The Next Day: Joshua Dobbs Proved Me Wrong

Zach Lyons is a NFL Senior Contributor for Broadway Sports. He is also Co-Host of the wildly popular, award winning, and world renowned podcast, “A Football & Other F Words”, new episodes released every Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts.. He’s also a co-host for Nashville’s first ever football only show with a global reach, “A Football Show”. “A Football Show” airs LIVE every Monday and Thursday at 1p CST. Subscribe and turn on notifications here.

I am not one of those accounts that can never admit he is wrong. Yesterday, when the rumors started popping up that Joshua Dobbs would get a chance to start, I said this:

I went on to explain I would watch the Texas vs Washington bowl game, and watch the game the next morning commercial free. I followed through on that. I watched the game Friday morning commercial free, and thank God I did. Commercials suck, but anyways, by doing this, I got to watch this game with certain things I am looking for.

Those things? All the takes and narratives from the good ole Titans Twitter timeline. There were accusations about the Titans sabotaging, and are selectively racist towards Malik Willis by giving Dobbs an entirely new playbook. That not only is Dobbs supplanting Willis, but he’s taking Tannehill’s job too.

I’ll be honest, I had zero expectations for Dobbs, and fully expected it to be more of the same like Willis, or worse. I was wrong. He was exponentially better than Willis, but in what ways? Last week, I looked at Willis using three criteria: Initial Eye Test, Efficiency Metrics, and Advanced Stats. So I will do the same for Dobbs, it’s only fair.

The Initial Eye Test

From the first pass of the game, Joshua Dobbs was already playing on another level than Malik Willis. It was as clear as night and day the stark differences between their ability to process what they were seeing from the defense and going through their reads.

That, to me, is the biggest difference, and it’s a Grand Canyon sized gap, between Dobbs and Willis. It’s not the arm talent, nor the athletic ability, it was how fast Dobbs was able to do everything without hesitating. The game moves just far too fast for Willis, and that’s not something that can be easily corrected nor has a good chance of ever being corrected.

There were a few throws where Dobbs is getting his passes out to his third read in the progression. It was very eye-opening for me, just because I didn’t expect it from Dobbs at all. After all, Dobbs is a fourth round draft pick from 2017, who hasn’t had a NFL start, and just got here roughly 10 days ago.

Which leads me to my next talking point, Playbook-Gate. So, let me get this straight, Downing who collectively everyone agrees is a moron, is able to create an entirely new playbook and install it for Dobbs, all in an effort to sabotage Willis? Then, Dobbs, who has never started a NFL game, is on his 5th NFL team, is able to learn this masterful, and unique playbook in nine days.

That’s quite the conspiracy of selective racism and sabotage. It’s not the first time, I remember when Arthur Smith and the staff was sabotaging Marcus Mariota, and when Ryan Tannehill came in they called entirely new plays.

Here’s the actual truth for both situations: Tannehill and Dobbs are able to execute more plays out of the same playbook they shared with Mariota and Willis. This isn’t a new playbook, and new plays, these are plays being called with the quarterback’s ability to execute them. James Foster put it best:

I think the based on practice reps is key. A lot of people were like: “Why aren’t they getting Willis to throw on the run with bootlegs? Where has this been?” Well, one of the biggest techniques Willis struggled with all offseason, and possibly at practice in the regular season, has been throwing when he rolls out of the pocket.

Now the video I linked to does say it is to the left, so we don’t know how he is going to the right, but some of Dobbs’s bootlegs were to the left, so he can’t execute those properly with the limited knowledge we have.

Also, if Willis had started, he may have gotten to do bootlegs and such, because that was the best game plan for a Dallas defense with the pass rush they have, getting your quarterback on the move. However, this idea they never run bootlegs before last night is asinine.

The decline of the #Titans play action bootleg game – @NoFlagsFilm

At the end of the day, this current system is not built for Malik Willis, and he can’t take advantage of the the playbook they currently have. Josh Dobbs can, and that matters when looking at, and dissecting this game.

So, was Dobbs clearly better in based on the Initial Eye Test?: Absolutely.

The Efficiency Metrics

If you want to look at every Willis start in terms of efficiency metrics, you can click right here, but for the point of this article it’s best to look at the last two games to compare Dobbs & Willis because they had similar offensive lines and pass catchers.

