Marcus Mariota

Marcus Mariota In Line To Start In Week 12

The Titans are almost certainly going to have their starting quarterback running the show on Monday night. Marcus Mariota is no longer on the injury report after practicing in full Saturday, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets.

Mariota suffered a stinger against the Colts and was taken out midway through the Titans’ loss. He returned to practice this week and got in full workouts on Friday and Saturday after beginning the work week limited.

Troubled by an elbow injury during the early portion of the season and entering Week 9 with just three touchdown passes, Mariota threw four TDs in the next two Tennessee games — wins over Dallas and New England — and is an obviously significant component of the Titans’ playoff equation. He’s completing 67 percent of his passes, which would be far and away a career high, and is averaging 7.3 yards per attempt.

Blaine Gabbert came in for Mariota during the Titans’ 38-10 loss in Indianapolis but will not be in line to take snaps on Monday night against the Texans, barring another Mariota injury.

Injury Notes: Graham, Mariota, Darnold, Kupp

We learned earlier this week that Packers tight end Jimmy Graham had suffered a broken thumb, and it was expected that the former All-Pro would be out for the foreseeable future. However, head coach Mike McCarthy told reporters that Graham is going to try to play on Sunday against the Vikings.

“I know he intends to try to go,” McCarthy said (via ESPN’s Rob Demovsky). “That’s his intention…There’s going to be a transition through the practice week and see different splints and things like that. So that’s why you have to work through it.”

The 31-year-old has 34 receptions for 452 yards and two touchdowns during his first season in Green Bay. If he was forced to miss time, the Packers would likely turn to Lance KendricksRobert Tonyan Jr., and/or Marcedes Lewis.

Let’s take a look at some more injury notes from around the NFL…

  • Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota didn’t suffer an elbow injury during Sunday’s loss to the Colts. Instead, as head coach Mike Vrabel told reporters, the signal-caller suffered a “stinger” (via Jim Wyatt of Titans Online via Twitter). Mariota may get a second opinion, and there’s still hope that the quarterback can play on Monday against the Titans. Through nine games this season, the 25-year-old has completed 67.6-percent of his passes for 1,583 yards, seven touchdowns, and six interceptions. He’s also rushed for 255 yards and two scores on 47 carries. If Mariota is forced to miss Monday’s game, Blaine Gabbert would likely earn the start for Tennessee.
  • Jets quarterback Sam Darnold had ditched his walking boot, and ESPN’s Rich Cimini writes that the rookie was seen jogging during Monday’s practice. “It feels good. It feels great,” Darnold said of his right foot. “Nothing for me to complain about. No pain, either.” The quarterback missed the team’s last game against the Bills, but he got an extra week off thanks to the bye. If Darnold misses this weekend’s contest against the division-rival Patriots, the team will turn to veteran Josh McCown again.
  • While Cooper Kupp‘s season-ending injury certainly wasn’t promising, Rams coach Sean McVay revealed that the wideout underwent successful ACL surgery. “It went really well,” McVay said (via Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk.com). “He called right afterwards and he was in great spirits. I know if anybody is going to attack the rehab process the right way, it’s going to be Cooper Kupp. Fortunately, some of the things when you do get in there, none of the other things that sometimes can delay that rehab process were affected. It was a clean surgery, did a good job repairing that and we expect him to be able to make a good recovery. Looking forward to getting him back.” The 25-year-old was having another productive season before suffering the injury, hauling in 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns in eight games.
  • Buccaneers offensive lineman Evan Smith suffered torn labrums in both hips, reports NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport (via Twitter). The veteran will have surgery in New York next Monday. The 32-year-old had appeared in seven games with Tampa Bay this season, serving primarily in a backup role. The team placed him on the injured reserve last week.

