While there’s a chance third-round pick Desmond Ridder could supplant Mariota eventually, it appears Atlanta will roll with Mariota as its QB1 in 2022.
Because he played under head coach Arthur Smith when Smith was the Titans’ offensive coordinator, Mariota already had familiarity with the scheme. But Mariota hasn’t been a starting quarterback since midway through the 2019 season when he was benched for Ryan Tannehill.
At the team’s mandatory minicamp this week, Smith said he can tell Mariota is getting more comfortable with his new team.
“Yes, you just watch his play and body language,” Smith said in his Tuesday press conference. “Especially when you’ve been around a guy for a long time and there’s certain mannerisms. He does feel comfortable and that’s good especially this time of year as we crank it up and get into the preseason and more competitive practices. Hopefully, that stays the same.”
Smith also said he feels like Mariota is in a better place now than he was back in 2019.
“Yeah, hopefully, you never stay the same person — you improve,” Smith said. “I’ve improved as a coach and certainly he’s in a completely different place. He’s got more years and seen it from a different perspective, going out to Vegas and now being back here.”
In 61 starts for Tennessee from 2015-2019, Mariota compiled a 29-32 record. But he was just 2-4 in his final season with the Titans, completing 59.4 percent of his passes for 1,203 yards with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He was also sacked on 13.5 percent of his dropbacks, a career high.