Two things that should be taken into account is the quality of defense faced, and who was in the backfield for each:

StatsDobbs vs CowboysMalik vs Texans 2*^
QB Plays*4435
EPA+CPOE-0.0270.007 (26th)
EPA/Play-0.196-0.373 (29th)
Success Rate34.1%34.3% (26th)
Air Yards8.76.2 (25th)
*using the metric
^Out of 30 QBs

These metrics look at down and distant, play call, then compare that to historical data of the league to determine the EPA, Completion Percentage Above Expected, and Success Rate if your team’s play call and its result.

So it doesn’t care if you have an offensive line made up of Dennis Daley, Aaron Brewer, Corey Levin, Jordan Roos, and NPF. It doesn’t care that there is no Derrick Henry, and the drop off from Henry to Haskins I significant in terms of play, and how defenses defend. It doesn’t matter you’re playing the Cowboys versus playing the Texans.

Not a lot of change in terms of efficiency. So while Dobbs passed the initial eye test, and by all accounts was better on the stat sheet than Willis, it didn’t matter in terms of being efficient on the field.

It will be interesting to see how these metrics change for Dobbs versus a worse Jaguars defense, with Henry, and another week practicing in the system.

So, was Dobbs clearly better in terms of Efficiency Metrics?: No, just about the same.

The Advanced Stats

Like I’ve said before, I am not a believer of PFF grades, but until someone else comes along these are the numbers and data we have to go on. Something to keep in mind if I use a PFF grade is that a grade of 60 is considered an average grade.

StatsDobbs vs CowboysMalik vs Texans
Kept Clean Pass Grade6264.9
Under Pressure Pass Grade38.528
Kept Clean %54.8%50%
Under Presssure %45.2%50%

It’s kind of crazy that against a better defense, Dobbs has performed similarly to Willis who faced a bottom tier defense in the Texans. You will see a lot of similarities as we move forward number wise, so it’s important to remember this: Dallas Defense, and No Henry, is a more difficult task than Texans Defense with Henry.

Other important note of context: Willis is a Rookie 3rd Rounder who segment of fans have placed way too high of expectations on, in a system that doesn’t fit him.

As far as the above grades its interesting to note that when under pressure, Dobbs had an aDOT of 12.1 yards, while Willis had an aDOT of 7.6 yards. That’s a huge difference in between the two that favors Dobbs, and probably why his grade was a tad bit higher.

I think the next stat is also telling:

StatsDobbs vs CowboysMalik vs Texans
Average Time to Throw3.03s3.56s
Time to Throw (Passes)2.91s3.40s
Time to Throw (Sacks)4.30s4.28s
Time to Throw (Scrambles)5.00s4.60s

This one needs additional context too. Play call plays a major role in these numbers. They don’t really separate how many steps back into the pocket a passer is asked to take. How long are the routes being run down field. It’s just an objective measure from snap to throw.

However, it was very clear that Dobbs was more often than not getting the ball out way quick than what Willis did. Specifically the time to throw on attempted passes.I know it doesn’t seem like a big difference but in the NFL that is a very big deciding factor in terms of how fast a quarterback reads the field and makes a decision.

There is still this odd issue where both Dobbs and Malik have this tendency on sacks to hold the ball too long. Dobbs and Willis were both responsible one of their sacks in the respective games versus the Cowboys and Texans. Malik in his playing time is responsible for 5 of the 10 sacks he has had. Either way, these quarterbacks have to get the ball out quicker because the offensive line is terrible.

Ryan Tannehill even needed to do the same when he was playing. Even though he had the 15th quickest time to throw before being sacked before being injured, that’s still not good enough behind this offensive line. So every QB on this team, get the ball out!

StatsDobbs vs CowboysMalik vs Texans
Not Blitzed Pass Grade51.833
When Blitzed Pass Grade48.268.6
Not Blitzed %76.2%82.1%
When Blitzed %23.8%17.9%

Both the Dallas Defense and the Texans Defense felt they could generate enough pressure without blitzing. Both proved to be correct, though Dallas’s pass rushers are of much better quality than the Texans, and it showed specifically in the blitz.

