Mariani does it all on MNF
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Two down, two to go. And so far, so good.
Marc Mariani made his ESPN Monday Night Football debut a memorable one, and he did it a little sooner than expected.
On Monday night at LP Field in Tennessee, Mariani played almost the entire game in one form or another, and he got in the box score in several different ways as the Tennessee Titans beat the Arizona Cardinals 24-10 in the second preseason game for both teams.
Mariani's first half was reserved for special teams, but he again stood out racking up a solo tackle on a punt return in the second quarter.
Mariani, who handled almost all of the return duties in the Titans' first game at Seattle last week, split time with third-round draft pick Damien Williams of USC on Monday night.
Williams got all of the kicks in the first half and Mariani took all of the kicks in the second half.
And when Mariani's time came, he didn't disappoint, taking an Arizona kickoff back almost 60 yards. He had just one player to beat down the sidelines, but the player had the angle or Mariani could have wound up in the endzone.
"I'm taking advantage of every rep. Punt, kickoffs, returns," Mariani said after the game. "It doesn't matter what it is. I'm competing every play and hopefully in a couple of weeks, that will pay off."
The two weeks Mariani refers to is when training camp ends and he'll find out whether he's made the Titans' 53-man roster. And he got plenty of reps, including most of the second half at wide receiver. He played with two different quarterbacks, Chris Simms and Rusty Smith. Mariani caught a key third-down catch in the fourth quarter on Monday night, upping his catches to five on the season.
Mariani was also on the field as his offensive unit scored twice for the Titans on Monday night as they outplayed the Cardinals.
As for his reps, Williams was seeing his first action of the preseason and the Titans wanted to get a look at what one of their top draft picks could do, both as a returner and wide receiver. Both Mariani and Williams stood out in their own ways, leaving head coach Jeff Fisher to say he was impressed with both, and that the return job is by no means settled.
"We have not made a decision there. Damian (Williams) made some plays," Fisher said. "He made a tough catch and (showed) some run after catch ability. It is good to get him back in it and get in his first ballgame."
Fisher was also asked if Mariani's solid play will make his upcoming decisions difficult.
"Well, he's (Marc) been making plays, yeah," Fisher said. "You draft players with the hope and the expectation that they'll come in, make plays and make the football team. And he's been making plays for us."
So while Mariani played well for a second straight week and continues to do everything he can in order to earn a regular season job with the Titans, he's still a ways away from knowing for sure.
Still, his experience of playing his first game in Nashville, of playing on Monday night and knowing he can make plays at the NFL level was a good one, and it was another step in what is turning out to be a memorable first training camp for the former Havre Blue Pony.
"From what I hear, it was a sold out crowd," Mariani said. "It was fun to play at home in front of the fans, to put on the show a little bit and get the win tonight."
Next up for Mariani is more practice, including a session with the Cardinals on Wednesday. Arizona will stay in Nashville until they head to Chicago this weekend for their next preseason game.
The Titans will play again on Saturday when they travel to the Carolina Panthers.
Note: Fans can follow Mariani as he tries to make the Titans' 53-man roster every week with the Havre Daily News.