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Why Josh Dobbs is starting for Titans on ‘Thursday Night Football’ one week removed from Lions practice squad

The Titans’ “Thursday Night Football” matchup against the Cowboys will have no impact on their playoff chances, and it certainly appears they’re making it clear how little the game means to them.

In addition to likely resting Derrick Henry against Dallas, Tennessee will also be benching Malik Willis and will be starting Josh Dobbs, a quarterback signed off the Lions’ practice squad just eight days before Thursday’s game.

Dobbs has little NFL regular-season experience, having appeared in only six games for the Steelers. During those games, he completed 10 of 17 passes for 45 yards and an interception. He’s also rushed six times for 31 yards. He has no NFL touchdowns.

Why is Dobbs starting for Tennessee? Here’s what we know.

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Why is Josh Dobbs starting at QB for Titans?

The outcome of Thursday’s game will not impact Tennessee’s playoff chances in the slightest. The Titans could be shut out and watch the Jaguars rout the Texans on Sunday, and it would not change what needs to happen for Tennessee to make the playoffs.

Tennessee and Jacksonville enter Week 17 with identical 7-8 records, and with the tiebreaker, the winner of their Week 18 clash will determine the AFC South champion. Neither team can advance past the No. 4 seed in the AFC playoff picture, and nothing that happens before Week 18 will change the win-or-go-home nature of that final showdown.

With Ryan Tannehill possibly out for the season, Malik Willis has been handling starting quarterback duties. And while the 2022 third-round pick hasn’t exactly excelled in his chances — 50.8 completion percentage, 276 passing yards, three interceptions in eight games this season — he will be counted on to start against Jacksonville should Tannehill remain out with an ankle injury. Willis’ strength has been his mobility, with 27 rushes for 123 yards and a touchdown, so keeping him out of the starting spot against the Cowboys will ensure he’s healthy against Jacksonville.

MORE: Why Titans’ playoff chances rest solely on Week 18

So why Dobbs? For one, it’s a great story. Before he was drafted by the Steelers in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft, Dobbs was a standout quarterback for the Tennessee Volunteers, completing 61.5 percent of his passes for 7,138 yards with 53 passing touchdowns and 29 interceptions. He also rushed 438 times for 2,160 yards with 32 more rushing touchdowns.

“Obviously I have a lot of friends in Nashville, a lot of people I know in Nashville, back in the state of Tennessee. Feels like home, really,” Dobbs said after he was signed. “I love Nashville, I love visiting Nashville in the offseason so just feels right honestly.”

For another, it allows Willis to rest. Mike Vrabel has opted to rest a number of starters with the stakes of the game clearly not as high since it does not have an impact on their playoff chances.

MORE: Will Tony Pollard play on Thursday?

Dobbs has appeared only in six NFL games in his career — five in 2018 and one in 2020 — and has otherwise been a practice squad and backup quarterback. He shined in preseason opportunities for the Browns, including posting an impressive run against the Eagles during a game.

He was waived by the Browns in November after Deshaun Watson’s suspension ended, and was signed by the Lions a week later to their practice squad. He was elevated by the team for the Week 15 contest against the Jets, but did not play. He was assigned back to the practice squad after the game and was claimed by Tennessee on Dec. 21.

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