Tennessee Titans Malik Willis, Logan Woodside battle for backup role

Malik Willis Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean)
Malik Willis Tennessee Titans (Mandatory Credit: The Tennessean) /

Malik Willis demonstrated in his first preseason start for the Tennessee Titans that in the quarterback position, speed and evasiveness absolve all sins.

Even though his decision-making was slow, his progressions were sloppy, and some throws were off target, Malik Willis was able to dig himself out of some of those holes thanks to his playmaking ability.

Whether it is what Mike Vrabel wanted or not, having Woodside and Willis split halves makes it impossible not to compare the two quarterbacks.

The big takeaway from the game should be that Willis made more plays, but neither Willis nor Woodside played well enough to elevate the players around them, the essence of what makes a starting quarterback in the NFL.

Ultimately, Tyler Huntley for the Ravens outplayed both of the Tennessee quarterbacks with both his legs and his arm. Despite his limited NFL experience, Huntley showed why reps are so important because he looked much more comfortable than either Titans QB.

Even though Willis deserves some criticism based on what he didn’t do (and how that impacted some other rookies) as a whole he did really well in his first action. Not great, but well enough to stir up league media, getting shout-outs from the likes of Pat McAfee and getting “Malik Willis” to shoot up the Twitter trending page.

Alternatively, Woodside threw two interceptions, and on another particularly concerning throw in the third quarter, he failed to give Treylon Burks a chance to make a play by throwing the ball closer to the Ravens’ safety than to Burks who appeared to have lots of space if the ball was thrown to the outside instead of inside.

As good as he was as a runner Willis did allow himself to take a couple of sacks including a big one just before halftime that cost the team its last timeout. Malik Willis is going to miss some throws, that is just a part of being an NFL QB, but taking that sack was a prime example of a rookie mistake.

On the other side, Woodside faced pressure early and often throughout the game and endured the onslaught of Ravens pass rushers without taking a sack. A credit to Woodside’s decisiveness in the pocket which is exactly what Willis needs to learn.

In many ways, Logan Woodside and Malik Willis are polar opposites in their styles which makes comparing the two difficult when assessing what they could do if they were actually under-center in the regular season.

Unfortunately for fans and media, despite Willis and Woodside combining for 35 pass attempts, neither of the highly anticipated rookie receivers Treylon Burks or Kyle Phillips was able to haul in a reception.

In one of his larger errors of the night, Willis missed a wide-open Burks who was streaking down the middle of the field with nothing but green grass and an endzone in his path, but Willis either did not see him or simply bailed out, again, highlighting the deficiencies that hold his game back.

Hopefully, it does not come down to choosing between Willis or Woodside to lead the offense this year, Tannehill has certainly proven his grit and durability over the last few years, but it is a choice that is worth analyzing.

The bottom line is that the team would not flourish with either Woodside or Willis. However, judging from the one half of football we have to sample, it seems to me that with Willis you at least always have the chance to create something on any given play.

Additionally, knowing that the offensive line is the biggest question mark going into the season, if there is a situation where the Tennessee Titans have to decide between Willis or Woodside, I think Willis’ running ability would be a huge advantage.

Play-making ability is one of those abstract concepts that separates players. You cannot quantify it on a stat sheet, but you can tell when it is there. Willis definitely has that quality in him, but it will be important for him to continue to improve upon his glaring deficiencies before we, as fans, allow ourselves to give into the hype.