Marcus Mariota hasn’t been intercepted during Titans camp
Marcus Mariota had what counts as a poor practice, yet the Tennessee Titans went another session in training camp without intercepting the rookie quarterback even once.
It’s a streak bound to end. The only question is when.
Still, the Heisman Trophy winner who proved he could take very good care of the ball at Oregon is impressing his new teammates as the only quarterback in training camp yet to be intercepted through seven practices.
"That just shows you he makes smart decisions," tight end Delanie Walker said. "He’s not going to force anything in there. At times, you see him throw the ball away. That’s things you don’t see from young quarterbacks. Maybe he’s a step ahead of his time, and hopefully we can keep that up (through) preseason and the regular season."
At Oregon, Mariota set the Pac-12 record with 353 straight completions without an interception from 2012-13. In winning the Heisman Trophy, Mariota was intercepted only four out of the 445 passes he attempted, and he finished his career with 105 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions.
Coach Ken Whisenhunt said Friday that he noticed announcers talking about Mariota not throwing a lot of interceptions when catching the quarterback’s games at Oregon on TV.
"It was something like that, so you’re like, `Wow, OK,’" Whisenhunt said. "You wonder what it is going to be like when he gets to this level. So I know it’s still early, but it’s obvious that he does a good job with the football, and playing that position that’s a good piece."
Mariota wasn’t at his sharpest Friday, completing only 9 of 16 passes. He missed all four passes in one team drill that included overthrowing Harry Douglas at the sideline and missing tight end Craig Stevens after being bumped by running back Bishop Sankey in the pocket. Justin Hunter had to leap and grab a pass with his left hand in a seven-on-seven drill.
The rookie bounced back by completing all three passes in the next team drill.
Mariota said he’s not thinking about continuing a streak without being intercepted. Protecting the football is something he’s tried to do everywhere he’s played.
"It’s just being smart with the football and making good decisions," Mariota said. "Again, there’s a lot of things that have to happen. The receivers have done a great job of catching the football. I’ve had time to go through my progressions and make my decisions. It’s not just me, it’s been this entire offensive unit."
The Titans’ defense has been blamed for not intercepting the rookie quarterback yet in training camp. Tennessee intercepted 12 passes last season, tied for 21st in the NFL. Defenders have gotten their hands on some balls without being able to pull them in, with cornerback Perrish Cox, safety Da’Norris Searcy and linebacker Zach Brown getting chances over the past two practices.
Cornerback Blidi Wreh-Wilson said the defense has been reminded that no one has intercepted Mariota just yet.
"He’s throwing it where only his receivers can catch the ball," Wreh-Wilson said. "That’s good for us because it gives us a chance to make plays on a quarterback who’s very protective of the football, and that’s always somebody you want to try to get the ball from."
With Dick LeBeau running the defense, the Titans have been making Mariota work and make fast decisions. The rookie so far looks to pass first and run if necessary. Mariota also has had offensive linemen being rotated in front of him as the Titans test players and work on chemistry.
"He’s been consistent," Whisenhunt said. "He’s good in the pocket and he makes good decisions. We’ve had a number of pressure periods which is, I think, important, because that’s what you’re going to see when you’re a young quarterback. So all of this that he’s getting I think is great work, it’s valuable, and I’ve been pleased with how he’s handled it."
NOTES: Kurt Warner, who went to the Super Bowl in Arizona with Whisenhunt as his head coach, was at practice Friday with NFL Network. Warner spoke with Mariota, and Whisenhunt said any time spent with Warner couldn’t hurt. "I just hope Kurt (Warner) doesn’t try to get him to wear gloves." … CB Jason McCourty (rest) did not practice. Walker also watched and isn’t expected back until next week as he recovers from a cut in his left thumb. Whisenhunt said RT Byron Bell (jaw) could return Saturday.