NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Marcus Mariota has a clean-shaven face, and a brand-new target to throw to in veteran receiver Andre Johnson.
At the start of his second NFL season, the Titans quarterback is anxious to forget memories from 2015 once and for all. The Titans practice for the first time in training camp today.
"I think from what happened last season, you experience kind of a bad taste in your mouth with a lot of those close games,'' Mariota said. "I think a lot of guys in this locker room are hungry. It's kind of the same message when we talked through OTAs—just being physical and finding a way to win. That's what it comes down to.
"Being able to experience some of the losses last season when they're close games, we'll be back in those situations this year and we're going to be better prepared for them and overcome and hopefully win some of those."
The Titans finished last season 3-13. On Friday, the reported to training camp at Saint Thomas Sports Park, when Mariota and other players talked to reporters. The expectations are higher for Mariota, and the team, following an offseason that included some key acquisitions for Tennessee.
"I'm excited,'' Mariota said. "A lot of the guys feel the same way, too. For me, coming in kind of knowing what to expect, it's a little different from last season. I'm very anxious to get going.
"I think we expect (success) within ourselves. To have that expectation establishes kind of a foundation for what you want to do in the year. We're going to do our best to live up to those expectations, including myself. I hate just meeting the expectation. I'd rather go above and beyond. Hopefully as a team, we can continue to come together and do that this year."
Mariota set franchise records for most touchdowns (19), completions (230), passing yards (2,818) and passing attempts (370) in his first NFL season despite missing four games with knee injuries.
He's added a few pounds this offseason, which should help him be sturdier in the pocket. The Titans, meanwhile, added plenty of help around him, from running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry to center Ben Jones to veteran receiver Rishard Matthews. Then on Friday, the team signed another veteran receiver in Andre Johnson.
"He's caught over 1,000 balls, and he's been to multiple Pro Bowls,'' Mariota said of Johnson. "He's done some of the things that a lot of us young players here want to aspire for. To kind of see that, to bring him in—he sounds like the type of guy that's going to kind of hopefully help us and guide us in that direction.
"He's made a living with jumping over a guy, making a catch, a lot of those back-shoulder throws. That allows us as a quarterback to throw in a huge target range and it makes our job a little easier."
Coach Mike Mularkey said he's seen a more comfortable Mariota this offseason, and is expecting a jump in Year Two. Mariota's teammates have also raved about the quarterback, who played with poised and showed great accuracy in his first NFL season.
Can Mariota do this year in camp what he did last season?
Last summer, Mariota threw 230 passes without being intercepted to start training camp. His first interception came in his 14th practice, and on his 231st throw. The defense will try and keep that from happening, starting today.
"I haven't heard too much trash talking yet, but again, that's training camp,'' Mariota said with a smile. "I'd rather do that in the course of a season. Really, that's a goal of mine is just take care of the football."