Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota drops back to pass against the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh on August 25, 2018. Photo by Archie Carpenter/UPI | License Photo
It wasn't that long ago when Marcus Mariota dominated everything in Philadelphia. Headlines, sports talk radio, water cooler chatter, you name it, all the talk was whether or not Mariota was going to be an Eagle and what should the Eagles do to make it happen.
Mariota had just won the Heisman Trophy with the University of Oregon in 2014. Chip Kelly was Philadelphia's head coach who had been Oregon's head coach two years earlier and recruited Mariota from Hawaii to come to Oregon.
Problem was, the Eagles were slotted to pick 20th overall in the 2015 NFL Draft. Mariota would be long gone, unless they could find a way to engineer a trade with the team that owned the second overall pick -- the Tennessee Titans.
The Eagles never made the move up to get Mariota, although there were reports at the time that they had offered defensive tackle Fletcher Cox as a sweetener.
So Mariota went to the Titans and now the Eagles might have to contend with him. It's likely that Mariota will start despite an injury that has him feeling numbness in his throwing hand fingers because backup Blaine Gabbert is in concussion protocol and the team only signed veteran Austin Davis off the street earlier in the week.
"I really liked him coming out of college," Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said about Mariota. "I thought his athleticism, his attention to detail, his work ethic, he is a smart kid. I thought being in the right system, he would really flourish, and he has, and he's done some good things.
"Always been one of those quarterbacks -- he's always been one of those guys that can be dangerous outside the pocket. You saw it in college and you've seen it in his first few years in the league. He throws a really good ball. I haven't really seen him in person until this weekend if he gets a chance to start and looking forward to watching him a little bit."
The Eagles' defense, which is ranked ninth overall, will try to shut down the run, especially with the potential Mariota's throws could be affected. The Eagles are facing an offensively challenged offense, one that is ranked 29th in the NFL (10th in rushing, 29th in passing) and averaging just 16 points.
Mariota's accuracy looked OK when he came off the bench to lead the Titans to victory over Jacksonville, but he passed for just 100 yards and had no deep throws to speak of. The Eagles no doubt know Mariota is less than 100 percent and will challenge the Titans to make a play over the top in the passing game. Tennessee needs to run the ball consistently to stay out of long passing situations.
Mariota is wearing the partial glove on his throwing hand, which he says helps.
"I mean the glove helps in terms of getting more grip," he acknowledged. "Eventually, I'd like to get rid of it. I don't really like having something on my hand. For now, it's helping, so I'll continue to use it."
As for the Tennessee ground game, Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said, "They have a Heisman Trophy running back (Derrick Henry). They had probably their premier, free-agent pick this year, Dion Lewis, and they have a running quarterback. So obviously it's what they want to do and they're committed to it, so it's our job to combat that."
On offense, the Eagles will have to contend with linebacker Wesley Woodyard, who made 12 tackles in last week's win over the Jaguars and has had 35 tackles on the season, with three tackles for loss and a sack, and defensive lineman Jurrell Casey, who has three sacks in three games.
Defensively, the Titans need to make life uncomfortable for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz, who is in just his second game back from a torn ACL.
Wentz finished 25 of 37 for 255 yards with one touchdown and one interception last week and showed a bit of mobility against the Colts, but the Titans would like to keep him confined to the pocket if they can and win the matchups along the front.
Defensive tackle Jurrell Casey, in particular, has been solid with three sacks.