Few quarterbacks have been as successful as Marcus Mariota over their first two years. His efficiency, accuracy and ability to protect the ball have made him one of the better passers in the NFL. However, he still has keep developing if he’s going to be regarded as a top ten QB in the game. Now, in year three, he needs to take that next step.

But what does that mean? What is the “next step” for Mariota? In a word: accomplishment. It’s obvious that he’s got the talent to be one of the best, but that means very little if it doesn’t come to fruition in the field. So here are the things he needs to do to put himself in the conversation of being a top ten quarterback in the league.

Play all sixteen games

They say that the best ability is availability and that is particularly true for a guy who is yet to play a complete season. After missing four games as a rookie and sustaining a serious injury towards the end of last season, Mariota is beginning to develop the reputation of being fragile. Whether this is fair or not, he needs to prove that he can stay on the field for a full year.

Throw for 4,000 yards

It seems that all the great quarterbacks throw for at least 4,000 yards every year. In some ways it has become the benchmark of a strong season. It certainly shouldn’t be that hard for a great QB to accomplish, after all it’s only averaging 250 passing yards per game. However, this isn’t as easy as some people have come to believe. For instance, Derek Carr has never accomplished it. Cam Newton has only done it once, in his rookie year. Ben Roethlisberger, one of the best quarterbacks over the last decade, has only thrown for 4,000 yards four times in his thirteen year career.

That being said, all those guys have proven something that Mariota has not. They’ve shown they can be the focal point of the offense. They’ve shown the ability to put the team on their backs and carry them to a win. Mariota needs to show that the offense can still be deadly if opponents stack the box and neutralize the run. He has the weapons to work with, now he has to show that he is capable of being the main man in that Tennessee offense. A 4,000 yard season would level no doubt in that.

Show up in the division

I put very little stock into QB wins as a stat. However, there is something to be said about how a quarterback plays against his division. In this area, Mariota is just 2-6. He’s never beaten the Colts, nor has he beaten the Texans. Granted, he has missed four combined games against these two teams, but based on what we’ve seen there’s a good chance it would have went poorly. In his four losses against these two teams, Mariota has thrown six touchdowns and turned the ball over four times.

For a quarterback who is praised most for his ability to protect the ball and make smart decisions, these numbers are especially bad. Even vs the Jags, a team who has been a laughing stock for the better part of a decade, the Titans are just 2-2 under Mariota’s leadership. The most damning of these games was last year when Tennessee had a chance to all but lock up a playoff position with a week sixteen win over Jacksonville. Mariota went just 8-20 for 99 yards before leaving with an injury (late in the third quarter with the Titans trailing by double digits). If Mariota is going to take the next step then it will have to be taken within the AFC South.

About The Author J.T. Olson

J.T. is a Michigan native who's always been better at watching football than playing it. J.T. is a Buccaneers writer at Cover32.com and also covers Fantasy Football for CleatGeeks.com. He is a long time NFL Draft enthusiast who will cover the Buccaneers for Breaking Football.