Marcus Mariota is known throughout NFL circles as a dual-threat quarterback who relies on his legs as much as his arm.
The former Heisman Trophy winner and second-overall NFL Draft pick proved otherwise in a plucky win over the Colts on Monday night, where he lifted the Titans past a double-digit deficit and slow start with an impressive showing through the air.
Mariota, who has been battling a nagging hamstring injury, completed 23-of-31 passes for 306 yards and a 53-yard touchdown with under six minutes to play.
"He's a pocket passer. He's a passer who can throw the ball on the move," head coach Hue Jackson said Thursday. "He is a runner with the football, so they've really displayed his strengths. He's doing a good job for their football team. He's, I think, the catalyst for where they are right now as a football team."
A week after struggling against rookie Deshaun Watson (235 yards, 3 touchdowns), the Browns will have to slow down another dynamic, young quarterback in Mariota. Though Mariota has effectively given defenses problems as a runner, Jackson and members of Cleveland's defense know they're facing a top-shelf passer this weekend.
"I think he's a bit underrated as a passer actually. He makes good throws, can throw it on a dime through tight coverages right in certain windows, and those guys do a great job of going up and making a play for him," rookie safety Jabrill Peppers said. "So, we're still approaching it the same way as if he didn't have that injury. That's our mindset that he can beat you both ways so you have to have that mindset."
"He's a great quarterback. He knows how to throw into tight situations, tight coverage," linebacker Christian Kirksey said. "Marcus Mariota is that guy that drives the offense and gets them to where they need to be. He is a good quarterback. He can hurt you with his arm and his feet so we have to make sure that we don't allow him to be the same Marcus Mariota that he usually is."
Mariota, who came on strong toward the end of last season before suffering a broken leg, is completing 63 percent of his passes for 1,098 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions in five games.
And as he gets healthier, the Browns know they'll have to prepare for Mariota on multiple fronts.
"Because he can run, people think of him that way, but he can play in the pocket just like any of these other quarterbacks can," Jackson said. "He has made huge throws in the pocket. This last week, he didn't move around much. He can do it. I think that is what makes him a little special. He can do all three things on the football field."