Willis was able to take advantage of poor quality of players and put up a very respectable game when he was blitzed, it didn’t amount to much, but it did show that he could make a bad defense pay a little bit if they blitzed.

Dobbs on the other hand 40% completion percentage when Blitzed, even though he did get his lone touchdown throw when the Cowboys blitzed.

StatsDobbs vs CowboysMalik vs Texans
Play Action %23.8%25%
PA Pass Grade31.467.1
No PA Pass Grade57.931.2

Will never…ever…EVER, why this team hates Play Action in 2022. Especially during this losing streak. Here are the play action rates during the losing streak starting with Bengals: 18.9%, 32.3%, 13%, 25.9%, 25%, 23.8%. Ridiculous! Granted the formula doesn’t always equal play action more = win, but Tannehill and Willis are both better off play action.

Dobbs on the other hand was not good. Now, this could be because no one is afraid of Haskins, but ultimately, he was sacked once, 37.5% completion percentage, 2 turnover worthy plays. He was atrocious in his own right. So Willis, definitely gets the edge here.

StatsDobbs vs CowboysMalik vs Texans
Deep (20+ yds) Attempts51*
Deep Attempt %12.8%4.3%
Medium (10-19 yds) Attempts61
Medium Attempt %15.4%4.3%
Short (0-9 yds) Attempts1616
Short Attempt %41%69.6%
Behind LOS Attempts52
Behind LOS %12.8%8.7%
*Hail Mary

When you talk about what a quarterback’s processing and ability allows them to do here is a good example. The Titans were able to take advantage of their players going deep, and had 3 players go 30 yards, McMath and Burks were downfield, while Chestnut was around the LOS.

Whether its truly by design, or because he hesitated and checked down, Willis hasn’t shown what is supposed to make him special as much as he should. There have been times, specifically in the Chiefs and first texans game where his receivers let him down with drops, but ultimately, he doesn’t attempt that many passes deep.

When you’re a quarterback who hesitates to throw passes to NFL open receivers, this is what happens. When a quarterback typically holds on to the ball longer than 2.5 seconds its because they’re letting a play downfield. Malik last week had 14 pass attempts that were 2.5s or longer and an average YPA of 3.6 on those throws. He chose to check down or take an easy pass.

Meanwhile Dobbs attempted 23 passes where he held the ball 2.5s or longer and went 5.9 YPA, which s what Josh Allen’s YPA attempt was in Week 16 for comparison. About 20th best. Not great, but Dobbs isn’t know for his arm talent, like Willis is.

So, was Dobbs clearly better in terms of Advanced Stats?: Box score stats, yes. Advanced stats he went 2-1-2 (W/L/T)


Here are my conclusions in Q&A format

  • Was Josh Dobbs the second coming of Peyton Manning? No.
  • Was Josh Dobbs better than Ryan Tannehill? No.
  • Was Josh Dobbs better than Malik Willis? Yes.
  • Did the staff, due to selective racism, sabotage Malik Willis on purpose? No
  • Same playbook, but different plays due to QB ability? Yes.
  • Is this current system a bad fit for Malik Willis? Yes.
  • Could the Titans changed the system to fit him in-season? No, it needs an entirely new scheme.
  • Can the Titans win the final game of the regular season with Dobbs? Yes, because reinforcements on defense are coming, and Henry.
  • Should Dobbs have looked better than Willis? Yes, he’s a veteran, Willis is a third round rookie project QB.
  • Is Willis’s career for sure over? No. Now it’s a long road, but he can earn his QB2 spot back during the offseason with hard work, and prep in the current system, or the Titans can install a system more suited to his traits.
  • Should Dobbs start Week 18? Absolutely, no debate.
Author: Zach LyonsWith over 17 years experience of losing Fantasy Football games, Zach has been a Titans fan since moving to Nashville in 2002. A die-hard Alabama fan, but he doesn't let that cloud his judgement of the Elite Players they have put in the NFL. Players like Derrick Henry, Julio Jones, and AJ McCarron. You've heard him on Football & Other F Words giving his Unfiltered Opinions as facts and that won't change. He's always 100% right even if he has to revise earlier statements. Lawyered.

Leave a Reply