Marcus Mariota Injury Update & Status: Week 2 vs Houston Texans
We have spent a lot of time over the course of the last few months talking about Marcus Mariota, and not in nearly the positive ways that it seemed like we would be when he was drafted or after a promising rookie year. He had a very strong sophomore year and seemed poised for big things. But he took giant steps back last year, and now it is tough to know if the Titans have their QB of the future or just a placeholder. Did he just have an off season, or did teams catch up to him and figure out how to limit him? Now, to complicate it all, Mariota has gotten hurt, so what was a cloudy picture has already gotten cloudier, and we aren't even a full week into the season.
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How did Marcus Mariota get injured?
After handing off to Derrick Henry in the first quarter, Mariota took a late hit from Miami defensive lineman William Hayes. Hayes wasn't penalized on the play, and because it was all just part of the flow of the play he probably shouldn't have been. But Hayes' helmet hit Mariota in the elbow, and it looked like it tweaked his funny bone. Mariota was clearly flexing his hand after the hit, and he exited the game. He came back in, though, and it was obvious that he shouldn't have. He threw two picks after the injury, and after the game he confirmed what the eyes saw - that Mariota couldn't feel his hand and wasn't throwing the ball properly. Mariota then gave way to Blaine Gabbert. It's telling that even in a game as long as this one was with the delays that it wasn't enough for the injury to resolve itself. If you have banged your funny bone, you know how much it hurts and how numb your hand gets, but it usually passes quickly. This was something more than that.
What is his status now?
We don't know. The team isn't being very forthcoming, and we don't have a whole lot of past experience with injuries like this to draw on. As of Monday, coach Mike Vrabel said that he was optimistic about his status but that he didn't know much. He did say, though, that the team would look at bringing in a third QB if they had to. The fact that he mentioned that suggests that it is at least a possibility that Mariota won't be ready and that the team has already discussed that possibility.
Gabbert is a veteran, so that is a positive as a backup. But he also isn't particularly good. He was 11-of-22 against the Dolphins in relief, averaging just 5.3 yards per attempt and throwing a pick. Nothing about those numbers is surprising given his career performance, and the team would not be in a great place if Gabbert were thrust into the starting role for meaningful time.
To add to the darkness around this situation, Taylor Lewan, one of the best left tackles in the game, was also injured in the game. He was the victim of a cheap shot from Andre Branch and is in the concussion protocol. Judging the time until his return is obviously impossible at this point. Lewan is an absolute wall, so if he were unable to play for any period of time then that would make it tough for whoever is taking snaps on Sunday for the Titans. The team also lost tight end Delanie Walker, one of the safest targets on the field. He injured his ankle and is probably gone for the year.
Problems before the injury
After throwing 26 touchdowns and just nine interceptions in his second season, Mariota had 13 touchdowns and 15 picks last year. It wasn't just that the numbers went way the wrong way, either. Mariota just did not look very comfortable, and it seemed like defenses knew what he was going to do before he did in too many spots. It felt like a mental issue because he seemed healthy enough, and those are often the toughest to get past. The sample size was small in this game, and the weather made the circumstances unique, but he certainly didn't do anything in the brief window before the injury that made us think that he was a whole new guy this year.
What do the odds say?
The market has not responded well to that opening effort and the uncertainty around Mariota. Throughout the summer you could find a Super Bowl futures price for this team at between +4000 and +4400. On the eve of the season +4300 was the last number I saw. Now Bovada has it set at +6600, and that is in line with the market. That moves them solidly from the middle of the pack into the realm of the long shots. They aren't in Buffalo territory yet - +25000 - but they still probably don't need to start planning a Super Bowl parade just yet.
Week 2 vs. Houston Texans Odds
The line for the Titans Week 2 game vs. Houston is off the board at all sportsbooks. And that will likely be the case until more news comes out on Mariota.
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