamer who's a wide receiver, on a fake punt on their own side of the field and, after review, he didn't gain the needed yard. And on a fourth-and-10 last-chance play, they Image 1 1targeted cornerback Adoree' Jackson on a play they had not practiced.

The Jackson play is an indictment of the play-calling and design -- Delanie Walker and Rishard Matthews are reliable targets, Corey Davis was the fifth-pick in the draft -- and an indictment of the team's talent -- it preferred Jackson to Davis or Taywan Taylor or Eric Decker as an alternative to their two best targets.

My video report:

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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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