NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota will return to the starting lineup on Sunday vs. the Saints.
Titans interim coach Mike Mularkey made the announcement following practice on Friday. It was Mariota's third straight practice as a full participant since suffering a knee injury against the Dolphins on October 18.
Mariota, the second overall pick of the NFL Draft, has missed the last two games.
"I think each day he has gotten better,'' Mularkey said of Mariota. "You can't simulate game speed until the adrenalin and everything is flowing, and that will be on Sunday. We'll see that show up."
Mariota was injured early in the second quarter of the team's 38-10 loss to the Dolphins when Miami defensive end Olivier Vernon dove and hit Mariota on the back of his left leg after he released the football.
Mariota will wear a brace on his knee in the game, Mularkey said.
Mularkey said the Titans have put a greater emphasis on protecting the quarterback. Mariota has been sacked 19 times in his first five NFL starts, and back-up quarterback Zach Mettenberger was sacked seven times last week at Houston.
The Titans have shuffled some players on the offensive line, but Mularkey didn't announce the changes on Friday. He said he'll wait until Sunday.
"We have a plan of attack every week on how we are going to (protect the QB), and we've kind of amped that up a little bit with our situation last week with the number of sacks,'' Mularkey. "We have a plan."
Mularkey believes the Titans will get a lift with Mariota's return.
In five games, Mariota has thrown for 1,239 yards, nine touchdown and five interceptions, with a 93.2 rating.
"The players have had success with him,'' Mularkey said of Mariota. "It is naturally a boost, and they know what he is capable of doing for us."
As for Mariota's mindset, Mularkey said he's ready.
"I get here early, and he is here earlier than I am,'' Mularkey said. "He is a workhorse when it comes to studying and getting himself healthy and everything. He is itching to go.""