NASHVILLE, Tenn. — When asked what they most appreciate about the Tennessee Titans quarterback, Ryan Tannehill’s teammates often cite his willingness to speak up and take charge, both on the field and in the meeting room.

“If something comes up in a meeting and he needs to speak on it, he will,” receiver Adam Humphries said. “The biggest thing with him is he just wants to make sure we’re on the same page as he is, and that’s all you can ask for.”

While RB Derrick Henry may be the engine that keeps the Tennessee Titans’ offense rolling on the tracks, Tannehill is the conductor of the train.

The Titans are Tannehill’s team, and his vocal presence gives them something that they’ve lacked during Training Camp for some time.

A DIFFERENT STYLE OF LEADERSHIP

That lack of vocal presence from the QB position for the Titans was on full display in August of 2019 when the New England Patriots came to town for a pair of joint practices—it was the most striking disparity between the two teams.

On the Patriots’ side of things, it was abundantly clear that Tom Brady was running the show. He was pointing to his receivers telling them where to go, organizing the huddle quickly and efficiently, and ensuring that the entire team was on the same page.

At one point, he even—politely—asked a group of reporters that he felt was too close to the field to take a few steps back.

On the Titans’ side, things couldn’t have been more different. While then-Titans QB Marcus Mariota showed plenty of strengths during his time with the organization, vocal leadership was simply not among them. It wasn’t his personality—he chose to lead by example.

While that approach certainly has merits in some cases, the facelift that the Titans experienced when Ryan Tannehill took over as the starter less than midway through the 2019 season, due in large part to him taking charge of the offense vocally, was drastic.

“He was not scared to speak up if he knew something wasn’t being run the right way,” Humphries said of Tannehill.

Head coach Mike Vrabel also took note of Tannehill’s vocality when he became the starter.

“That’s something that Ryan has been very conscious of since he became our starting QB,” Vrabel said. “He came in last year and it was a unique situation. I thought he handled that very well—professionally.”

GAINING TRUST

Since then, Tannehill’s vocal presence has only increased. As he continued to play well, ultimately leading the NFL in passer rating, he earned more respect from his teammates and more license to make the Titans offense his own.

“He wanted to perform with actions—fewer words, more actions,” QB coach Pat O’Hara said. “The way he played solidified him being able to come in, now, and really have a little bit more of a voice that he feels comfortable with. It’s been really good.”

Now, with a season of success under his belt and a shiny new $188 million contract to his name, Tannehill looks to be in complete control. For the Titans, that’s a very good thing.

“I’m seeing it right now in how he’s controlling the huddle, during these practices and walkthroughs we’ve been having over the last couple of days,” tackle Dennis Kelly said following the team’s second practice of Training Camp.

“Constantly vocalizing the importance of certain plays, what we need to do, where we need to be. Just holding everyone accountable to make sure everyone’s focused and locked in when we’re working.”

GOOD FOR EVERYONE

Having Tannehill’s vocal presence in Training Camp will be a major benefit for the Titans, especially as they look to make up for the time they lost by having offseason practice sessions canceled.

His command of the offense undoubtedly helps every one to get on the same page, and it also serves as a learning opportunity for young players

“It’s great because whether he’s coaching me up or A.J. up or whoever it is, someone else can learn from that coaching point,” Humphries said.

“So, if I run a route that’s not exactly the way he wants it, not only is he coaching me, ‘Hey, I need that two more yards deeper,’ he’s also helping the rookies, ‘Hey, if you have this route, make sure it’s at this distance.’

“He’s coaching us personally, but he speaks loud enough and demands everyone to listen because it’s helping us and it’s helping our team.”

Going through a QB change isn’t easy for an NFL team, and it’s not hard to imagine the ease of buying into a player of Tannehill’s pedigree versus a QB on a lame-duck year, which is what the Titans faced in 2019.

It remains to be seen whether Tannehill will avoid regression in terms of his passing game production in 2020, but his command of the offense is certain, and it’s more substantial now than ever.

Cover image: Winslow Townson & USA Today


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