TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: QUARTERBACKS
In camp: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert, Luke Falk.
Offseason developments: Marcus Mariota spent the entire offseason training, instead of recovering like he did last spring. He gathered receivers for throwing sessions in Los Angeles and Nashville when he wasn’t involved in the team’s offseason program, which lasted from mid-April to mid-June and consisted of nine OTAs and a minicamp. Mariota ditched the cumbersome knee brace he wore last season. He’s also been getting familiar with some new faces around him, from offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara. Two new quarterbacks are also in the room. The Titans signed veteran Blaine Gabbert after releasing Matt Cassel, and the team drafted Luke Falk in the sixth round of the NFL Draft out of Washington State.
In the spotlight: Mariota. The fourth-year QB has looked noticeably faster this offseason on sprints to the outside. He’s in great shape, and hungry for more after guiding the Titans into the playoffs last season. But he’s dealing with a lot of changes, and this year’s training camp will be huge. How will Mariota adapt to another OC, and complete system change under LaFleur? Will he flourish with a relatively young receiving corps? How can he improve on last year’s season, when he threw 13 touchdowns and 15 interceptions? Mariota’s progress will be worth watching in camp.
Battle to watch: Gabbert vs. Falk. Heading into camp, Gabbert is the clear favorite here. He has the experience (seven NFL seasons with 45 starts) and I’ve been impressed with his arm strength during the offseason. There’s no doubt Gabbert can sling it. In the event he’s called into action, I believe he’s capable of giving the team some quality snaps. Falk is a talented rookie, and he had an impressive collegiate career. In camp, his reps will be limited. But he’ll get a chance to play in some preseason games, when he could strengthen his case of sticking on the 53-man roster.
Keep an eye on: Mariota and his new coaches. When Mariota entered the league in 2015, his head coach was Ken Whisenhunt and his offensive coordinator was Jason Michael. Things have sure changed since, huh? Mariota, LaFleur, O’Hara and new head coach Mike Vrabel have used the offseason to get on the same page. They’ve already spent a lot of time together. But things will get a lot more intense when training camp begins, and the clock starts ticking until the start of the regular season. Mariota has used the offseason to work on his technique, specifically on widening his base. The changes should result in him getting rid of the ball quicker, and with greater accuracy. All of it will be worth watching in camp.
Next up: Running backs.