Mariota improving; hopes to play Monday
(TSX / STATS) -- NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Quarterback Marcus Mariota is the center of attention this week, as the Tennessee Titans try to determine whether or not he can play Monday night against Indianapolis with his injured left hamstring.
Mariota sat out last week's game against Miami, and the Titans struggled, losing 16-10 to the punchless Dolphins, by being offensively inept themselves.
The 2-3 Titans come into the game with the same record as the Colts, in a three-way tie for last place in the AFC South, but just a game behind Jacksonville, a team they already have a win in hand over from Week 2.
As Matt Cassel struggled, throwing for just 141 yards in completing 21 of 32 passes Sunday, the Titans offense could not help him out, running for just 69 yards and converting just 2 of 13 on third down. Even Mariota at less than 100 percent should make the offense run closer to normal.
He did a little more Wednesday and hopes to increase his workload as the week goes on.
"I'm just going to take it day-by-day, see how I feel. Hopefully, towards the end of the week, I get more on my plate and I feel comfortable to try and play on Monday," Mariota said.
Mariota said he is feeling much better than he did a week ago, when he did very little in practice and really had no shot of playing Sunday in Miami, barring a miracle.
"I feel a lot better. I've got to give a lot of credit to the athletic staff, the training staff here. They've done a great job and I'm feeling good," Mariota said. "I was able to participate in a good amount of practice. I wasn't able to do everything, but being able to be out here with the guys, doing some stuff, was big."
Titans head coach Mike Mularkey said Wednesday that Mariota has to show the ability to move around in order to have a chance of starting Monday night.
"He's got to be able to move around really pretty good to be able to play and not put himself in a position that he's going to reinjure himself. He's got to show that by the end of the week," Mularkey said.
Mariota said it is the simple things that are taken for granted in quarterback play that he must feel comfortable with and not think about in order to play with the injury.
"Really from that standpoint, as well as just getting the ball back to the running backs. You want to be able to go out there and not think about it and just go out there and play," he said. "Making sure the ball is getting back to the running backs at good depths, making sure my drop backs, everything within the pocket is good and I can move around to make some of those plays that are required."
SERIES HISTORY: 45th regular-season meeting. Colts lead series, 31-13. The Titans have lost 11 straight and 16 of 17 to the Colts, last winning against Indianapolis in 2011, the year Peyton Manning missed the entire season with a neck injury.
--This will be quarterback Marcus Mariota's first time on Monday Night Football, presuming he gets to play with his injured hamstring. Mariota was asked whether or not he watched Monday Night Football as a kid growing up in Hawaii, where the game was actually Monday afternoon football there.
"It was like 2:30 in the afternoon (in Hawaii), right when school was done we get to catch the games," Mariota said. "What they did was they would replay it at night at 7:30 or something like that. Most people didn't actually catch the live game, they would catch the replay at 7:30."
No matter the start time, Mariota said it would be a dream come true to play on the Monday night stage.
"Growing up, it was a dream of mine to play on Monday night, and hopefully I get that opportunity and go out there and try to make the most of it," he said.
--While Mariota is the real concern for the Titans this week, the man who played in his place, backup Matt Cassel, is still in play as well for this week. While things are a little less cut and dried as to whether Cassel will play or not this week, he is preparing as if he will get the call for a second straight week.
"You've got to get ready to play. I don't know what the situation will be as it progresses throughout the week, but I've got to be ready to play, and build on what I did last week and get better obviously," Cassel said.
--Linebacker Brian Orakpo, who led the Titans with 10.5 sacks a year ago on his way to the Pro Bowl, has only one sack in five games. But the veteran pass rusher says he isn't worried about the numbers. He is confident they will come if he just keeps playing hard.
"They'll come. I've always told y'all that. I'm not going to stress, and I'm not going to play out of my game or out of my element. They will come. Sometimes you have fast starts, and sometimes you have slow starts," Orakpo said. "This is one of those few years where I've had a slow start, but you cannot change a game plan up just to satisfy stats."
NOTES: LT Taylor Lewan, who did not finish Sunday's game in Miami because of a left knee injury, was held out of Wednesday's practice by head coach Mike Mularkey. He remains day-to-day. ... P Brett Kern had a fabulous day Sunday in Miami, something that happens often when an offense struggles. Kern became the first punter in NFL history to have 10 punts in a game and average better than 50 yards a kick. His average for Sunday was 54.9 yards and his season average is 51.8 with nine of his 28 punts downed inside the 20. ... QB Marcus Mariota did a little bit more work Wednesday as he tries to make his way back from a left hamstring injury that kept him out of Sunday's game in Miami. ... WR Corey Davis remains out of the lineup with a hamstring injury and has already been ruled out for Monday night. He might have a chance to return next week. ... S Johnathan Cyprien is out again this week, having injured his hamstring in the opener and not played since. He is likely out until after the Titans' bye week, which comes Oct. 29. ... S Da'Norris Searcy will continue to start while Johnathan Cyprien is out of the lineup. He was a starter last year and now has started four of the five games this season. ... TE Phillip Supernaw had the first touchdown catch of his career in Sunday's loss in Miami. Amazingly, it came after Supernaw false-started twice in a row, moving the football from the 1 back to the 11.
Updated October 11, 2017