Scouting review: How things went so badly for Ryan Tannehill

By BLAKE BEDDINGFIELD, special correspondent

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- The Titans got the opportunity to play one of the worst teams in the NFL.

But they gave life to a team that had lost eight straight games.

To say this Texan team is competitive is doing an injustice to other teams in the NFL that have a competent roster.Dontrell Hilliard

Dontrell Hilliard/ Pool photo, Donald Page, Tennessee Titans

The Texans have roughly 10 players on this roster that will be on the 2022 team and two of them (Laremy Tunsil and Jonathan Greenard) didn’t play against the Titans.

This is a roster full of wavier-wire-type talent.

In my time working in football, no matter what level of football you play if you allow a team to stick around and give it hope anyone can play with anyone for a half of football.

The Texans showed life and the Titans gave them opportunities with an early turnover by Ryan Tannehill. Then, Tannehill ended the day with four interceptions and two (recovered) fumbles.

He looked uncomfortable with his supporting cast. Tannehill focused too heavily on A.J. Brown when he was in the game and once Brown and Marcus Johnson (hamstring) left the game due to injuries he was forced to work with Chester Rogers, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and 2021 fourth-round pick Dez Fitzpatrick at the receiver spot.Callahan & Binkley, PLC

Tannehill needs a comfort level with his receivers. He has proven to have success when he is surrounded by players that are on the same page with him. Tannehill can work in players like Westbrook-Ikhine, Geoff Swaim, Anthony Firkser and spread the ball around when he has his “go-to” players like Brown and Derrick Henry to rely on when it is critical down situations.

He's a solid veteran quarterback but not a signal-caller that can do it by himself like the top quarterbacks in the league.

Playing underneath the route, LB Kamu Gruiger-Hill baited him into throwing his first interception.

Tannehill has gotten into a bad habit of staring Brown down when he is pressured or needs a conversion on a critical down.

His second interception came on a poorly thrown ball to the covered Dez Fitzpatrick near the goal line.

Tannehill’s third pick was the second by former Titans defensive back Desmond King. Fitzpatrick quit on the route, King jumped in front and took it away.

The fourth interception by Tannehill was a pass intended for Firkser. There were two stick routes one short and one intermediate, the short cornerback stepped in front of the intermediate route and easily made the interception.

Nick Westbrook-Ikhine was carved out a role in this offense. He will never be a starting wide receiver in the NFL, but he has a few routes that he runs with success. He is good on slants, seam routes and has vertical, stretch-ability with marginal deep tracking ability. He does have a role and that is good to see with all the injuries to the position.

The Texans were able to sack Tannehill twice on Sunday.

Tannehill has been sacked 31 times which is number one in the NFL by a single QB.

Aaron Brewer started for right guard Nate Davis.

Overall, Brewer did a solid job run blocking and holding up in the passing game, but he was bull-rushed by Texan defensive tackle Ross Blacklock for a quick sack.

Adrian Peterson started at RB but quickly gave way to Dontrell Hillard.

I like what Hillard brings to the team. He has the skills to be a good backup to Derrick Henry. He is a good receiver out of the backfield, he flashes quickness, contact balance, he hits the hole quickly and has some run after contact ability and plays with a very aggressive run style -- similar to Henry just in a smaller package.

Hillard made probably the most impressive play of the day when he ran down Gruiger-Hill after the interception and saved the Titans 4 points by keeping him out of the end zone.

This was a good find by the Titans pro scouting department. Pro scouts Brandon Taylor, Brian Gardner and Kevin Turks do a great job when they are listened to by the general manager and director of player personnel.

It is imperative to trust your scouting departments when looking for players like Hillard because the scouts spend their entire day working to find these types of players.

Hillard fumbled on a tackle by Texan linebacker Zach Cunningham into the end zone with the Firkser recovering for a TD. Cunningham decided to celebrate his tackle instead of trying to recover it.

Right tackle David Quessenberry was blown up on the fourth-and-short run play that got Adrian Peterson stuffed into the backfield for a loss and a turnover on downs.

The Texans are an undisciplined defense. The inside linebackers (like Nevill Hewitt) will run around blocks essentially taking themselves out of the run gap that is his responsibility.

The defensive lineman will slant the wrong way only to run into their own teammate.

The Titans had some success running the ball thanks to a combination of poor defensive assignment football and strong run blocking by the Titans' offensive line.

Tennessee’s offensive line did a good job of covering up the defensive players and allowing Hillard and Peterson to hit the hole quickly and get what was there.

Getting what is there is the first responsibility of a running back, but the more dynamic runners in the league can create extra yards with their run style. Some runners are physical and will run after contact and others have the ability to make defenders miss and get extra that way.

Peterson is not as creative of a runner as he used to be and lacks the burst and explosion that made him such a dynamic running back in his prime. Peterson still has run vision and initial quickness to the hole, but his run skill levels off after he breaks the initial defensive line.

Huge mistake by punt returner Chester Rogers when the Texans decided to punt from the Titans 35-yard line Rogers was hit by the ball when it hit the ground giving the ball back to the Texans at the Titans give yard line.

