Marcus Mariota presents a very specific set of challenges for the Oakland Raiders defense this weekend in Nashville.
After opening the season with back-to-back games squaring off against quarterbacks that prefer to stand stall and operate from the pocket – Drew Brees and Matt Ryan – the Raiders will now be tasked with containing Mariota, a player whose creativity and ability to operate in the open field have been well documented since his arrival in Music City.
"He [Mariota] brings some of that element, the zone read element," said Head Coach Jack Del Rio. "The ability to scramble and hurt you with his feet. There's challenges every week, and what we do is focus in on our preparation, understanding the things they like to do, and they've got two big backs that are really talented."
While the Titans do boast an impressive tandem of running backs with DeMarco Murray and rookie Derrick Henry, slowing down Mariota will be priority number one for the Raiders defensive unit this Sunday.
"The other guys, we were just focused on getting them off the spot, so they wouldn't make clean throws, defensive tackle Justin Ellis said. "Him [Mariota], we're trying to make those throws, and make sure he doesn't get out of the pocket, because he can affect you with his legs too.
As a defensive tackle tasked with clogging up the interior line, Ellis and the rest of big men up front will certainly have their hands full not only trying to control the line of scrimmage, but also making sure to do their part in containing Mariota, and forcing him to work from the pocket.
"It's more important," Ellis said of getting after the second-year quarterback. "We have to make sure not to just push the pocket, but control [our] rushes. They have to be controlled. It can't be just, get upfield and let the guy position block you, to where he [Mariota] can just crease us."
Through two games, the struggles of the Raiders defense have been a constant source of conversation, and Ellis knows that heading into a big road matchup against the Titans putting together an improved performance is crucial.
"It's important, man," Ellis said. "We're just working on correcting all the mistakes that we were making, to finally just get on track to where we think we can be, where we know we have the talent to be. Right now we're just focused to get on track, and be a great defense."
CB – David Amerson – Concussion – Limited
T – Austin Howard – Ankle – Did not participate
C – Rodney Hudson – Knee – Limited
G – Gabe Jackson – Knee – Limited
RB – Taiwan Jones – Knee – Limited
DT—Darius Latham – Head – Did not participate
T – Matt McCants – Knee – Did not participate
DL – Jihad Ward – Hip – Limited
T – Menelik Watson – Groin – Limited
-After missing last week's matchup against the Falcons due to a groin injury, tackle Menelik Watson returned to practice Wednesday afternoon. Although Watson was able to get back to work, the offensive line was still without its full complement of players, as both Austin Howard and Matt McCants were held out of Wednesday's session.
-Cornerback David Amerson suffered a concussion during Sunday's loss to the Falcons, but No. 29 was back on the field in a limited capacity Wednesday, and Head Coach Jack Del Rio is hopeful that he'll be able to play in the upcoming game against the Titans.
-Offensively, the productivity of the running game has been a bright spot for the Silver and Black, and during Wednesday's practice, running backs coach Bernie Parmalee spent part of the individual portion of drills discussing not only the importance of having quick feet, but also pairing that with tight ball security.
-When quarterback Derek Carr takes the field Sunday at Nissan Stadium he'll see a familiar face on the other sideline – Titans wide receiver Andre Johnson.
Johnson was teammates with Carr's older brother David with the Houston Texans from 2003-06.
"I've known 'Dre' [Andre Johnson] since I was little," Carr said. "He's a good friend, man. Every time I see him, we stand there and we talk pretty much the whole time after the postgame. He used to come to my high school games back in Houston. So, I've known him, I've known his uncle for a long time. I love Andre and hopefully I get a jersey from him."
Head Coach Del Rio discussing the team's response to its first loss:
"I think there's accountability here. I think we all recognize the obvious, but we're not going to dwell on it. We're not going to sit around and wait for somebody to come by and feel sorry for us. I think the guys are very purposeful going about their work. We've got a good group. We're going to play good ball and starting this week will be great."
Tweets Of The Day: