(Still) early signs about Marcus Mariota's durability are encouraging

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Through five games the Titans’ plan to beef up Marcus Mariota has paid serious dividends.

David Carr was sacked 76 times quarterbacking the 2002 expansion Houston Texans. Mariota has absorbed 22 through five games, which puts him on pace for 70.MariotaSnapYellColts

He’s taking plenty of hits beyond those sacks, and while the offensive line is the primary culprit, Mariota’s held the ball too long too often. Play design sometimes seems to contribute, with deep routes combining with poor protection to complicate things.

But I am here to credit Mariota. Though his play has been jagged, he’s been excellent on two fronts that were big concerns heading into a fifth-season that will determine much about his future.

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Jon Robinson's first-rounders simply not enough of a foundation for Titans

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Since 2016, 15 of the NFL’s 32 teams have at least one first-round pick who’s gotten a postseason honor -- a Pro Bowl appearance, an All-Pro selection or an NFL Offensive or Defensive Rookie of the Year award.

That was Jon Robinson’s first season as general manager of the Titans, who are on that list thanks to Jack Conklin’s All-Pro rookie season.RobinsonBills

Those honors are hardly the only measure for first-round success.

  • Carolina’s getting monstrous production from Christian McCaffery, who gained 1,965 yards from scrimmage last season,
  • The recently injured Bradley Chubb had 12 sacks as a rookie for Denver.
  • Calvin Ridley and Mike Williams each caught 10 touchdowns in 2018 for Atlanta and the Chargers, respectively.
  • Will Fuller just had a 14-catch, 217-yard, three-touchdown game for Houston.
  • Sony Michel and Derek Barnett have Super Bowl rings with New England and Philadelphia, respectively.

But since that stellar year for Conklin, the Titans’ right tackle, the production of Robinson’s five first-round picks has been mediocre.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Titans' plan to activate first-round draft pick Jeffrey Simmons for practice next week and hope he makes his NFL debut on Oct. 20 at Nissan Stadium against the Chargers.Simmons2

Simmons has been on the Non-Football Injury list since the season started, which meant he could not practice with the team or play for six games.

The Titans play their sixth game Sunday in Denver.

Unlike a player who is removed from IR, there is no built-in wait period between the return to practice and the return to game-play.

[Unlocked]

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Mike Vrabel has been shaky on fourth-down decisions

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Seemingly coaching more on emotion than on the analytics of the moment, Mike Vrabel’s recent key fourth-down choices have hindered the Titans not helped them.

A rundown…

Sept. 15 vs IndianapolisVrabel4th

4-1-TEN 34 (3:38) (No Huddle) PENALTY on TEN-M.Mariota, Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at TEN 34 - No Play. 4-6-TEN 29 (3:38) (Punt formation) B.Kern punts 45 yards to IND 26, Center-B.Brinkley. C.Rogers to IND 26 for no gain (D.Cruikshank; C.Milton).

In the fourth quarter, trailing 19-17 the Titans weakly tried to draw the Colts offsides for a few seconds, then Marcus Mariota and the rest of the team stood at the line of scrimmage staring at the sideline while the clocked ticked down and the took a delay.

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Scout's Take: Every offensive series and Rodger Saffold's troubles

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Zero excuses after a loss like this. Offensive line breakdowns, dropped passes and the offense struggled to convert third downs.

The Titans offense struggled in the first half because of big losses due to penalties and sacks. This is a theme that keeps showing up for Tennessee.SaffoldBills

Marcus Mariota was efficient and decisive with his throws. Mariota was sacked five times and escaped another four potential sacks. The receivers had four dropped passes and three of the four would have resulted in first downs.

Titans offensive drives:

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Where the *%@^&#$* are the points for the Titans?

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It can’t be like that. It just can’t.

The Titans can’t make the financial investments they did in Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold and Adam Humphries and spend the draft assets they have on Corey Davis, A.J. Brown and Nate Davis and get that sort of offensive output against the Buffalo Bills, no matter how good their defense is.SantosMissBills

They can’t watch Cairo Santos miss four field goals (one of them was blocked) and they can’t score just 7 points for the second time in three weeks and walk off an NFL football field and feel like they are on any sort of desirable trajectory.

They can lose to the Bills, but they can’t do it like that, not 14-7.

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Yazoo Mailbag: On conservative second-half offense and 2020 QB plan

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Ready for the weekend? You're going to have to fend off a lot of Bills Mafia. I know you're hoping the Titans can send them all back to Western New York disappointed. We chatted some about the game on Friday, and you should watch that.

And here's the pod:

 Now on to your fine mail.

Michael Elrod What are your thoughts on the Titans going super conservative on offense during the 2nd half of the game last week. Do you believe that’ll come back to bite them in the future?

TitansSwordFabric

PK: I don’t like them acting like decent leads are insurmountable because they have a good defense. I detailed it here.

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Scout's take: Bills Tremaine Edmunds likely to spy on Marcus Mariota

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans are coming off a big win in Atlanta where the passing game came to life.

With the team’s emphasis on the running game, if the passing game can continue to show signs of improvement the offense can become a threat down the stretch.TitansLogoCorner

The defense has played well the first four weeks of the season but needs to show more pass rush as the schedule gets more difficult.

The Titans will face a Bills team that beat them last year, but this Bills’ team is a lot different in terms of offensive personnel. GM Brandon Beane went out and added some offensive firepower to go with their second-year QB Josh Allen.

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