NASHVILLE, Tenn. –**The Titans have played the Texans four times since quarterback Marcus Mariota entered the NFL in 2015.
Sunday's meeting in Houston will be the fifth.
But Mariota has played against the Texans just once, and he's never been on the field in the same game against Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt.
The preparation leading up to some of those games, however, helped.
"He's prepared every game that he hasn't played like he was playing," coach Mike Mularkey said. "Most real professionals do that. Mentally, he's got a lot of looks at them, again, he's only had that one game last year against them."
On Wednesday, Mariota agreed.
"Yeah, even though I was out I still prepared as if I was playing," he said. "So, I think that preparation has helped me. Obviously, when you get up there, they'll have some game plan things. We'll do our best to be prepared throughout the week and be ready to go."
Mariota went 13-of-29 for 202 yards, with one touchdown and an interception in a game at Houston last October. He didn't play in the season-finale last year because of his foot injury.
During his rookie year, Mariota was sidelined for both games against the Texans because of injuries.
Watt, who has been a force against the Titans in his NFL career, said he has a lot of respect for Mariota. Watt didn't play in last October's game against the Titans.
"I think he's done a great job so far in his time in the league," Watt said of Mariota. "I think that their offense as a whole has done a great job, I think they have the number two rushing attack in the league right now. Between their offensive line, their running backs and obviously Marcus (Mariota) being able to both throw the ball and move the ball with his feet, they present a great challenge. I'm looking forward to it, it should be a great opportunity and they're a very good football team. I always look forward to playing against great teams to see where you stack up."
The Titans enter Sunday's game with a 2-1 mark.
The team is coming off a 33-27 win over the Seahawks. The Texans, meanwhile, are 1-2.
Mariota said the Texans will be a "tough challenge." He was complimentary of Watt, who has 15.5 career sacks against Tennessee, the most against any single opponent in his career.
"They've got a great defense," Mariota said. "They've been a tough defense for many years now and we're just looking forward to it. I think our guys are up to the challenge and can't wait to play."
"(Watt) is a great player. He's been the NFL defensive MVP, he's made incredible plays, he's changed games. He's won them games before. Obviously, we've got to pay attention. We've got to know where he's at. He has that ability to change the outcome of the game, and I think we'll do our best upfront to communicate and just put forth our best effort."
Titans players take the field for Wednesday's practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park. (Photos: Gary Glenn)