“(Croom) told me one of the things that surprised him the most and really impressed him about Derrick Henry was the few amount of mistakes that he has made,” Blackmon said. “And when he does a make a mistake, he’s very unlikely to repeat it. But (Croom) told me he’s a quick learner and he’s very impressed by how fast he’s picked things up during training camp.”
It’s not just the mental side of things that stands out about Henry. On Inside Training Camp Live on Wednesday morning, the camera panned to Henry standing behind 6-foot-1, 220-pound DeMarco Murray, and Henry towered over him.
During the first quarter of Sunday’s Raiders game, we noticed an option run play where Mariota backward lateraled to receiver Harry Douglas five yards downfield. It was a textbook example of what Mariota is referring to — trying to add and stretch more out of an offense that is sometimes built to run three or four yards at a time.
And maybe that is part of the problem. Tennessee’s offense kept the Vikings’ world-beating defense on its heels for a half in the season opener before Mariota chucked a pick six on a designed rollout pass. For a quarterback as talented as Mariota, knowing he can do more and actually doing more are not mutually beneficial.
At the moment, the AFC South is more wide open than initially expected. The Titans (3-3) are just a game behind the ho-hum Texans and are riding a two-game winning streak. They could effectively end the Colts’ season this weekend in a matchup at Nissan Stadium in Nashville. Should Tennessee put together three wins in a row, we may find ourselves talking about the team and the postseason seriously for the first time since the end of the Jeff Fisher era.
“That’s the reason we play this game — to make it to the tournament, and to try to win games once you get in it,” McCourty said. “It would mean everything. It would mean all those seven years prior that you put into it were worth it.”
Hunter notched three catches for 27 yards against the back end of Miami’s roster, simply not enough juice from a player with only 50 catches over his past two seasons. The former Making the Leap candidate failed to impress new general manager Jon Robinson, who saw much more potential in fifth-round receiver Tajae Sharpe and veteran Rishard Matthews.
As for Sankey, the first runner taken in the 2014 draft, he was the odd man out in a log-jammed backfield led by DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry.
Backed into obvious passing situations on third downs early in the game, Mariota shook off a slow start to lead a spirited comeback attempt. His beautiful 34-yard play-action touchdown pass to Tajae Sharpe moved him past Warren Moon for most consecutive games (7) in franchise history with two or more scoring passes. His first touchdown throw was just as impressive, as he evaded a Hassan Ridgeway sack and fired a bullet to DeMarco Murray from three yards out. In 23 career starts, Mariota has 31 touchdowns without an interception in the red zone. Over his last seven games, Mariota has completed 67.6 percent of his passes at 8.4 yards per attempt for a 19:3 TD-to-INT ratio and 116.8 passer rating.
As healthy as they’ve been all season — including Week 1 — the Colts defense deserves credit for limiting Murray to 3.3 yards per carry and stuffed him on fourth-and-short with the game on the line. The beleaguered pass rush also had its finest performance of the season, sacking Mariota five times. Although the secondary surrendered a few big plays, the improvement in tackling was noticeable. If the defense continues to play at this level, Indianapolis will make up ground on Houston by the time the two teams meet again in Week 14.
It starts with a growing familiarity in a new offense run by Mike Mularkey and Terry Robiskie. Although the Titans poured resources into the offensive line, backfield and receiving corps this past offseason, it took Mariota a few games to click with the new faces.
Mariota has certainly benefitted from the protection of first-round tackle Jack Conklin, the stalwart running of DeMarco Murray and the reliability of wideout Rishard Matthews.