The Titans had ZERO sacks versus the Texans.

The Texans have been sacked 26 times this season which ranks 11th overall.

The Texans had a long first drive with a mix of short passes and the run game but were ultimately stopped and only got a field goal.

The Texans did a good job of producing long drives even if they struggled to get into the end zone.

Tyrod Taylor is a solid NFL backup quarterback but when he plays, he displays traits that allow him to have success. He is a leader, competitor and has the ability to escape in the pocket and also use his legs to extend plays.

Houston running back Rex Burkhead played a prominent role for the Texans. He has average ability from a size and speed standpoint, but he has always been a tough, durable runner with good ball security. Burkhead is the type of player a coach can rely on and in poor weather situations with the rain and slippery field conditions and he was the perfect running back for the Texans Sunday.

This was not a player-centric offensive game plan by the Texans. With only one viable offensive threat (Brandin Cooks), the Texans decided to use a philosophy and not expect one player to do it all.

The Texans’ offense did a good job of mixing up their offensive plays. They used traditional pocket passes out of the old pro-I (tailback, fullback) formation along with rollouts. They moved the pocket with quarterback Tyrod Taylor which allowed him to use his legs to gain positive yards, run plays from multiple backs and formations and successfully use the short passing game to move the chains.

Taylor struggled with his accuracy and gripping the ball at the beginning of the second half. He missed wide-open receivers and allowed the Titans back in the game.

The Texans did a poor job milking the clock with the lead having so many short passing attempts that ended up incomplete and the Titans defense forcing quick three-and-outs.

The Titans pass rush was nonexistent during the game partly because of the offensive design of moving the quarterback around, but mainly because of the success of the quick short routes they used in the game.

This allowed the Texans to keep the Titans' defense off balance.

The Texans only completed 14 passes for an average of 7.4 yards per catch. Their leading receiver had only 37 yards.

Titans rookie nickel back, Elijah Molden played a good game coving the short passes that the Texans attempted. He gave up some catches but was competitive on each with tight coverage. He did a good job versus rookie tight end Brevin Jordan forcing tight-window throws and being physical with the ball in the air against Jordan who is an average hand catcher.

Receivers that struggle to catch the ball cleanly, struggle even more when they are defended with tight coverage and physical play at the catch point.

The Titans had four interceptions and four fumbles (lost one) but only lost the game by 9 points. The Titans had 26 first downs to the Texans 15. The Titans had 420 total yards to the Texans 190. The Titans only punted twice to the Texans seven.

This game was lost on turnovers plan and simple.

Losing to the Texans

The Adams family has always hated losing to the Houston Texans. This one had to sting even more because the Texans are such a bad football team, and the organization was honoring longtime head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Floyd Reese.

I expect Amy Adams Strunk to let the powers to be in the organization know how unhappy she is.

During my time with the organization the ownership would not speak up on every loss, but when it came to the Texans they would most definitely express their displeasure.

On the final drive of the Texans before half they had a completed pass that was short of the first down, but a penalty was called on the Texans but was ultimately declined by the Titans to bring up a fourth down with 1:52 left on the clock.

The referees did not start the clock back since the play stood which was a catch in bounds short of the first down, and the Titans were able to keep their two timeouts and had just under 2 minutes left to score.

The half ended with an intentional grounding by Ryan Tannehill when he was unable to get outside the tackle box while throwing it away.

Reese and Fisher

I was thrilled the Titan organization honored Fisher and Reese.

I had the privilege to work with both of these men for eight seasons. Both Jeff and Floyd were instrumental in the Titans initial success and Super Bowl run in 1999. It wasn’t only through drafting and coaching but the direction and vision they had for the organization and the “all in” mentality they had even during the moves from Houston, Memphis, Vanderbilt and finally to Nashville and our own facility and stadium.

I arrived at the end of the Tennessee Oiler time and immediately experienced how much work these two put in getting the employees and players to buy in to the multiple moves and the pay-off that would occur when the team finally had its own home.

It was tough work for a while being in portable buildings and a makeshift practice field in the back of a doctor’s office and the fans that hadn’t completely supported the new organization.

Once the name changed to the Titans the fan support was tremendous and I remember being at the inaugural game in a packed, loud stadium versus the Cincinnati Bengals and seeing the joy on the face of Jeff and Floyd with all they hadKuharsky megaphone built.

The organization is better today because of these two men, and they rightfully deserved being inducted into the ring of honor.

Positives: Elijah Molden, Dontrell Hillard, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.

Negatives: Ryan Tannehill, Chester Rogers.

This is only one game. The Titans are hoping this is an outlier and the team needs to refocus for their matchup next week versus a very hot team in the New England Patriots.


Blake Beddingfield was a Titans' scout for 19 years, through the 2017 draft. He was the team's director of college scouting for his final six years. Follow him on Twitter at @BlakeBedd. He’s brought to us by Callahan & Binkley, who can help you with personal injury and medical malpractice cases.

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