NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Titans hoped to bring their passing offense to life by turning recently signed quarterback Josh Dobbs over rookie Malik Willis.
Dobbs wasn’t perfect in the Titans’ 27-13 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Thursday Night Football. He threw one interception and lost a fumble after a sack.
But the former University of Tennessee standout injected the production and energy needed for the Titans’ aerial offense, recording 20 completions on 39 attempts for 232 yards and one touchdown. It was the sixth-highest pass total in a season for the Titans (7-9), who lost six games in a row.
Dobbs, a sixth-year pro starting in the NFL for the first time, seemed a clear step up from Willis, a third-round pick in this year’s draft. In eight games (three starts), Willis completed 31 of 61 passes for 276 yards and three interceptions, with a quarterback rating of 42.8.
Dobbs’ numbers were even more impressive considering he just left the Detroit Lions practice team on Dec. 21.
“He was thrilled with this opportunity to make his first start,” said coach Mike Vrabel. “I’ve been saying all this time since I’ve been here that it doesn’t really matter how you get here, it’s just what you do when you’re here. A lot of players have this opportunity. and I think Josh wanted to do the best he could.
“Unfortunately we lost and he must want to get the interception back. But he did some good things and it wasn’t enough.”
Dobbs’ night included three completions of 30 yards or more. This was his second-highest total in a season for the Titans, after Ryan Tannehill’s five completions in the win at Green Bay.
Dobbs connected with a 39-yard bomb down the right seam to Lacey McMath, threw a 33-yard screen pass to run back Julius Chestnut, and hit Tralon Burks 30 yards down the right flank. . Each of his two completions in the end of these led to field goals for the Titans.
“Yeah, that’s a good thing. Receivers love deep balls,” said wide receiver Nick Westbrook Ikuhin. “I loved watching them steal the ball.
Dobbs appeared to have found a quick link with Robert Woods, targeting the veteran nine times for 39 yards on five of those passes. That total would have been higher had Woods not pulled off a mid-range completion in the first quarter. However, Woods caught Dobbs’ first NFL touchdown pass late in the game, compensating it with a 7-yard completion that cut Dallas’ lead to 17–13 in the third quarter.
“He played his game,” Woods said. “He played well. He gave us opportunities to play. can do.”
There were also Dobbs moments that were less memorable.
For example, Dobbs’ pass to Austin Hooper in the second quarter was nearly intercepted by Dallas cornerback Trevon Diggs.
And midway through the fourth quarter, Dobbs was intercepted by Nation Wright when he failed to drop a pass to Woods onto the defensive back’s outstretched arm.
Dobbs, who was the fourth-round pick by the Steelers in 2017, said, “It’s a small thing to realize that circumstances make you want to be better. It’s been a while. So I’m not too worried about those things.” I know I clean them up I’m excited to jump into the tape with my coach and keep growing and improving as fast as I can to give my team the best chance it needs to win .”
The question here is: Will Dobbs’ performance (delivered after minimal preparation) keep him in the starting role for the big game in Jacksonville next weekend? The winner will claim the AFC South title and playoff berth no matter what Jacksonville does against Houston on Sunday.
Given the numbers Dobbs and Willis posted this season, it’s clear that Dobbs could start for the second year in a row.
“It was a great opportunity to evaluate Josh, and then we’ll make a decision going forward,” Vrabel said. “I thought he did a good job. He certainly wanted to do some throwbacks. But hey, we’ll see where things are in a few days.”
Dobbs is already looking forward to another opportunity.
“It’s for all the marbles next, so I’m glad I got out there and got this opportunity,” Dobbs said. “It’s kind of like dreaming about growing up and playing playoff football in the NFL. Having that opportunity is never taken for granted.
“We go out and take control of our own destinies. Glad we got these reps. Now let’s make the most of our next opportunity.”