Marcus Mariota appeared in one game during the 2020 season. He’s likely to appear in multiple games in 2021.

Las Vegas Raiders’ coach Jon Gruden plans to take advantage of Mariota’s athleticism during the upcoming 2021 season. The Raiders are installing a package of plays for the backup quarterback when they are in the red zone.

The Raiders want to get a fully healthy Mariota into the game in certain situations this year. They weren’t able to do that in 2020 because Mariota wasn’t healthy until the second half of the season. Mariota entered training camp with an ankle injury and then suffered a pectoral injury during camp. The pectoral injury kept him out of action for the first six weeks of the regular season.

Mariota entered camp healthy and he has played performed well during the early sessions of training in 2021. Gruden has developed a package for Mariota, similar to the one where Mariota displayed his talent against the Los Angeles Chargers during Week 15 of the 2020 season. Mariota passed for 226 yards and a touchdown during the Raiders’ 30-27 overtime loss. He also ran for 88 yards and a score in the game, the only game in which he appeared during the 2020 season.

Derek Carr is QB1, but the Raiders see Mariota as a change of pace factor in 2021.

“We’re not going to call exactly the same plays when Marcus is in the game as when Derek is in the game. You wouldn’t either. That’s why we have a very vast playbook,” Gruden told reporters Wednesday. “I think for Marcus to be great, he has to run plays that he’s good at and that he likes. That’s what we do for every quarterback. I was excited today with some of the things we looked at.”

Mariota has been very good in the red zone during his career.

Mariota has thrown 51 touchdown passes and just one interception in the red zone during his first five seasons. The Raiders scored a touchdown in the red zone on 54.24 percent of their opportunities, 23rd in the league in 2020.

Carr said he wants to see Mariota on the field.

“Trust me, I’ve been begging to put him out there so I can catch a touchdown,” Carr told reporters Wednesday. “I love it and I love Marcus. He’s awesome. I told him I think he’s running a 4.3 now. I think he’s faster than he was before he broke his ankle.”

Gruden said that without a couple of interceptions Mariota has thrown in camp, the quarterback is having a very good camp.

“Mariota was off to a great start yesterday and, he looks like the Galloping Ghost out there. And then today he throws four incredible passes,” Gruden told reporters Wednesday. The interceptions have “really kept him away from having one hell of a camp. And he is having a good camp, but he could be having an outstanding camp had it not been for a couple interceptions.”

— Geoffrey C. Arnold | @geoffreyCarnold

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