Ryan Tannehill showing solid command of caffeinated Titans' offense

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Eight years and six quarterbacks.

It’s fair to say that’s how long it’s been since the Titans started training camp with a quarterback with full command of a fully caffeinated offense, where he carried himself onto the field and into the huddle as a guy clearly in charge, not harboring or hiding doubt, not needing a coach to prop him up to some degree or a playbook to be overly tailored to him because of limitations.Tannehill082520GW

Matt Hasselbeck had that in 2011 and 2012, albeit with an offense that asked less of him. He wasn’t eager to give it up to Jake Locker, who didn’t have it. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst, Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassell and Blaine Gabbert didn’t have it either.

In spots they may have excelled – certainly, Mariota did in his second year, 2016. But it’s very hard to make the case that any of those guys were real generals at any point in time, with troops looking confidently to their lead.

That is absolutely the case now with Ryan Tannehill.

It doesn’t make him Tom Brady or Peyton Manning. It does make him something the Titans haven’t had in a long time.

“As far as the base of what we're asking him to do, I think he's got a great grasp and I think guys feed off of that, the operation, the cadence, changing plays at the line of scrimmage,” Mike Vrabel said. “All those types of things are great and then we're going to continue to expand to try to give us the best chance that we can based on what looks we're getting.”

Any player is always learning and looking for ways to get better. Tannehill said there hasn’t been a real moment where he felt like he graduated to a level of command or mastery. With several changes in the offenses he’s run in his career, it’s kind of been like riding a wave.

“It kind of fluctuates,” he said. “All right you're getting better, you're getting more experience over the course of your career, that's kind of a steady climb. But then (you) have these peaks and valleys of, all right, new offense, we're starting a little bit slower, start picking that thing up, and then if you have a change like that now you're kind of getting back down and you're trying to start back not at square one so to speak, but a new offense, new terms.

“So, it slows you down a little bit. I don't think it's any one moment or any one point. I think the more time you can spend in a certain offense with some familiarity with the guys around you, then it's going to be in a better spot for you.”BlueHatchFlame

Tuesday, I watched practice with an eye for the sort of things that tie into quarterback command of the offense and his teammates, that show that he’s in that better spot now.

It starts with basics even bad quarterbacks should have down. He called personnel and the hash, he stood outside the huddle until he was certain he would not get the Titans a too-many-men-in-the-huddle call, he searched out guys when the first team leaves the field, greeting Anthony Firkser, slapping hands with A.J. Brown.

In seven-on-seven he missed Corey Davis and walked right at him as the receiver came back to the line of scrimmage, offering a hand gesture to go with whatever he was saying about whatever did or didn’t happen.

During a special teams period, as Derrick Henry caught short back-shoulder passes from Tony Dews and Adam Humphries sorted out which pair of gloves he needed before joining Brown and Davis, Tannehill was with Trevor Siemian and Logan Woodside in a deep discussion. It may have been about candlesticks as a wedding gift, but I suspect not.

In a hurry-up seven-on-seven period he hit Davis, Brown on an in-cut, Khari Blasingame on two short passes and Davis with Johnathan Joseph draped on him. It was in-a-flash efficiency. He bumped knuckles with Davis on the sideline as Woodside took over for his own five-for-five speed round.

During more special teams, the quarterbacks threw to a spot. Brown was in position No. 1 where he took one step and then made a one-step cut back. But Tannehill doesn’t like where he is and waved him a step and a half to the proper location before throwing an 8-yard pass, from the left hash to the right hash.

In team, Tannehill twice drew the defense offsides with a hard count, and each time it was more than one defender who flinched.

But not everything goes great.

In a 2:00 drill, with no timeouts and needing to get into field goal range, Tannehill takes a snap with 14 seconds left. The offensive line stands up and has nothing to do. No one is coming and the coverage is packed. Late, Kamalei Correa charged at him from his left, and Tannehill shifted, eventually firing to Brown, who caught it as he went to the ground.

It didn't matter. The clock showed zeros.

“We didn't show him what the defense was going to do or would do in that situation as far as at the end of the game and that'll be a great thing for us to learn from,” Vrabel said. “We'll be able to show him the same exact play on film from a few years ago against an opponent that we had."

That was on Sept. 16, 2018 at Nissan Stadium.

Deshaun Watson of the Texans took a snap on second-and-10 from the Houston 48 with 17 seconds left and the Texans trailing 20-17. But with a minimal rush and a ton of people in coverage, he moved around and waited way too long to throw. Once he did, DeAndre Hopkins stood up after a 31-yard gain helplessly looking to give the ball to an official as time expired.

“But again, I think for the first- and second- and the third-down proficiency or mastery, like you called it, of the offense, I think it's very proficient,” Vrabel said. “I'm very happy with his grasp of what we're trying to get done.”

I just happened to be chatting with Kerry Coombs Tuesday for something else I am working on, and so I asked him about Tannehill.

“You know in the NFL you don’t get to go home very much, Coombs said. “But maybe 4:00 on a Friday afternoon you can get out of there. That’s the time you can take your wife to dinner or whatever. On Fridays, I always left through the team meeting room. One of the things I found most refreshing about Ryan Tannehill was, he was always sitting there and he was always watching film and he was always going over the game plan.apple icon 144x144 precomposed

That was whether he was the starter or the backup. He has 100 percent command of the offense which I think is really, really important, but more important is he has 100 percent command of the huddle. That’s earned. You don’t get it just because you’re the quarterback. When your quarterback has that kind of respect in the huddle, guys are going to play hard, they are going to do what he tells them to do and it’s inevitably going to make the team better.

Coombs said he loved coaching his guys to competing against Tannehill, early in the year when he was the scout QB and later in the year when it was in one-on-ones and in seven-on-seven as the starter.

“I think he loves this offense, my guess is he loves Arthur Smith, I’m telling you now they’ve got weapons on that side of the ball,” Coombs said. “They are going to be really hard to stop.”

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