When Mike Mularkey took over the Titans, he made it clear he wanted to run an “exotic smashmouth” offense.
That extends to his quarterback, as he said he wants to make sure Marcus Mariota has more chances to run the ball, even after the team acquired running backs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry this offseason.
“It’s going to be in the game plan,” Mularkey said, via Jason Wolf of the Tennesseean. “We’re going to obviously take what the defense is going to give us when we’re playing against them. If we see something that’s not going to expose him that we have guys to block players — we’re not going to leave anybody unblocked for the plays we’re going to design.
“So there’s no set number of runs, but if we can — I mean you talk about a threat, a serious threat and a problem for defenses, it’s him running.”
Mariota ran for 2,237 yards at Oregon, but only got 34 rushing attempts as a rookie. Of course, part of that had to do with missing four games with knee injuries, and it’s reasonable to wonder whether giving him more chances to get hit is a good idea. But Mularkey said it was also a result of the injuries keeping him from being able to defend himself fully by moving his feet, so they didn’t use that part of his game as much as they might have.
On the other hand, Mariota also ripped off an 87-yarder against the Jaguars which served as a hint of what he’s capable of.
“He runs the ball and he brings another dimension to the game,” Titans linebacker Brian Orakpo said. “You guys seen what he did [against Jacksonville]. It was ridiculous. You bring that to the game, it really demoralizes a defense. He definitely wants to get the ball downfield with his arm, but when the play breaks and he has to make something happen, a quarterback that can make something happen with his feet, pass rushers and guys getting after the quarterback hate chasing running quarterbacks.
“I’m speaking from experience. I used to hate chasing Michael Vick when he was in his prime. And Marcus has that same capability with his speed. It brings a whole ‘nother dimension, and I fear for the guys, because you get a guy that’s a dual threat guy, it’s really an advantage for us.”
Having the threat along will help serve as a deterrent, but the Titans are also built to run in the traditional manner and it might be safer for them that way.