Lavelle Hawkins and Paul Williams could well have run out of time. If they figured to be battling for a potential fifth spot, their lives are now further complicated by Mariani.
Hawkins and Williams have had trust issues -- as in offensive coordinator Mike Heimerdinger can’t trust them always to do the right thing and be in the right place. Mariani seems to be a fast learner who’s already pretty comfortable, confident and smooth as a route runner and pass-catcher.
A guy that far down the depth chart at a position has to offer something on special teams. Hawkins and Williams don’t offer anything above average, while Mariani could be the guy to field kickoffs for a team that was disturbingly poor on kick and punt returns a year ago.
I think Mariani came in as a coaching staff favorite and already has confirmed to them that he deserves the rating. Still, any early enthusiasm over a middle- or late-round receiver has to be tempered in Tennessee by memories of names like Eddie Berlin, Jake Schifino, Darrell Hill, Jonathan Orr and Joel Filani.