Beyond the streamlined passing mechanics, Mariota has impressed with his pinpoint accuracy on short and intermediate passes, nimble footwork reminiscent of Joe Montana and Jake Plummer, natural football instincts and preternatural poise.
Murray added that the Titans’ second-year star is the hardest-working quarterback he has been around, echoing Pro Bowl defensive end Jurrell Casey’s offseason assessment that Mariota is the “definition of a true leader.”
Spend a few days in Titans camp and you will hear players and coaches casually reference Mariota’s greatness. If he can stay healthy, his rare talent and requisite intangibles will be the rising tide that lifts all boats in Nashville.
1-10 percent: Joe Flacco put together one of the most incredible postseason runs ever in leading Baltimore to a Super Bowl victory, but he has been stagnant as a passer since. Now, if he did that again … Elvis Dumervil’s career includes two 17-sack seasons, but with 96 sacks by the age of 32, it’s hard to see him getting into the 130-or-so range, at which point his candidacy would be a lot stronger. … Marshal Yanda might be the best guard in football and has made five straight Pro Bowls and two first-team All-Pro appearances, but Alan Faneca had nine Pro Bowls and six first-team All-Pro appearances and just missed out on Canton. Even if Faneca eventually gets in, you can see how high the bar is for guards. … Eric Weddle suffers from playing in a conference with Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu for most of his career (he only has three Pro Bowl nods through age 30).
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Terrell Suggs is an interesting case. He started his career as one of the youngest players in his rookie class, so even though Suggs has been around since 2003, he’s only 33. He doesn’t have the sort of steady double-digit sack totals you might look for from a star edge rusher, but Suggs’ best year (2011) came while J.J. Watt had just emerged from his alien womb and earned Suggs a Defensive Player of the Year nod, which looks great on a Hall of Fame résumé. Being part of a historically famous defense helps. Suggs has 106.5 sacks, which is 24th all time, but he probably needs to get to the 130 range to guarantee his enshrinement. That will be tough on two torn Achilles. 30 percent
Steve Smith Sr. is one of the more fascinating Hall of Fame arguments out there. He gets bonuses for being a skill-position player and a force of nature as a personality; that stuff does matter in Hall of Fame voting. He has five Pro Bowl appearances and two first-team All-Pro nods, one of which was for his return work in 2001. That itself isn’t a Hall of Fame résumé. What works in Smith’s favor is that he has been around forever and accrued numbers despite playing with Jake Delhomme at quarterback for most of his career. Smith’s 11th in career receiving yards (13,932) and 15th in career receptions (961). Terrell Owens and Isaac Bruce had more catches and haven’t yet been elected to Canton, but once Smith gets to 1K, his chances of eventually making it in should be favorable. 60 percent
The next time someone chants John Kuhn’s name likely will be in the Superdome.
The former Green Bay Packers fullback, a long-time fan favorite who was often met with cheers of “Kuuuuuuhn” when he took the field, will sign a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints.
His agent, Kevin Gold, said Kuhn flew to Saints camp in West Virginia to work out for the team on Friday. The deal will be for the veteran’s minimum and officially closes the door on a nine-year run with the Packers.
“He loved his time there, but he wanted to play,” Gold said. “This was an opportunity, and coach [Sean] Payton was excited to know he was available and wanted to play. It’s bittersweet, but it’s also a great opportunity.”