Injury Notes: Titans, Mariota, Falcons, McKinley, Colts, Doyle, Eagles, Ajayi

Marcus Mariota‘s injury remains a mystery. It hasn’t been disclosed exactly what he’s dealing with although it has reportedly caused him to lose some feeling in his hand. Blaine Gabbert started, and won, for the Titans last week, and it’s possible he’s asked to do so again this week against the Jaguars.

Titans coach Mike Vrabel told reporters that he would make the decision between Gabbert and Mariota within the next “24 hours” and that he would let them know then according to Jim Wyatt of the Titans’ official website (Twitter link). If Mariota can’t go it would be a huge blow for Tennessee against the league’s top defense. One thing that could make their matchup a bit easier is that Jalen Ramsey was added to the injury report Friday with an ankle injury, although it’s unclear if he’s in any danger of missing the game.

Here’s more injury updates from around the league:

  • The Falcons just can’t seem to catch a break. It was already known they’d be without Devonta Freeman and several other starters, but it was announced today that they’d also be without talented pass-rusher Takkarist McKinley. McKinley is currently dealing with a groin injury.
  • The Colts will be quite shorthanded for their trip to Philadelphia as the team ruled out tight end Jack Doyle, running back Marlon Mack, defensive tackle Denico Autry, and right tackle Anthony Castonzo. Doyle’s injury is a big blow, as he formed an effective tight end duo with Eric Ebron through the first two games.
  • The Eagles will also be significantly shorthanded on offense, with their backfield being particularly banged up. Running backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles have been ruled out, while Corey Clement is questionable. If Clement isn’t able to go, the running back situation would be dire. Alshon Jeffery is questionable, but reporters have written that he’s very unlikely to play.

Injury Notes: Wentz, Bosa, Mariota

Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports that Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz could be cleared for contact this week, and that may put him on track to make his 2018 debut in Week 3, as was suggested last Sunday. But Rapoport says the team is in no rush to have Wentz return to game action, because it is more concerned about the next 10 to 15 years, not the next 10 to 15 minutes. As such, if the Eagles need to keep Wentz out longer to make sure he is fully recovered from his torn ACL and LCL, they are fully committed to doing so.

However, Adam Schefter of ESPN.com reports that Wentz is indeed on track to be back under center for the Eagles against the Colts next week, and he suggests that Philadelphia will have no issue in deploying Wentz as soon as he is cleared for contract.

Now let’s take a look at a few more reports concerning injuries to some of the league’s biggest names:

  • This is not much of a surprise given a report from earlier this week, but Schefter reports that Chargers DE Joey Bosa is expected to be sidelined until at least October. Bosa is continuing to rehab his foot with the hope that the swelling goes down and the foot stabilizes, but surgery is still very much in play if that does not happen.
  • Titans QB Marcus Mariota has not yet regained complete feeling in his fingers, per Rapoport (Twitter link). Schefter adds (via Twitter) that Mariota is still unable to grip the football normally as a result, which means that Blaine Gabbert may be starting under center for Tennessee for at least Week 2.
  • Jaguars RB Leonard Fournette is unlikely to play against the Patriots today, per Schefter, but it sounds as though Fournette is making good progress in his recovery from the hamstring injury he suffered last week. Even if the second-year back is unable to suit up today, he could be back in action next week.
  • Rapoport confirms (via Twitter) a report from Tuesday that Panthers TE Greg Olsen is hoping to return much sooner than was originally anticipated when he fractured his foot in the team’s season-opening win over the Cowboys. Rapoport says that Olsen hopes to be back on the field in four to five weeks, and he will have the foot — the same one he broke last year — reevaluated after the season.
  • We received a status update on Packers QB Aaron Rodgers earlier today.

