NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Pressure is mounting on Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota to perform better or possibly be benched in favor of backup Ryan Tannehill.
At least that's what some angry Titans fans would like to see.
While Mariota has been inconsistent while being constantly evaluated as to see if he's worthy of a multi-million dollar long-term extension, fans have been expressing their frustration. One even called into a radio show wanting the Titans general manager to trade the fifth-year quarterback for a block of cheese.
Veteran tight end Delanie Walker knows how the Titans can best help their quarterback.
"We win a game for him, make every play, protect him so he can look like he's the star that he is," Walker said Wednesday.
The three-time Pro Bowl tight end said Mariota is not the guy who will ever point the finger at anybody but himself. Yet Walker remains confident in Mariota even with the Titans (1-2) on a two-game losing streak heading to Atlanta (1-2) Sunday.
"He's been getting it done," Walker said. "It's tough being a quarterback in this league. I want to say you take all the blame no matter what and that guy, he ain't going to say nothing about anyone. It don't matter that someone dropped the pass on third down or he got sacked multiple times. He's going to just say it's his fault, and he got to do better. And that's the sad part."
Mariota looked his best completing all six of his passes for 143 yards in the second half of Tennessee's season-opening win in Cleveland with three touchdowns. The No. 2 pick overall has yet to have a pass intercepted through three games. He ranks 20th in the NFL with 706 yards passing but 10th with a 99.3 passer rating.
Then there's the other side of the ledger.
He's thrown only one TD pass in the past two games. Mariota has overthrown wide-open receivers, going 6 of 16 in a 20-7 loss to Jacksonville last week. Mariota has been sacked a league-high 17 times, the most a quarterback has been sacked in the first three games since 2002.
Mariota said repeatedly Wednesday that he can play better.
"If I can do a better job of moving in and around the pocket, I can help our guys out up front and deliver the football to our guys to make plays," Mariota said.
He also believes it's possible to carry over the rhythm from that loss to the Jaguars where he finished with 304 yards passing despite being sacked nine times. Starting faster would help. Mariota was 3 of 6 in the first quarter, something he thinks can be fixed simply by completing passes.
"Art's doing a great job of allowing our guys to get open, I've just got to complete them," Mariota said of Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. "It's like a jump shooter in basketball, as I see guys kind of catch the ball, I think we get into a rhythm as an entire offense, we'll find ways to sustain drives and score points."
Mariota thanked Titans coach Mike Vrabel for a practice Monday focused on fundamentals and details. The quarterback said sometimes those things can slip a bit as players study up on opponents during the season.
Vrabel believes practicing well is a big key to getting Mariota into rhythm and throwing well in games. The Titans coach also believes Mariota wasn't all bad in the loss to the Jaguars.
"I'm not going to tell you that they were all great, or they were all bad because there were some good throws in there, but there are things that we need to fix, and that's a collective effort throughout the offense, and me, and the coaching staff," Vrabel said.
Notes: The Titans practiced in pads Wednesday and focused on first and second downs where they have struggled. ... Walker (left knee), LB Daren Bates (ankle) and RG Kevin Pamphile (knee) did not practice. LB Rashaan Evans (wrist) was limited and wore a yellow jersey. LB Wesley Woodyard (quad) practiced fully after being inactive in Jacksonville.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker