NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Titans offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur wants to make sure Marcus Mariota is comfortable with Tennessee’s new offense so he plans to call plays that best fit the quarterback.
Mariota is busy learning his latest NFL offense, but any talk about what plays the fourth-year QB prefers will have to wait at least until he knows everything LaFleur is asking him to run.
“I’m just trying to grasp everything,” Mariota said Tuesday. “You don’t want to be opinionated on something that you have never run. I just try to go out there and execute, and do what they’re asking me to do. When we come back and we have to determine some of these things, and determine what we like and what we don’t like, I’ll definitely express my opinion.”
That’s exactly what LaFleur expects, even if he’s learning that getting the polite Mariota to speak up isn’t always easy.
“He’s an extremely bright guy,” LaFleur said. “He’s picked it up pretty quickly. Again, I think it’s more or less just having that confidence in being able to go out there and not think so much when he’s playing. So the more reps he’s been getting, the better he’s been doing.”
The Titans wrap up their organized team activities this week, and their mandatory minicamp next week concludes the offseason where first-time head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff have been busy teaching and installing new offensive and defensive schemes. LaFleur, the third man to interview for the Titans’ head coaching job in January, joined Vrabel as his offensive coordinator for the chance at calling plays in the NFL.
LaFleur’s biggest challenge is making sure the Titans put Mariota in position to take advantage of his skills. Tennessee fired coach Mike Mularkey after winning the franchise’s first playoff game in 14 years because they didn’t get enough out of Mariota and the offense last season despite going 9-7.
The Titans tied for 22nd in the NFL with 33 touchdowns despite tying for second with 18 TDs rushing. Only four teams threw fewer passes than Tennessee (496), and the Titans ranked 23rd averaging 199.4 yards passing per game. They also fell to 15th in the league running the ball for an average of 114.6 yards.
LaFleur joined Tennessee from the Los Angeles Rams who scored a league-high 29.9 points per game last season. What LaFleur wants from the Titans all starts with the run game and his very mobile quarterback.
“We’re going to try to have a strong marriage between the run and the pass, so that to a defense it might look, `Oh, here comes another run,’ and it’s play-action off that run,” LaFleur said.
To rev up the run game, the Titans released veteran DeMarco Murray in March and signed Dion Lewis as a free agent to join Derrick Henry. LaFleur said he looks at the running backs as 1A and 1B.
In the end, the biggest key also is the most obvious: keep Mariota healthy for a full season for the first time in his career.
“When he’s healthy, this offense runs smoothly and we’ve got to keep him that way,” Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker said.
Notes: Left tackle Taylor Lewan and wide receiver Corey Davis were not at Tuesday’s session. Vrabel said he had heard from the players not in attendance. … Linebacker Kevin Dodd, the No. 33 pick overall in 2016, has been missing in action during the three organized team activity sessions open to reporters. Vrabel said Tuesday he could end the mystery because Dodd wasn’t around. The upcoming minicamp is mandatory.
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