Marcus Mariota Wants to Start with a Bang - Again

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Offer Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota a chance to duplicate last season's opener this Sunday, and he'd take it in a heartbeat.

A year ago, Mariota posted a perfect passer rating of 158.3 while throwing for four touchdowns in a blowout win against the Buccaneers. He completed 13-of-15 passes (86.7 percent) in that contest.

"I hope (to do that again),'' Mariota said with a smile on Wednesday. "That's the standard. That's kind of what I hold myself to. If I can continue to play at that level, hopefully I'll put our team in the right positions."

It's a tough act to follow, of course, but Mariota will give it a shot on Sunday in the regular season opener against the Minnesota Vikings at Nissan Stadium.

Mariota is coming off an impressive preseason. In three preseason games, he completed 23-of-31 passes for 319 yards, with one touchdown and one interception. His completion percentage was 74.2, his passer rating 104.1.

Titans coach Mike Mularkey said he looks ready.

"Well, I would hope to think he's light years ahead of where he was at this time (last year),'' Mularkey said of Mariota. "I mean with all the game experience he had last year, all the things that he's had to go through since he's been here, I would think he'd be—and again, we've done some things to hopefully even ease him into some things that should help him advance pretty good. So I think he should be way ahead of this time last year."

In 2015, Mariota set franchise records for most touchdowns (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing attempts (370) by a rookie in his first NFL season despite missing four games with knee injuries.

He also ran for 258 yards and two touchdowns.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said during a conference call on Wednesday he's been impressed with Mariota, the second overall pick of the 2015 NFL Draft.

"He is very accurate, and he throws the ball well,'' Zimmer said. "He is an excellent scrambler, he makes good decisions. I really think he is going to be a heck of a quarterback.

"I like his demeanor, the mentality he has from things you can see on tape, and things I have heard from people throughout the league. It makes it extra difficult for any defense when the quarterback has the running ability that he has. And he is not just a runner, he is a thrower. Your defense has to be really disciplined in everything they do, not just in the passing game, but the way you rush the quarterback and the way you blitz."

Mariota, who added bulk this offseason while also getting used to a new set of receivers, said he's excited, and ready to go. He feels he's improved as a player.

Mariota and the Titans are ready to put the memories of a 3-13 season in the rear-view mirror.

"I'm really excited. You know, I think everyone is," Mariota said. "It's about that time of the year again, and I'm just looking forward to getting back on the field.

"You know, it's been a long time since really it's been the regular season for me with missing the last couple games of the year last year. I'm just excited to get back out on the field and just go out there with the guys."

Titans players take the field for Wednesday's practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)

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