Tannehill, Firkser Built Connection as Backups

Titans quarterback and tight end worked together often during 2019 training camp, teamed up regularly in games late.
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Quarterback Ryan Tannehill and tight end Anthony Firkser have not missed a beat since last summer.

The Tennessee Titans duo formed confidence and trust in each other during the 2019 training camp, when Tannehill was stuck behind then-starting quarterback Marcus Mariota and Firkser was – at best – the third option at tight end behind Delanie Walker and Jonnu Smith.

“I was going with the (second team offense) with Tannehill,” Firkser said. “I think being able to go with him all camp and develop that confidence, whether it was in practice or preseason games, and when I had to step up for Delanie when he was injured and when Tannehill had to step up, we kind of just had that built-in confidence.”

Firkser’s production last season was directly correlated to Tannehill. The 25-year-old hardly put up any numbers until Tannehill replaced Mariota in Week 6 and led the Titans to seven wins in the final 10 weeks of the regular season and a playoff appearance.

In the regular season, Tannehill and Firkser connected 13 times for 179 yards and one touchdown. In the postseason, Tannehill found Firkser three times for 45 yards and two touchdowns.

An undrafted free agent in 2017, found the end zone in his first career playoff game, against the New England Patriots in the AFC Divisional Round.

“We had some plays down the stretch in the playoffs, where I was able to get to the right spot and he made a great throw. We were able to make plays for the offense,” Firkser said. “I think just being able to make those plays, in the playoffs especially, and just that confidence and trust is a big thing that quarterbacks, tight ends and receivers need when they are looking at the pass game.”

Firkser said Tannehill’s leadership has helped him and other pass catchers become better.

Whether in meetings or after a play in practices or games, Firkser said Tannehill, who started his collegiate career as a wide receiver at Texas A&M, often has suggestions.

“...He gives us pointers on what he sees,” Firkser said. “Whether it’s the defensive coverage, whether it’s this look, or that look. What the depth of the route is, or what the width of the route is.

“He sees it one way. He’s the quarterback. … He leads the offense. For him to tell us where we need to be and where he expects us is huge.”

The pair started last season without an idea of where they would be by season's end. Their efforts resulted in a singular connection, and a payoff for both.

Tannehill, who earned Comeback Player of the Year honors and signed a four-year extension this offseason, is the Titans’ No. 1 at quarterback for the foreseeable future. After signing a one-year extension in February, Firkser now has a chance to further establish himself as a weapon on offense.

“Really excited about what (Firkser) can do for us,” Tannehill said. “I felt confident going back to last year throwing Firk the ball. I feel like he has a really good feel for using his double-up and his route craft to find a way to get open at the top. It’s been effective for him, and hopefully it continues this year.”