Joshua Dobbs hasn’t been with the Tennessee Titans very long. When Ryan Tannehill went down with a season-ending ankle injury, it was Dobbs who was signed for depth at the position. He likely never thought that he would have to take over as the starter less than two weeks later, but here we are.
Dobbs, who was a fourth-round pick of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2017 out of Tennessee, made his first career start against the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football in Week 17. It was an impossible spot to be put in as the game meant nothing for the Titans, so they rested numerous key players to ensure they were as healthy as possible for their Week 18 matchup against the Jacksonville Jaguars that is for all of the marbles.
In a win-or-go-home game, it will be Dobbs under center for the Titans. While Dobbs has been in the building for a short period of time, the starting spot is something that he earned with his short-notice performance against the Cowboys last week.
Dobbs completed 20-of-39 pass attempts for 232 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Without star running back Derrick Henry in the lineup, the Cowboys had nothing else to really worry about defensively, putting immense pressure on Dobbs. Despite the deck being stacked against him, head coach Mike Vrabel liked what he saw.
“There was some good decision-making and he was decisive,” Vrabel said of Joshua Dobbs’ performance against Dallas. “He did a good job progressing through when we gave him some time. He tried to take the opportunity to run with and lead. He gives us the best chance to win right now.”
The decision to go with Dobbs, who will remain the starter over rookie Malik Willis, likely wasn’t a difficult one to make. Willis has struggled mightily this season when called upon to start games, which was expected as he was viewed as a bit of a raw prospect coming out of Liberty in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Willis has NFL-level athleticism, rushing for 123 yards on 27 attempts with one touchdown. Alas, he has a long way to go when it comes to the passing game. Willis has completed only 51.02 percent of his pass attempts as a starter for 234 yards, zero touchdowns and three interceptions.
Despite the demotion, Vrabel still wants to see Willis put in work during the week. He challenged him to prepare as if he was going to start and hinted at some packages being put into place against the Jaguars.
“I’m fairly confident that Malik is going to do something to help us in this football game,” Vrabel said.
The Titans could certainly add a few packages to take advantage of Willis’ athleticism to keep the Jaguars guessing and on their toes. But, ultimately, the success of the offense will fall on Joshua Dobbs’ shoulders.
His first career start against the Cowboys was certainly enough to earn a second start. Having Henry back in the lineup will certainly make things easier for him, as Tennessee should have their full complement of weapons available on Saturday night.