Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis has struggled at times throughout training camp. It’s an expected development for Willis, who was a raw quarterback coming out of Liberty. Those with realistic expectations understood Willis was going to need time to acclimate to the league. It’s par for the course. Willis is exactly where he’s supposed to be with his development currently. Titans quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara offered a particularly encouraging update on Willis’ progress prior to Thursday’s practice.
“Malik is able to retain information really well,” O’Hara said. “His decision making, which we monitor, has been very good. Things he hasn’t had to do before relative to working from the pocket, his feet need to catch up with his mind. It’s getting better. It takes time. Malik has a very strong arm and a really cool skill set, but you can’t always rely on that all the time. These windows are tight. The geography is different with the hash marks in the pro game, which makes a big difference in my opinion.”
That’s excellent content from O’Hara. That’s as honest and direct as you’ll see a position coach get with his answer. Willis’ mechanics are a work in progress as a result of the offense Liberty asked him to operate. O’Hara and the Titans’ staff are working towards Willis’ mechanics better matching up with running a professional offense, specifically Todd Downing’s scheme.
O’Hara also commented on Willis’ ability inside the pocket versus outside the pocket.
“When you’re playing quarterback, the NFL provides protection for quarterbacks,” O’Hara continued. When you’re inside the pocket, which is the tackle box, you’re protected in the head/neck area, and you’re protected from being hit low. You’re also protected from body weight landing on top of you. That’s three different protections for a quarterback. Once you leave that tackle box, you’re only protected in the head and neck area. You need to operate outside the pocket, but you need to operate from inside the pocket as well. Operating outside the pocket isn’t a problem for Malik,” O’Hara concluded, with a grin on his face.
That’s been a constant theme throughout my evaluation. Willis’ off-script ability has the potential to be special, but he must work better from inside the pocket as well. Off-script playmaking among quarterbacks is all the rage in today’s pass-happy league, but Willis must manage to command the Titans’ offense efficiently from inside the pocket, too.
You can watch O’Hara’s full answer below: