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March 17, 2023

A look at how QB Marcus Mariota will fit within the Eagles' offense

Eagles NFL
031723MarcusMariota Brett Davis/USA TODAY Sports

Marcus Mariota can run, but can the Eagles unlock his passing ability?

In case you're a normal person who is in bed at 3:00 a.m. on a weekday, you may have missed that the Philadelphia Eagles finally "did the deal," agreeing to terms with Marcus Mariota, formerly of the Titans, Raiders, and Falcons. Here we'll take an initial look at how Mariota fits within the Eagles' offense.

After (fortunately) whiffing on the Deshaun Watson "sweepstakes" last offseason, the Falcons settled on Mariota for their starting quarterback job. They got out to a 5-8 start and benched Mariota, who then said, cool, k bye I'm out. Rookie Desmond Ridder finished out the final four games as Atlanta's starter, and Mariota was predictably released.

With Eagles 2022 backup Gardner Minshew having moved on to Indianapolis to play for the Colts, the Eagles' pairing with Mariota makes sense, in that he is a running quarterback who can do some of the same things that Jalen Hurts can do with his legs. Should Hurts go down, the Eagles wouldn't have to throw out huge chunks of their playbook, particularly in their RPO attack, like they did with Minshew.

The Falcons were the second-most run-heavy team in the NFL in 2022, with Mariota carrying 85 times for 438 yards (5.2 YPC) and 4 TDs. His signature win of the season came against the San Francisco 49ers in a game in which he completed 13 of 14 passes for 129 yards and 2 TDs, while rushing six times for 50 yards and a TD. You can watch full highlights of that game here, but as you can see below, Mariota still has wheels.

On the downside — and this is kind of a big one — Mariota's downfield accuracy in 2022 was atrocious. The below chart is a little tough to read, but it shows that Mariota was the least accurate downfield passer in the NFL, completing 8 of 44 pass attempts for 265 yards, 2 TDs, and 4 INTs on passes of 20+ yards downfield. That would be a passer rating of 29.5.

As a point of comparison, Hurts was 26 of 65 for 993 yards, 12 TDs, and 1 INT, for a passer rating of 120.7.

The eye test matched with Mariota's deep ball stats, as Falcons fans were often frustrated with his inability to connect with open receivers down the field, like here, for example:

And here: 

The Eagles are a shot play passing offense, and for good reason when they employ A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, and Dallas Goedert. It's worth noting that Brown played with Mariota in Tennessee when he was a rookie in 2019, and he played his best ball that season after the Titans made the switch from Mariota to Ryan Tannehill. 

Still, there's reason to believe that the Eagles can help Mariota become a more accurate downfield passer, given the success they had with Hurts' accuracy progression in 2022. The following is a highlight reel from Mariota's days at Oregon. You won't see any bad passes within, because, you know, it's a highlight reel.

In three years at Oregon almost a decade ago, Mariota completed just under 67 percent of his passes on 9.3 yards per attempt, with an incredible 105 TDs vs. just 14 INTs. However, he never progressed as a passer in the NFL. The ability is there, or at least is was. Can the Eagles unlock some of that? Perhaps the 29-year-old Mariota can learn some things from the 24-year-old Hurts.

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