Early impressions of Titans' backup QB Ryan Tannehill

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Ryan Tannehill struck a good chord in his first visit with the Titans media corps, sorting through the complicated equation of being a backup quarterback who retains the desire to start but doesn’t mess with the guy in front of him.TannehillThrowOTA

His competition is against the Titans’ defense, not Marcus Mariota, he said, and the biggest adjustment is pulling back on the leadership he worked hard to improve while starting for the Dolphins for six of the last seven seasons while missing 2017 as he recovered from injury.  

“It’s a transition for me, definitely tough at times,” he said. …When you work with good people, great people and you’re all aligned and in this thing together trying to win football games, it definitely helps with that transition. But yeah there are some things that are tough about it. It goes along with it...” [Unlocked]

“I have a lot of competitive juices, and I want to go out and compete on the football field each and every day. I’m competing against the defense right now. …It doesn’t take the competitive side of football out.”

Tannehill looks comfortable running most of the same stuff Mariota runs, and he’s the most stylistically similar backup the Titans have had to Mariota. He’s not as smooth as he rolls out or runs, but that’s a tall order given Mariota’s excellent athleticism. Each quarterback threw an interception Thursday, with Mariota’s slipping through the hands of a target and Tannehill’s getting read early by a DB who then wouldn’t let a receiver muscle it away.

On this snapshot of an OTA day, Tannehill didn’t look any better to me than Mariota did if that’s what Mariota detractors are hoping to hear.TannehillTalkOTA

Clearly, however, the gap between he and Mariota is a lot smaller than it was between Zach Mettenberger and Mariota, between Matt Cassel and Mariota, between Blaine Gabbert and Mariota.

And as the team heads into the decision-season on Mariota contract-wise, that’s what the Titans need.

If Tannehill is called on this season and performs well, he still may not have the chance to dislodge a healthy Mariota. There is, however, a scenario where he could have a chance to be the Titans’ QB who earns a contract beyond this year, even if it’s as a bridge to the next young guy.

For now, there is definitely one area where Tannehill is making a change.

“When you’re the starter there are certain things that you are able to do as far as leading and stuff like that,” he said. “So, I’m really having to take a step back in the leadership role, I would say that’s probably the toughest (thing) for me.

“You work at it for so many years, on growing your leadership and all of that then having to take a step back and really have a backseat is tough, really tough at times.”

Interestingly, Mike Vrabel said he hasn’t and wouldn’t ask Tannehill or any player with leadership qualities and experience to put them on the shelf.

“There shouldn’t be any restrictions on leadership,” Vrabel said. “If a guy shows up and is a rookie and he’s able to lead or provide some assistance to somebody by either playing hard or knowing what to do or helping his teammate, I would never want anybody on this team not to want to try to lead and to help somebody else regardless of whether they are with the first team, the second team or the third team.”

Philosophically that sounds good and I don’t think the Titans have to tiptoe around for fear of Mariota feeling threatened where it affects him or his game – and if it did, well that would be part of the final verdict on him.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

But certainly, while Tannehill can offer some leadership from his current role, he does have to dial it back as he discussed and he seems to have a good handle on that early in the process.

He’s certainly got the chance to lead when he heads off with Logan Woodside to work with a young group that is split off from the rest of the team to get quality reps rather than watching the players ahead of them do the work.

When Tannehill rejoined the main offense, he did what the backup quarterback does. After Mariota took the first six snaps of a red-zone seven-on-seven, Tannehill took just a couple after that.


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