The Countdown to Kickoff series continues on with a profile on Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota.
There are only eight days until the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers open up the 2016 NFL regular season with a Super Bowl 50 rematch.
Here at NFL Spin Zone, we have been profiling a player each day as we countdown the days to the kick off of the league's 97th season.
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We began months ago by previewing the rookie defensive end of the San Diego Chargers in No. 99 Joey Bosa (who remains unsigned, by the way). On Tuesday, it was prolific New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. If you're looking for the entire countdown, you can check it out right here.
Aug 27, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota (8) looks towards the sideline during a break in the action against the Oakland Raiders in the second quarter at Oakland Alameda Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports
It's safe to say that No. 8 is one of the more fabled numerals in NFL annals, most notably when it comes to the quarterback position. Yes, there's Pro Football Hall of Famers Troy Aikman and Steve Young, both league champions and one-time Super Bowl MVPs. And let's not forget fellow legends in Cardinals safety Larry Wilson and Raiders specialist Ray Guy, the first and only pure punter enshrined in Canton.
But here the onus is on Tennessee Titans second-year quarterback Marcus Mariota, the second overall selection in the 2015 draft. Head coach Mike Mularkey is expecting big things from the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner, who impressed on numerous occasions this past season.
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The former University of Oregon star finished the year completing 62.2 percent of his throws for 2,818 yards and 19 scores (10 interceptions) but played in just 12 games. Mariota was sacked 38 times and fumbled on 10 occasions, losing six of those bobbles. Despite finishing second on the team with 252 yards rushing (2 touchdowns), he ran the ball on 34 times and 87 of those yards on the ground came on one play against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
The addition of free agent wideouts such as Rishard Matthews and former Texans and Colts receiver Andre Johnson should help. Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker led the team with 94 catches in '15, while wide receivers Kendall Wright and Harry Douglas combined for only 72 grabs (36 each). They must do better this fall. Earlier this month, the Titans dealt wideout Dorial Green-Beckham to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Tennessee offense could be much improved in 2016, especially with the 1-2 running combination of DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry. But it's Mariota that must take the next step in terms of improving his game. You have to like his chances, especially with the added support of what should be one of the better ground attacks in the league.