The Tennessee Titans didn’t ask Malik Willis to do much in his NFL debut against the Houston Texans. He only threw the ball 10 times. There were only a handful of designed runs - only five total carries. I don’t remember how many of those were designed runs. I will confirm that in the rewatch. It’s hard to pass too much judgment on his performance with that in mind.
He no doubt struggled. We saw some of the same issues we saw in the preseason. The biggest thing he has to improve on is being more decisive when passing and running. That will come with time. What’s important to remember is that this offense has looked terrible with a veteran quarterback in Ryan Tannehill running the show. The offensive line is trash and they have no weapons on the outside. It would be crazy to expect the offense to look good with a rookie making his first career start out there.
It was obvious that the Titans knew all they had to do was hand the ball to Derrick Henry to get a win here. It was the most vanilla gameplan you will see from an NFL team, and that was fine for that game yesterday. It won’t work this week against the Kansas City Chiefs. Now, how confident am I that Todd Downing can put together a game plan that works to Willis’s strengths in a game where they have to score points? Zero confident. That’s how much.
Take a look at what Turron Davenport posted during the game yesterday:
The backside of those Derrick Henry runs is wide open. If they use a play fake and have Malik Willis run it's a big play. It's happened on multiple runs from Henry between the tackles. #Titans pic.twitter.com/dFVbz1bdm5— TURRON DAVENPORT (@TDavenport_NFL) October 30, 2022
We didn’t see them take advantage of that at all yesterday. Was that because they didn’t want to put it on tape for the Chiefs? Or was that because Downing didn’t know it was there? I have my theory, but we won’t have the real answer until/if Tannehill can’t go in KC and Willis makes the start.
At the end of the day, the Titans went to Houston with an offensive gameplan and it was good enough to get them a win. That’s the most important thing. The book on Willis won’t be written for a good time yet, and to draw any conclusions one way or another off of this game is dumb.
I love watching his interviews. He says all the things you want to hear from a quarterback - he’s team-first, humble, and knows he has work to do. We have seen plenty of quarterbacks throughout the years that you couldn’t say that about. Some went on to succeed and some didn’t. The same can be said for the guys that said the right things. Time is the only way we are going to get the answer.
I’ll say this, his teammates and his coaches are going to love this answer (fans should as well):
Malik Willis on throwing one pass in the second half. #Titans pic.twitter.com/5cIZmyD9en— Paul Kuharsky (@PaulKuharskyNFL) October 30, 2022