Ryan Tannehill has taken a step forward in 2020.
There was no more popular preseason regression pick than Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Coming off a Comeback Player of the Year season in which he led the Titans on an unlikely run to the AFC Championship Game, Tannehill was widely anticipated to take a step back.
He led the NFL in yards per completion (13.6), quarterback rating (117.5) and adjusted net yards per attempt (8.52), all of which marked career highs for the former Miami Dolphin.
Tannehill’s previous high in adjusted net yards per attempt had been 6.27, with that kind of jump hinting at the possibility of him being a one-year wonder for a Tennessee team that was able to lean heavily on rushing champion Derrick Henry.
Though Henry is still a huge part of the Titans’ game plan, more has been put on the plate of Tannehill in 2020 and, rather than regress, the metrics tell the tale of a quarterback who has taken another leap and now stands among the best in the league at the game’s most important position.
A repeat performance
Tannehill’s average in terms of adjusted net yards attempt has dropped off slightly from 2019 to 8.30, but it is a negligible dip, and, by several other measures, he is a member of the NFL’s elite.
The 2019 season saw Tannehill finish second in the NFL, behind only Patrick Mahomes in the composite metric created by Ben Baldwin of The Athletic combining Expected Points Added and Completion Percentage Over Expectation.
In terms of the Football Outsiders metrics that measure efficiency, Tannehill was 10th in the NFL in Defense-adjusted yards above replacement (DYAR) in 2019 and fifth in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA).
The 2020 season has seen Tannehill maintain his place near the top of the NFL in EPA + CPOE, in which he is second behind only Aaron Rodgers, while Football Outsiders metrics have been even more impressed by what he has done in 2020 compared to his 2019 performance.
Indeed, Tannehill is fourth in DYAR and third in DVOA through 14 games of the season. The quarterbacks ahead of him in DYAR are Mahomes, Rodgers and Josh Allen, the two primary MVP contenders and a quarterback who has been in the discussion for the award because of his third-year jump with the Buffalo Bills.
Elevating the supporting cast
Tannehill is also having an extremely positive impact on those around him, as the efficient performance of his receivers indicates.
Corey Davis, due to enter free agency in 2021, is enjoying a career year having already racked up 945 receiving yards and five touchdowns. He is fourth in DYAR and second in DVOA among wide receivers, with second-year sensation A.J. Brown eighth in DYAR and sixth in DVOA.
Tannehill has remained a very accurate quarterback who continues to add significant value in terms of expected points and is performing at a much more efficient level than he did in his career year of 2019.
And he is doing so with a significant uptick in his pass attempts. Tannehill attempted 286 passes across 12 games and 10 regular-season starts in 2019, but in 2020 he has already completed 286 throws, having attempted 430 passes.
With both the Titans and the Colts at 10-4, the AFC South remains very much in the balance. However, in Tannehill, Tennessee has a quarterback who has proven he is not a one-season wonder and is operating at the same level as the MVP frontrunners.
Tannehill has not regressed, he has progressed, and if he can maintain the strides he has made in 2020, the Titans will have an excellent shot at making another deep postseason run.