This Sunday, the Oakland Raiders will play host to the new-look Tennessee Titans, and welcome their new starting quarterback to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum.
After taking over Week 7, Ryan Tannehill has won five of six games for the Titans, and has them in the playoff discussion. Over his last seven games, the Lubbock, Texas native has thrown for 1,602 yards, 12 touchdowns, and limited his interceptions to just four. Tannehill is undeniably playing some of the best football of his career, and while a couple of Raiders are happy to see him succeeding, they hope he struggles this week.
Offensive lineman Richie Incognito and defensive lineman Dion Jordan each spent two seasons with Tannehill in Miami, so while they're happy for their former teammate, they also have a decent scouting report on how to stop him.
"He definitely got the talent to be a starting quarterback in the league," Jordan said. "It's unfortunate that he had to take [Marcus] Mariota's spot because that's my guy, but it proves that he got the talent to be a starting quarterback. He's a tough dude, stands in there and throws the ball downfield, and I think that's why they like him at the position because he's going to throw the ball. The fact he's pretty athletic as well, he was a receiver in college so he has a chance to move around and make plays."
"I think the thing in Miami was just very hard to kind of get talent around him," Incognito added. "It was like a revolving door at all positions, and I think that's why I was so happy he got another opportunity because the team setting in Miami kind of dragged him down. Now, he's in Nashville he's got a new opportunity and he's energized their whole offense."
Incognito is right, the Titans' offense has been revitalized since Tannehill took over, eclipsing 400 yards of total offense twice since he took the reins. While Tannehill is a prototypical pocket passer by nature, don't sleep on his ability to create big plays with his feet. At 6'4", the former Texas A&M Aggie alternated between quarterback and wide receiver in college before coming the starting signal-caller his senior year. He's an athletic player and Incognito is aware of it.
"He can move, he can definitely run," he said. "He's got some wheels to him and kind of deceptively fast, but he can make plays with his feet."
"Yeah, he does a good job," defensive coordinator Paul Guenther added when asked whether Tannehill is an underrated mobile quarterback. "He's run for some touchdowns. He gets out of the pockets on some boots and he's good when he's a platform thrower, so he does all of it for them."
Tannehill's tenure with the Miami Dolphins lasted six seasons before the two decided to part ways. Whether it was because of a poor surrounding cast on offense, or the coaching, Tannehill never truly found his groove in South Beach, but he still managed to become a productive quarterback. After tearing his ACL late in 2016, and then re-injuring the same knee during the 2017 offseason, Tannehill's career in Miami neared its end. In 2019, he signed with the Titans to serve as Mariota's backup, but since being named the starter he looks healthy as can be, and willing the Titans to a 7-5 record after a 2-4 start.
His former teammates know he's capable of being a starter and they know they have to respect him as such come Sunday.
"I think he had decent success in Miami, as far as the amount of games he played, the faith the organization had in him to re-sign him, but I don't know, I think he's a smart cat," Jordan said. "He's a tough guy and he stands in there and makes his throws, which is what you need as a quarterback is someone who is willing to take the hits and make big plays."
Sunday's matchup between the Titans and the Raiders could either end one team's playoff hopes, or kick them into gear. A lot of this game will come down to the battle between Josh Jacobs and Derrick Henry, but the battle between Derek Carr and Ryan Tannehill will be just as important.