AFC Injury Notes: Titans, Ben, Berry, Bolts

Marcus Mariota experienced difficulty gripping the ball after suffering a Week 1 elbow injury, but he could well return for the Titans this week. However, he doesn’t appear to be at full strength. Blaine Gabbert stands to see time as well as an apparent result. Mike Vrabel said he expects to use both of his quarterbacks against the Texans, via Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com (on Twitter). Mariota hasn’t made much progress since his injury in Tennessee’s opener and was still experiencing tingling in his throwing arm as of Wednesday, per Terry McCormick of TitanInsider.com, making this an interesting situation for a Titans team with playoff aspirations. If Mariota fails to progress by Sunday, it wouldn’t be hard to envision the Titans sitting him. Gabbert filled in for an injury-ransacked Cardinals team last season, making five starts (including a 12-7 win over the Titans). He completed 11 of 22 passes in a loss to the Dolphins last week.

Here’s the latest on the AFC injury front heading into Week 2:

  • A higher-profile AFC passer does look to be in better shape going into Week 2. Ben Roethlisberger practiced fully on Friday, Mike Tomlin said (via ESPN’s Adam Schefter, on Twitter), pointing him toward being available in Sunday’s Steelers-Chiefs tilt. An elbow malady caused Big Ben to miss practice on Wednesday and Thursday. Joshua Dobbs would start against Kansas City if Pittsburgh’s franchise passer can’t go.
  • When Mariota and/or Gabbert take snaps Sunday, they’ll do so with second-string tackles. Jack Conklin won’t be ready to debut, and Taylor Lewan is out as well after suffering a concussion, McCormick notes.
  • Eric Berry‘s ninth NFL season remains on hold while he battles a heel ailment. The All-Pro Chiefs safety did not practice on Friday and is doubtful to suit up in western Pennsylvania on Sunday, per Andy Reid (via Brooke Pryor of the Kansas City Star, on Twitter). Berry’s battled this heel trouble, on the opposite foot of the torn Achilles he suffered in September 2017, for over a month.
  • As expected, Joey Bosa is out for the Chargers-Bills game Sunday. Right tackle Joe Barksdale won’t suit up, either, ESPN’s Eric Williams tweets. A knee injury’s affecting Barksdale. Sam Tevi is likely to start for the Bolts at right tackle. Second-year defensive end Isaac Rochell replaced Bosa as a starting defensive end last week.

Delanie Walker Expected To Miss Rest Of Season

Delanie Walker was carted off the field during the Titans’ loss to the Dolphins today, and it sounds like the tight end is set to miss the season. NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport reports (via Twitter) that Walker suffered a dislocated ankle and an “associated fracture.” The reporter says the player’s “season is almost certainly over.”

A season-ending injury would certainly be a tough blow for the Titans, who were set to depend on Walker’s offensive production. The 34-year-old had been named to three straight Pro Bowls, and he finished the 2017 campaign with 74 receptions for 807 yards and three scores. The tight end had hauled in four receptions for 52 yards before suffering the injury.

If Walker indeed misses the entire season, the Titans will likely turn to 2017 third-round Jonnu Smith as a starter. The Titans are also rostering Luke Stocker and Anthony Firkser.

Walker wasn’t the only Titans player to suffer an injury on Sunday. Quarterback Marcus Mariota briefly returned to the contest after suffering an injury in the third quarter, but he ended up sitting out the remainder of the game. The injury was being described as an elbow/shoulder injury, and coach Mike Vrabel said the signal-caller would be reevaluated tomorrow.

“I just couldn’t feel my fingers, couldn’t feel my hand,” Mariota told TitansOnline.com. “It was one of those things where I couldn’t grip the ball and all that stuff.”

Meanwhile, left tackle Taylor Lewan was forced out of the game with a concussion after suffering a massive hit from defensive lineman Andre Branch. The hit sparked a brief fight as Lewan was lying motionless on the ground.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Extra Points: Titans, Mariota, Jets, Broncos

The Titans may landed the second-overall pick in the 2015 draft, but it sounds like the organization still drafted their desired prospect. Blake Beddingfield, the team’s former director of scouting, told Paul Kuharsky that preferring quarterback Marcus Mariota over top-overall pick Jameis Winston was “an easy choice at that time” (Twitter link). Ian Rapoport of NFL.com echoes that sentiment (via Twitter), saying the team’s infatuation with Mariota was why they refused to trade the pick.

