The Tennessee Titans will have a lot of familiar faces on the shelf as they take on the Dallas Cowboys to open up Week 17 of the NFL season. With Ryan Tannehill sidelined, the prevailing assumption was that rookie quarterback Malik Willis would get the starting nod under center as he's done throughout the season when Tannehill has been out. However, that's not the case for Thursday night. The club is now expected to start Joshua Dobbs at quarterback against Dallas, CBS Sports NFL insider Jonathan Jones confirms.
This is a rather surprising turn of events for a multitude of reasons. First, Tennessee signed Dobbs off the Lions practice squad just eight days ago, and now is slated to make not only his first start with the Titans, but the first start of his NFL career. Second, this would ideally have been a good time to continue giving Willis some in-game reps as the franchise sees what it has in the 2022 third-round pick.
That said, what the club has seen from Willis thus far hasn't exactly been prolific. He's gone 1-2 as a starter for Tennessee this season and has look particularly raw as a passer, completing 50.8% of his passes for 276 yards and three interceptions. He's been most impactful as a runner, totaling 123 yards on the ground to go along with a touchdown.
Meanwhile, Dobbs first entered the NFL in 2017 as a fourth-round draft choice of the Steelers out of the University of Tennessee. Since then, he's bounced around the league to serve as a backup, making stops with the Jaguars, Browns and Lions, along with a second stint with Pittsburgh before finding his way to Tennessee.
In his career, Dobbs has completed 10 passes for 45 yards and one interception. The last time he saw game action was in 2020 when he completed four of his five passes for the Steelers.
Thursday's matchup with the Cowboys is mostly inconsequential to Tennessee as it relates to its playoff hopes this season. The most realistic way the Titans find themselves in the postseason is by beating the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 18 and the results of Week 17 have no impact on the playoff implications for that contest. That's why we've seen head coach Mike Vrabel go into preservation mode as it relates to this matchup, ruling out Tannehill, Jeffery Simmons and other key contributions. While he's officially listed as doubtful, star running back Derrick Henry is also not expected to play.