Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis‘ first preseason performance was inconsistent but promising. He showed flashes of elite athleticism and playmaking capabilities with his arm and legs. Other times his inexperience as a pro quarterback showed.
Willis put up a decent stat line (6 of 11 passing for 107 yards and five carries for 38 yards), and a rushing touchdown, the Titans’ lone end zone score of the night. His playmaking ability against a very aggressive Baltimore Ravens defense was also another good sign, but head coach Mike Vrabel wants the former Liberty Flames standout to be more decisive.
Vrabel, the reigning NFL Coach of the Year, spoke highly of his prized rookie, but also wants him to trust his instincts and get rid of the football. He discussed that in his postgame presser.
— NFL (@NFL) August 12, 2022
“He needs to try to throw the ball when guys are open, be more decisive,” Vrabel said. “We’ll evaluate that, see if there’s a timing issue or what’s going on. Wanted to get him out there, see how he responds. There were some good plays and obviously some plays we’re gonna have to look at the timing on the releases and if we’re making the right decisions.”
“Especially with a young quarterback, to step in there with a live rush and seeing coverage. That’s why we have these preseason games. That’s why I I wanted to put him out there. That’s why I wanted him to take the ball, to put him in those situations. That’s the only way you can grow.”
Vrabel also said Willis’ unwillingness to let the football go is why he benched him in favor of Logan Woodside.
Vrabel on taking Willis out after the second play of the third quarter: I wanted him to throw the ball. He didn't, so we put in Logan
— Buck Reising (@BuckReising) August 12, 2022
Willis Agrees With His Head Coach: Takes Acountability For Missed Opportunities
Showing the maturity that the Titans raved about in Willis, he was quick to also say he missed some things. But for rookies isn’t that expected? Yes, and while Willis knows that he also knows he must get rid of the football when guys are open.
“Probably made up for it with my legs. Can’t continue to rely on that, though. But that’s what the preseason is for,” Willis said, crediting his gifted running with compensating for the missed throws.
Willis continued, “You’ve just got to know when you need it, and when you don’t. That’s what this whole process is about. That’s the really cool thing about it. I’m blessed in many ways, but it’s about learning when to use what and just playing games.”
Malik to McMath 😁 @ohrae17_
— Tennessee Titans (@Titans) August 12, 2022
Teammate , Burks who struggled in his first preseason raved about his future signal-caller.
He credited the leadership and competitive nature Willis’ displayed.
“I would say that Malik played his butt off today,” Burkes raved.
Willis Is The Future QB: Tannehill Just Keeping The Seat Warm
The Titans were the No. 1 seed in the AFC in last year’s playoffs. They were upset at home by the eventual AFC champion Cincinnati Bengals. A lot of the upset loss could be attributed to poor quarterback play by incumbent starter Ryan Tannehill. When the team drafted Willis, Tannehill felt the pressure immediately, saying it wasn’t his job to mentor Willis.
No need to mentor him because in the highly-competitive AFC, a player like Willis is going to be needed sooner than later if the Titans want to remain relevant in the long term.