1 thing Malik Willis needs to do vs the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
By Will Lomas
Against the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans rookie QB Malik Willis “started” the first game of his NFL career, and it was definitely a mixed bag.
On one hand, you saw almost nothing out of Treylon Burks, Kyle Philips, and Chig Okonkwo and that was almost entirely on Malik Willis for not getting them the ball when they were open.
On the other hand, Willis showed the physical traits that made him so intriguing as a prospect coming out of college, and he had an incredible three-play stretch where he:
-Spun away from pressure by 1st round rookie Kyle Hamilton en route to a touchdown run
-Completed a great pass to Racey McMath for nearly 50 yards
-Used a Patrick Mahomes-like arm angle to get a pass to Tommy Hudson
No one should expect Malik Willis to play like a starting NFL quarterback yet, and this is Ryan Tannehill’s team in 2022 (and probably in 2023). Instead, Tennessee Titans fans should be trying to pick one or two areas for Malik Willis to improve on from game to game.
What should fans be looking for tonight?
Malik Willis has to start throwing the ball
Willis held the ball longer than any quarterback in the NFL last week and it wasn’t because he was waiting on his receivers to get open.
The issue that has been brought up repeatedly in camp is that Malik Willis is processing things well mentally, but he isn’t getting in position and making throws at the same rate and that is why he isn’t getting rid of the ball.
No one wants Willis to develop bad habits, but after starting last week and getting the bulk of the second-team reps this week, he needs to trust himself a little bit more and let the ball rip a few times against the Bucs.
If Willis can’t do that, then the team is going to have to start calling passes with predetermined reads so that it takes some of the guesswork out of the equation for him. Throw in some half-field reads and maybe some RPO stuff, and you could cobble together a decent playbook that doesn’t ask Willis to go through his reads and get his feet/hips turned around quickly.
The Tennessee Titans want him to be able to function as the QB2 and step into this offense seamlessly, but he needs to start taking small steps or they will have to go to a specialized playbook for him in the future.
Just to be clear, there is no question about Malik Willis physically, his work ethic, his coachability, or his ability to run an offense in the NFL. The big question is how well he can tie it all together and if he can find a way to stop pressing the panic button in the pocket.