NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Marcus Mariota certainly is looking forward to a chance to play the Miami Dolphins for a second straight season.
As is the Tennessee Titans’ offensive line.
A year ago, the Dolphins sacked Mariota five times and finished with six in routing Tennessee 38-10 last year in Nashville.
They also intercepted the rookie quarterback twice and forced him into two fumbles with Cameron Wake responsible for much of it with four sacks and both forced fumbles by halftime.
Luckily for Mariota, Olivier Vernon now plays for the New York Giants after being flagged twice for unnecessary roughness. One of those hits sprained Mariota’s left medial collateral ligament, costing the quarterback the next two games.
“Unfortunately last year there were some things that occurred during the game that we weren’t able to control and kind of affected the outcome of the game,” Mariota said Wednesday. “That’s part of it, just looking forward to getting back out there again.”
Mariota can go into Sunday’s game feeling a bit more secure in his pass protection, having been sacked only seven times — a number cut in half from the 14 allowed through the first four games of his rookie season. Tennessee wound up allowing a league-worst 54 sacks in 2015.
Now the Titans (1-3) rank 10th in the NFL allowing a sack on 5.15 percent of pass plays.
“We’re blocking better, the schemes we’re doing some things differently scheme-wise to help with the protection and hopefully it continues,” Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. “That’s the plan.”
New general manager Jon Robinson signed center Ben Jones away from Houston before trading down from the No. 1 overall pick back to eighth to select Jack Conklin from Michigan State in just the latest attempt by this franchise to improve the offensive line. Both have started every game this season.
Right guard Chance Warmack was placed on injured reserve Sept. 22 needing surgery on a torn tendon in his right hand, and Josh Kline, a waiver wire pickup from New England has started the past two games. Mularkey also hired Hall of Fame lineman Russ Grimm as his offensive line coach.
Mularkey said left tackle Taylor Lewan has played well all season along with left guard Quinton Spain getting some much-needed experience in his second season.
The Titans passed one test in last week’s 27-20 loss at Houston, allowing only one sack after giving up seven to the Texans last season.
Lewan couldn’t put his finger on exactly what is working better, though he also credited getting help from running backs and tight ends to block pass rushers. Lewan is looking forward to playing the Dolphins (1-3) again.
“It’s a huge opportunity,” Lewan said. “Like I’ve said, you want to be the best, play against the best. Those guys are definitely a great front line. Front seven’s all unbelievable.”
Wake didn’t exactly return the compliment when asked about what he sees in the Titans’ offensive line, joking he doesn’t like offensive linemen.
“I think they’re like O-linemen,” Wake said. “They’re big, they’re slow and they’re ugly, just like most of the ones we have here. Us fast pretty guys like to take advantage of them.”
Notes: Conklin and TE Jace Amaro were limited in practice Wednesday with a sore shoulder. S Da’Norris Searcy (left ankle), CB Cody Riggs (hamstring) and NT Al Woods (strained calf) did not practice.
Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker