Since Ryan Tannehill has taken over at the helm for Tennessee, the Titans are 6-1. After the Titans 42-21 road drubbing of the Oakland Raiders yesterday, the question on everyone’s mind keeps getting louder and louder by the week: is Ryan Tannehill finally showing us why he was a 1st round pick?
Count me as a believer. If there’s one thing the NFL constantly reminds us of on a year to year basis, it is that coaching is everything. The St. Louis (now L.A.) Rams were a vanilla, middling squad until Sean McVay came along and quickly turned them into a super bowl-bound, powerhouse team. The 49ers were recently the punching bag of the NFC West until Kyle Shanahan came along and turned them into an 11-2 team through 14 weeks. All Ryan Tannehill needed was the right coach and the right system to excel in.
Tannehill has always shown flashes of first round talent. Whether it be on a perfect rainbow throw to the endzone or him escaping the pocket and using his athletic ability to gain yards with his legs, his talent has never been in doubt. Prior to this dominant stint with Tennessee, he had just never put it all together.
As good as Tannehill has been, he is one of those quarterbacks that needs a system that isn’t entirely reliant on him to carry the team on his back. As good as Tannehill has been, he’ll never be a Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers gunslinger that can single-handedly win a game on his own. But if you put him in the correct system, well you’ve seen the results this past month.
Ryan Tannehill has more skill position talent around him now than he ever had in Miami.
That talent starts with the bruising freight train of a running back Tennessee has in Derrick Henry. The entire offense is rightfully centered around him, and after his fourth consecutive game with more than 100 rushing yards, Henry is blossoming into a star before our eyes. With opposing defenses having to stack the box and pay so much attention to Tennessee’s punishing running game, that has opened up many holes in the secondary for Ryan Tannehill to exploit, and he’s showing us that he can take advantage of those single coverages and one-on-one mismatches.
One of the reasons Tannehill has been able to succeed this much in the passing game is no doubt thanks to his new favorite target, rookie wide receiver A.J. Brown. A physically imposing slot receiver at 6’1” and 230 pounds that can also run a 4.45 40-yard dash, Brown is an athletic freak that can be used all over the field, and Tannehill has taken full advantage of his shiny new toy. If you need more proof of this, just check out his 91-yard catch-and-run touchdown against Oakland from yesterday.
But of course, you can’t forget about the most important piece to any offense (besides the QB). The one thing that makes any offense either look completely inept, or like world beaters ready to challenge for the Lombardi trophy; the offensive line. Even with star left tackle Taylor Lewan getting suspended for the first four games of the season, this offensive line has been the reason Tennessee has been able to seemingly score at will against anyone they face. That front office has built that O-line from the ground up, and it’s been yielding very positive results the last few years.
There’s not a single team in their division that can beat this Titans team when they’re in a zone like this. If they keep scoring points at breakneck speed like they have been in recent weeks, they should have no problem winning the competitive, but somewhat underwhelming AFC South.
But now is when we find out how good this Tennessee team really is. Their remaining three games to close out the season come against the 8-5 division rival Houston (twice) and the 10-3 Saints. These remaining three weeks will likely decide who wins the AFC South, and will be the most important three game stretch of the season for Tennessee.
As good as Tennessee’s running game has been, Tannehill won’t always be able to rely on that strong ground game and a positive game script to pick apart a defense. At some point, Tannehill will have to take the game into his own hands and put the team on his back and carry them to victory. Now is when we find out if Tannehill is capable of taking his game to the next level, or if we’re once again left with a reminder of why he’s never played in a single postseason game in his eight year career.
Picture Source: Atozsportsnashville.com
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