NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP)The Tennessee Titans believe they got lucky with the timing of quarterback Ryan Tannehill spraining his right ankle in London occurring right before their bye week.
Tannehill left London on crutches after hurting the same right ankle that cost him a combined five games at the end of last season. Malik Willis was sacked on four of five pass attempts in the Titans’ 24-16 loss to Baltimore.
Coach Mike Vrabel said Monday an MRI showed Tannehill’s ankle was similar to last season when the quarterback missed two starts after spraining the same ankle, not the second injury that sidelined the veteran for the final three games of the season.
The Titans (2-4) are off until hosting Atlanta (3-3) on Oct. 29, and Vrabel said Tannehill will play if he can go.
If Tannehill can’t, then they must choose between either Willis or rookie Will Levis.
“I don’t know who that would be yet,” Vrabel said. “We’ll see.”
Willis started three games last season before being benched late for a quarterback signed Dec. 21. The 86th overall pick in 2022 has been sacked on 17.5% of his career drop-backs – the second-highest rate for a quarterback with at least 50 pass attempts in the past 30 years trailing only Luke Falk (18%).
New general manager Ran Carthon traded up to No. 33 in April to select Levis out of Kentucky.
No matter who’s at quarterback, the Titans have lost 11 of their past 13 games and are still trying to fix the same issues.
The offense can’t stay on the field or find the end zone enough. The revamped offensive line can’t protect a quarterback, and a defense giving up just 19 1/2 points a game can’t force enough turnovers.
The defense. Yes, the Titans allowed the Ravens to convert 8 of 16 on third downs and score on five of their first six possessions. But the Titans forced Baltimore to settle for six field goals – five inside the Tennessee 20 – to keep Tennessee in a game that should’ve been a rout.
WHAT NEEDS HELP
The Titans have to figure out a better way to use both three-time Pro Bowl running back Derrick Henry and rookie Tyjae Spears.
Henry had their biggest play on a 63-yard run that was his longest in 24 games, and he also had a 15-yard touchdown run. Spears had their second-longest offensive play, a 48-yard catch-and-run giving the Titans a chance to make it a one-score game in the final minutes.
Yet, Henry stayed on the sideline, even on first-and-goal at the Ravens 1, and had two fewer snaps than Spears despite rushing 12 times for 97 yards with two catches for 16 yards receiving. Spears ran four times for 15 yards and had the one big catch.
Nicholas Petit-Frere. The offensive lineman suspended for the start of his second NFL season for gambling as a rookie replaced Andre Dillard and finished the game at left tackle. That’s where Petit-Frere finished his college career at Ohio State.
The Titans rank 29th in allowing 23 sacks. Petit-Frere should have a chance to start at left tackle and work more with rookie left guard Peter Skoronski, the 11th pick overall in April, who just played his second straight game after an emergency appendectomy Sept. 16.
Kyle Philips. The second-year wide receiver has three fumbles in only six games after being a fifth-round pick out of UCLA last year with a combined nine punt returns. The Titans like his explosiveness, highlighted by a 46-yard return in the four games before an injury ended his rookie season.
But in his second game off injured reserve Sunday, Philips fumbled a punt that Baltimore recovered at the Titans 11 with a second left until halftime and got a field goal off the turnover.
Rookie tight end Josh Whyle and wide receiver Chris Moore both flew home with the Titans after being knocked out of the game with concussions. Vrabel said both likely are in the concussion protocol. Vrabel said second-year receiver Treylon Burks (left knee) should be able to return after missing three straight games.
Defensive lineman Teair Tart (toe) also should be back. He has missed two games, though he was listed as questionable before being scratched against Baltimore.
24 – The number of consecutive games the Titans have failed to score at least 30 points, spanning the end of offensive coordinator Todd Downing’s tenure and the start of Tim Kelly’s first season. It’s the NFL’s longest active streak and a franchise record, topping the 22 straight games in 1966-67 during the then-Houston Oilers’ AFL days.
Heal up. Prep Levis or Willis to start against Atlanta, and decide whether the Titans should trade for draft capital by the NFL deadline Oct. 31.
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