By WILL CARTER ~ Sports Writer
To say it has been a rollercoaster of a season for the Tennessee Titans would be an understatement.
After starting 0-2, the Titans won seven of their next eight games, which included a five-game win streak to place themselves at the top of the AFC South division.
Then they lost their next six games and their starting quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, who went down with an ankle injury against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 15.
So, the Titans looked towards their third round draft pick, Malik Willis, in an important divisional game against the Houston Texans.
It was Willis’ second start of the season having stepped in for Tannehill in their week nine overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
The Titans lost to the Texans 19-14 and it was in large part due to the offense’s struggles in the second half with Willis throwing two interceptions.
A few days before the game, though, quarterback Joshua Dobbs was signed from the Detroit Lions practice squad to be Willis’ backup in the wake of Tannehill being ruled out for the remainder of the season.
Fast-forward to right before the home finale against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football and Dobbs was named the starting quarterback.
Some took it as head coach Mike Vrabel resting Willis much like Derrick Henry and some other key players, but others took it as an experiment before they met the Jaguars in Week 18.
Reasons aside, Dobbs made a very good case for himself.
In his first career NFL start after eight days with the Titans, he threw for 232 yards and a touchdown and interception.
Obviously his stats weren’t mind-blowing, but the Titans offense seemed somewhat together without their centerpiece and with a battered offensive line against one of the premier pass-rushing defenses in the league.
In short, the good outweighed the bad and that’s saying a lot for a team at their lowest point in awhile.
But, Vrabel wasn’t ready to name a starting quarterback for the finale after the loss.
“He was excited for the opportunity to get his first start,” Vrabel said in the postgame press conference. “I thought he did some good things. Certainly he would like a couple throws back, but we’ll see where things are in a couple days.
Vrabel also added some insight on Willis and the quarterback position heading into the regular season finale.
“We’re excited about having Malik and some of the things he’s done,” he said.
“He’s worked hard, but we’re going to see where we’re at with the quarterback position for the last game of the season.”
The decision is a crucial one as the Titans control their own destiny with a win against the Jaguars solidifying them as the AFC South Champions.
While crucial, it also seems frankly an easy one to make.
On one hand you have a rookie quarterback with two starts under his belt who could potentially be the future at the position, and on the other you have a sixth-year veteran who spent three years under Ben Roethlisberger for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Given what Dobbs was working with personnel wise against the Cowboys and with minimal notice, he turned in an impressive performance despite the loss.
He was even self-aware of his mistakes immediately after the game and mentioned Willis being a great resource throughout the week.
“There’s obviously things that I know I can do better, especially situationally. I love how the team fought, and I’m grateful for the opportunity,” Dobbs said after the loss to the Cowboys.
“He’s (Willis) been great just helping me with procedural things such as cadence and snap count. He’s been a great resource. We have a really good (quarterback) room.”
Now imagine what Dobbs could do with a rested Derrick Henry and more experience within the offense to go along with a defense that is getting back important pieces like Jeffrey Simmons on the defensive line.
And the Titans could very well end up using both Dobbs and Willis at some point in the game, but Dobbs should be the one to get the nod for all the marbles.
Vrabel has plenty of time to make the decision as the Titans and Jaguars will be taking the field in Jacksonville on Saturday at 7:15 p.m.
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