Following a breakout campaign in 2016, Mariota took a bit of a step back in 2017. The 24-year-old ended up completing 62-percent of his passes for 3,232 yards, 13 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Winston had the edge in numbers (63.8 completion percentage, 3,504 yards, 19 touchdowns, 11 interceptions), but his off-the-field conduct would seemingly give Mariota the edge when it comes to the duo’s long-term outlooks.

Let’s take a look at some more notes from around the NFL…

  • If the Jets hope to compete for a playoff spot next season, the team will need rookie quarterback Sam Darnold to step up and contribute right away, writes ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. While head coach Todd Bowles favors experience, Darnold’s skills would surely boost the team’s ceiling. Cimini also points to wideout Robby Anderson, center Spencer Long, cornerback Trumaine Johnson, and defensive end Leonard Williams among those who will need to have standout seasons for a playoff-bound Jets squad.
  • Paxton Lynch has two more years left on his contract, and Mike Klis of 9News.com writes that the quarterback’s longterm outlook with the Broncos will depend on his performance next season. While the team is unlikely to pick up Lynch’s fifth-year option, Klis believes the team won’t end up dealing the former first-rounder. After all, Lynch would presumably have little trade value if he sits on the bench behind Case Keenum, and he’d likely be too valuable for the Broncos is he makes his way into the starting lineup.
  • Matt Miller of Bleacher Report hears that former Western Michigan cornerback Sam Beal could end up being selected in the second or third round of the supplemental draft, with several AFC teams expressing interest (Twitter link). We heard earlier today that the highly-touted prospect was expected to be one of the two players selected (along with Virginia Tech cornerback Adonis Alexander) in the upcoming draft.

South Notes: Tepper, Mariota, Bucs

David Tepper may have been a minority owner of the Steelers before purchasing the Panthers for a league-record $2.275 billion, but he does not exactly fit the mold of your prototypical NFL owner. In a fascinating piece on the self-made billionaire, Kent Babb of the Washington Post describes how the enigmatic, unpolished Tepper could clash with the majority of the league’s straightlaced owners, and he wonders whether the league will ultimately change Tepper, or if Tepper might change the league. One way or another, Babb’s piece is worth a read.

Now for more from the league’s south divisions:

  • Despite some concerns that Titans QB Marcus Mariota could require a clean-up procedure on his knee this offseason, Jim Wyatt of TitansOnline.com says Mariota never had such a procedure and that he has looked like his usual self in spring practices thus far. Wyatt adds that, while Blaine Gabbert appears to be entrenched as Mariota’s backup going into the 2018 season, the team is more likely to keep Luke Falk as the No. 3 QB rather than risk sneaking him onto the practice squad.
  • The top four spots on the Buccaneers‘ WR depth chart are already spoken for, but Bobo Wilson, a 2017 UDFA who spent much of his rookie campaign on Tampa Bay’s practice squad, is making his case to stick around. As Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times writes, head coach Dirk Koetter has spoken highly of Wilson, who will compete for reps with 2018 fifth-rounder Justin Hunter. Wilson also has the ability to return kicks, which will certainly help his cause.
  • The Buccaneers traded a fourth- and sixth-round pick in this year’s draft to move up to the No. 94 overall selection, which they used to select Humboldt State OL Alex Cappa. Auman believes that Cappa may not be a starter right away, but that he will quickly push for a job as a regular on the offensive line (Twitter link).
  • Larry Holder of the Times-Picayune believes the Saints were wise to put a “ceiling price” on big-name free agents like Jimmy Graham and Ndamukong Suh this offseason, and he says the approach to Graham and Suh was emblematic of the team’s overall effort to rely more on young, cheap talent rather than high-priced veterans. That shift has been difficult because of New Orleans’ poor draft record in recent years, but while the Saints have a long way to go, Holder says they are moving in the right direction. Indeed, although the offense is heavy on expensive contracts, the defense is largely built on youth and thrift.
  • Texans head coach Bill O’Brien and GM Brian Gaine have specific physical characteristics in mind for every player they draft or sign, and they do not like to make exceptions to those parameters, as Sarah Barshop of ESPN.com writes. O’Brien’s and Gaine’s goal is to create a roster full of “big, strong, physical” players, and while their offseason acquisitions clearly reflect that philosophy, it is now incumbent upon O’Brien and his staff to mold his roster into a playoff contender.

