Impact of Tennessee Titans starting Malik Willis vs Baltimore Ravens

Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports
Tennessee Titans Mandatory Credit: George Walker IV-USA TODAY Sports /

ESPN’s Turron Davenport reported that the Tennessee Titans are going to start rookie QB Malik Willis against the Baltimore Ravens, and that is a change that will have ripple effects.

It is hard to imagine a scenario where the Titans only carry two quarterbacks into the regular season, and if/when they do carry three quarterbacks, the expectation is for Logan Woodside to be the QB2 and Malik Willis will be the QB3.

In an interesting moment of big-picture clarity, Tennessee Titans HC Mike Vrabel seems to understand that starting Willis is a better move long-term than starting Logan Woodside.

At least when it comes to evaluating the quarterback position.

It is very likely that Willis doesn’t see more than a handful of snaps during the regular season and he will probably be inactive for more weeks than not. That isn’t any indictment of his talent, but the fact is that Malik Willis isn’t a great fit for the Titans’ offense right now.

Pros and Cons of Tennessee Titans starting Malik Willis

I’ll start with the negatives. Malik Willis getting the start means that guys like Kyle Philips and Chig Okonkwo are going to miss a few chances to make plays.

I came to that conclusion because Willis just didn’t do well throwing over the middle of the field which you can see in his passing heat map below. At best you can say that it is just something that he wasn’t asked to do a lot of, but it may just be something that he doesn’t do well.

Now for the positives.

In college, Malik Willis thrived in two different (and very important) areas. The most obvious trait that he had was his incredible running ability which made defenders look like they were trying to catch him in ankle-deep mud.

His instant acceleration and his ability to evade tackles made him lightning in a bottle and it is something that you are almost guaranteed to see tonight if he can evade the first wave of pressure from the Baltimore Ravens.

The other thing that he did exceptionally well was, that he threw the ball outside the numbers at a very high level.

In the heat map above you can see just how good he was on both sides of the field when he attacked downfield and there are two Titans receivers who have to be very excited about that.

Treylon Burks has been playing as a boundary receiver (X receiver specifically) so in theory, he is going to be someone who benefits from Willis starting. Similarly, Racey McMath is going to be a massive beneficiary from this change as well since he is another player who can win on deep routes.

Logan Woodside is far from a perfect QB, so accuracy was never a given with him anyway. In that sense, the biggest difference won’t be in the accuracy of the passes it will be where the passes are attempted.

Whether Willis plays a half or the whole game, one thing is certain and that is that every time he takes a snap there is a chance for a “wow” play and that is something that you can’t say with Woodside. On the other hand, he is going to make some…questionable decisions based on training camp reports, and that is what you expect from rookie QBs (just look at Trevor Lawrence).

It is the preseason and the preseason is all about getting excited about the future, let’s have some fun and see what kind of connection the Tennessee Titans might have in 2023 (or 2024) between Willis and his fellow rookies.