The first training camp of the Malik Willis era is over and it has to be defined as a success.
No, Willis is not ready to start in the NFL, but the Titans learned he can handle the spotlight, lead a team and most important, does have the ability and desire to learn.
Head coach Mike Vrabel and his staff have used camp and especially the preseason games to give Willis a ton of opportunities to play and learn. “I think I improved a lot,” Willis said Thursday, “I mean you may not know. Y’all are kind of results based, but I mean looking at the film and what we’re trying to accomplish and just being in there and being able to watch the film and have stuff to coach up. I feel like that is more important than just going out there and throw for 10 touchdowns.”
So far Willis has thrown for one touchdown and run for one touchdown and has not turned the ball over. His numbers are not electric. He has thrown for only 187 yards and completed under 50 percent of his passes, but as he said this is not about lighting up the stat column. What it is about is learning and growing because he is not the quarterback of the now, he is the quarterback of the future.
Vrabel usually throws around compliments like manhole covers, but he did not hold back on talking about the rookies improvement, “I’ve seen him work through his progression. I’ve seen him improve his timing. Then I’ve seen him be able to slide up in the pocket. He hit Hassan (Haskins) when he slid up. Then he slid up and was able to attack the defense. That’s where you can make a lot of damage in this league. Then if you get out the back of the pocket, using numerous quarterbacks as an example, but Josh Allen has made a living going out and making plays out of the pocket and throwing the ball downfield and keeping his eyes downfield. But there’s also time to get in and break down a defense, while making sure that you’re protecting yourself and equipment.”
Willis started the Titans first two preseason games and there is every expectation he will start the finale against the Cardinals as well Saturday night at 6 PM in Nashville. For Willis his goals for that final game are simple, “I think I just want to go out and operate the offense, run the offense. I mean everything else is just going to come when you operate the offense, do all of the things that take zero talent.”
The Titans drafted Willis in the third round because he has plenty of talent and Saturday night could be the last time we see that on display until training camp rolls around in 2023.