Titans Pick Up Marcus Mariota’s Option

No surprise here, but the Titans will exercise Marcus Mariota‘s fifth-year option. Titans GM Jon Robinson confirmed the news in a radio interview on Wednesday (Twitter link via Paul Kuharsky).

The plan is over the next couple of days to exercise Marcus Mariota’s fifth-year option,” Robinson said in a press release. “He is an important part of this team, as are a lot of players. We’re excited to have him around here for the next couple of years and hopefully after the next season we can start to figure something out to keep him around him even longer.

Mariota, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft, is coming off of another solid season in which he conducted four game-winning drives, the most of any QB in the NFL. Mariota’s numbers weren’t great overall (his 13:15 TD/INT ratio leaves much to be desired), but many of those missteps can be forgiven in light of the injuries he played through last year. Mariota went into the offseason dealing with hamstring, leg, and ankle issues and managed to miss just one start and played through the pain in both of Tennessee’s playoff contests.

In his playoff debut, Mariota led the Titans on a remarkable second half comeback to top the Chiefs in the Wild Card round. In the next round, the Patriots largely kept Mariota in check as he completed less than 60% of his passes and threw for only two touchdowns.

The fifth-year option is guaranteed for injury only, so the Titans can escape the additional 2019 season in the event that his performance suffers for non-health reasons.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Fallout From Titans’ Mike Mularkey Firing

Mike Mularkey‘s season-ending press conference played a role in his firing. The Titans had announced their two-year head coach would be back in 2018 and given him a contract extension, but reversed course and fired him on Monday morning.

Jon Robinson said that decision was made Monday morning and added Mularkey’s comments Sunday played a role in this ouster (Twitter links via Jim Wyatt of Titans.com and Ian Rapoport of NFL.com). Mularkey did not appear ready to make changes to his offensive staff, and it’s clear Robinson felt they were probably necessary.

Tennessee’s GM made clear Marcus Mariota‘s development will be the “highest priority,” per longtime NFL reporter Paul Kuharsky (Twitter link). Mariota regressed from 2016-17 despite steering the Titans to the playoffs for the first time in nine seasons and giving the franchise its first postseason win since the 2003 campaign. The former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 overall pick threw for a career-low 13 touchdown passes — after firing 26 in 2016 — and a career-high 15 interceptions. DeMarco Murray‘s yards-per-carry figure also plummeted by nearly a yard for a Titans offense that ranked 18th in DVOA.

While Robinson made it clear all of Mularkey’s assistants were under contract (Twitter link via Terry McCormick of TitansInsider.com) it’s likely some (if not most) will be searching for new jobs soon. Kuharsky tweets Robinson and team president Steve Underwood informed Mularkey of his firing, not controlling owner Amy Adams Strunk.

Mularkey’s stubbornness regarding tailoring his scheme to Mariota’s talents helped do him in as Titans HC, Cameron Wolfe of ESPN.com writes. Mularkey wanted to bring back his offensive staff, Wolfe reports.

The Titans are planning to interview Mike Vrabel and Steve Wilks, and hiring a defensive coach would represent a first since Jeff Fisher. A Josh McDaniels pursuit may have broken down in part because of timing, Ben Volin of the Boston Globe tweets.