The Raiders dropped back in coverage late in Sunday’s game at Detroit, accounting for possible ball carrier save one. The quarterback.
Slow and plodding describes Matthew Stafford’s running style, but there was so much open space the Lions signal caller had to take advantage. He ran 18 yards before angling out of bounds in a rare run for a true pocket passer.
On the very next play, Stafford saw space up the middle and used it to score a go-ahead 5-yard touchdown.
The Raiders didn’t see those plays coming. On Sunday, quarterback runs could be a regular occurrence. They’d better learn how to stop it. If not, it’ll be a long Sunday against Marcus Mariota and the Tennessee Titans.
“That adds an element that you have to contend with,” Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio said. “That’s just part of what you’re preparing for. He certainly has the ability to take off and run. They’ll do some zone read stuff where I think he’s kept it 10 of 25 times. They’ve been running that element. They’ve kept him out on the perimeter and he’s had a couple of big ones.”
Mariota has a competitive streak, and uses his versatile talents extremely well. The rookie No. 2 overall pick can create havoc on the ground, proven with 21 carries for 130 yards and a touchdown, but it’d be a mistake to underestimate his arm.
Mariota has a 96.1 passer rating, with 2,026 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Del Rio said Mariota has a ‘short, compact stroke” and a great feel for when to hang in the pocket and when to take off.
“I’m going to do my best to take what’s in front of me,” Mariota said in a conference call. “If it’s an opportunity to run, I’ll do it. For the most part I just try to play within myself and try to get first downs.”
Mariota’s talent coming out of college was unquestioned, with the tools and temperament worthy of his draft selection. There was concern that he was a system quarterback at Oregon and his talent wouldn’t translate to the NFL game.
He silenced those doubts rather quickly. While the 2-8 Titans haven’t won much – Mariota missed two losses with a knee sprain – their quarterback has generally been stable.
“I think all the big questions of can he function in a pro-style offense, I think he’s answered that question,” Titans interim head coach Mike Mularkey said. “At least until this point, he’s done well being under center. That really hasn’t been an issue. If there’s anything I thought early that may have been a challenge to him was just calling the plays. There’s not a lot of play calls (in college). They’re signaling from the sideline. Basically the whole offense is getting the call. Now he has to make those calls. I know he studies and does it on his own, but that’s gradually gotten better and better.”
Mariota says he’s comfortable playing at this level, and is working to handle the defensive complexities he faces each week.
The Raiders haven’t faced a dual-threat quarterback yet. New York Jets backup Geno Smith was capable of moving around some. So can Minnesota’s Teddy Bridgewater. Neither player has Mariota’s speed.
The Raiders know what’s coming on Sunday, and must stay disciplined to hold Mariota at bay.
“You’ve got to stay disciplined with a guy like that,” edge rusher Khalil Mack said. “The goal is to keep him contained and put him under pressure. You have to keep after him and not get frustrated if he slips away. We know what he can do, and we’ll be relentless trying to stop him.”