One of the biggest questions surrounding the Tennessee Titans’ new offensive identity is how often quarterback Marcus Mariota will run the ball.
Mariota has a skill set that not many quarterbacks in the NFL are fortunate enough to have. The former Oregon Ducks signal caller is deadly with his arm, but he can also beat you with his legs.
At 6-foot-4/222 pounds, Mariota has a frame that’s capable of absorbing hits from linebackers and safeties.
While the Titans obviously don’t want to put their franchise quarterback in danger (new head coach Mike Vrabel said earlier this year they want to be “smart” with Mariota), they’d be foolish to not utilize his legs.
So how often will offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur actually choose to run Mariota?
That’s a good question.
LaFleur didn’t have a quarterback capable of running the ball in Los Angeles last season. Jared Goff isn’t exactly known as a speedster (he had 28 attempts for 51 yards), which means there isn’t much we can glean from LeFleur’s experiences in 2017.
However, we can look at LaFluer’s time with former Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III for a peak at how Mariota could be used by the Titans in 2018.
LaFleur served as the Redskins’ quarterbacks coach during the first two years of Griffin’s time in Washington.
During that time, RG3 rushed the ball an average of 7.3 times per game.
In retrospect, it wasn’t a good idea to give Griffin that many carries a game. His body wasn’t up to the task of taking the hits associated with running the ball that often.
Mariota, however, has a frame better suited for taking hits. He’s also a bit more diligent about not taking hits from defenders.
So what does this mean for Mariota?
Well, so far during Mariota’s career, he’s averaged under four rushing attempts per game.
I think we’ll see that total end up somewhere between five and six a game under LaFleur.
There will likely be more designed runs for Mariota. I also think Mariota will be given more freedom to improvise and take what the defense gives him.
Tennessee is obviously going to do their best to take care of Mariota and make sure he’s able to make it through a 16 game season. But I think they’re also very aware that teams don’t win divisions by being conservative and limiting the strengths of the offense.
Mariota should have his best season as a professional in 2018, and his ability to run will be a big reason why.
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