NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marcus Mariota's 2016 season is over. The Titans quarterback suffered a fractured fibula in Saturday's loss to the Jaguars.
Here's a look at six things that stood out from his second NFL season:
Deep ball improvement**
One of the biggest questions coming out of Mariota's rookie year focused on his deep ball. Let's face it: Mariota wasn't real accurate throwing the long ball as a rookie. Mariota has made big strides here in the last year. In 2016, Mariota completed 31 passes of 25 yards or more. A year ago, he completed just 19 passes of 25 or more yards. This year, he consistently delivered deep throws on target, and receivers ran under them. It will be a nice part of his arsenal moving forward.
3rd down passer rating**
Mariota led two more game-winning drives in 2016. He was clutch on third down, another area where he made big improvements. Mariota posted a passer rating of 105.9 on third down in 2016, completing 87-of-142 passes for 1,218 yards with 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. It's the sixth-best third down rating in the NFL. A year ago, Mariota's passer rating was 78.0 in third down, as he was 58-of-102 for 778 yards with four touchdowns and and four interceptions.
Chemistry with Matthews**
Titans general manager Jon Robinson targeted receiver Rishard Matthews in free agency, and then Mariota targeted him during the season. Mariota connected with Matthews for eight touchdowns. Matthews, who leads the team with 831 receiving yards, became the first Titans player with eight touchdown catches in a season since Kenny Britt (nine) in 2010. During the course of the season it became very clear the QB and WR have great chemistry. That's a great sign for the future.
Mariota's overall passer rating went up in 2016 compared to his rookie season (96.7 to 91.5), along with a lot of his key offensive categories. Some of those totals went up because Mariota ended up playing in three more games this fall. One stat that's key is Mariota's TD/INT ratio. As a rookie, Mariota threw 19 touchdowns vs 10 interceptions. In 2016, Mariota threw 25 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions. He made better decisions and took fewer chances. In two seasons, Mariota has 33 TDs and 0 INTs in the red zone.
OK, a lot of the credit here goes to the improved play of the offensive line. But Mariota deserves some props here for getting the ball out quicker. Mariota was sacked just 21 times in 15 games in 2016, and that's a big improvement from a year ago when he was sacked 38 times in 12 starts. Mariota went through his progressions quicker in his second NFL season, and got the ball out of his hands before defenders could get to him.
He picked his spots to run**
Mariota didn't have the electrifying 87-yard run like he did as a rookie. But he tucked it and turned in more quick bursts to get yardage in his second NFL season, and he proved to be a pretty good slider in the process. Mariota finished the season with 349 yards on 60 carries – 26 more carries than last season, when he ran 34 times for 252 yards. Mariota ran the ball at least four times in eight games in 2016, compared to four games with four-plus carries last year.
TitansOnline.com looks back at Marcus Mariota's outstanding performance in November of 2016. (AP Photos)