Back home in Hawaii last week, Marcus Mariota was asked by a reporter if the Titans are now the favorites to win the AFC South?
"I don't know, it's been some years since we've won," the Titans quarterback replied. "You'd have to look at Houston who's won it the past couple years."
Maybe so, but on paper the Titans have their best chance to take home a division title since their last playoff trip in 2008. Mariota is a big reason why.
The no. 2 overall pick in 2015, Mariota has thrown for nearly 6,000 yards in his first two seasons in the NFL, directing one of the biggest turnarounds in the league last year when the Titans improved from 3-13 to 9-7 and narrowly missed the playoffs.
Mariota threw for 26 touchdowns and dropped his interceptions total from 10 to nine despite playing three more games in his second season.
Now the question is can the face of the franchise take yet another step this season coming off a broken leg. Mariota suffered a fractured fibula when he was sacked during a week 16 loss at Jacksonville and missed the final game of the season.
He had surgery and faced a lengthy rehab, but has progressed ahead of schedule through the offseason, taking part in most of the drills during the team's offseason program.
"I feel great," Mariota said. "I've been cleared to do pretty much everything and am close to 100 percent. Now it's about getting back a little bit early and working on timing with the guys to be ready to go."
The Titans say their star quarterback will be full go and won't even be listed on the injury report when training camp kicks off July 29th. That's great news because this team's playoff chances rest heavily on the shoulders of no. 8.
Tennessee has built one of the best offensive lines in the league to protect him and pave the way for a productive running game led by DeMarco Murray. This offseason, general manager Jon Robinson set out to upgrade Mariota's receiving corps, drafting Corey Davis fifth overall and Taywan Taylor in the third round, and signing veteran wide out Eric Decker.
The weapons are now there on a roster that has quickly gone from one of the worst in the league to one of the most talented, but the Titans need Mariota at 100 percent and on the field for 16 games to reach their full potential.
"There will be talk, but that doesn't mean anything," Mariota said. "We've got to come in and do the work day in and day out, and hopefully we can fight to get into the playoffs and make a run at the Super Bowl."
Tennessee is hungry for a winner on the football field and Mariota is eager to bring them one.