Tennessee Titans sophomore quarterback Malik Willis will start Saturday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears, according to a report from Paul Kuharsky. Mike Vrabel and acting head coach Terrell Williams previously declined opportunities to name a starter. Ryan Tannehill hasn’t appeared in an exhibition contest since becoming the full-time starter. Starting Willis is the appropriate decision.
Kuharasky didn’t offer insight into how long Willis will remain under center, but we’d anticipate Willis playing the entire first half. Rookie quarterback Will Levis will be making his NFL debut, and could play the entire second half. Fans are anxious to evaluate Levis, but Willis receives the first opportunity.
Willis has received the bulk of second-team reps behind Tannehill this offseason, but Levis has begun eating into that workload. The Titans are allowing Levis’ climb up the depth chart to occur naturally. They aren’t handing Levis anything, he has to earn it.
Willis meanwhile has plenty to prove after a disappointing rookie campaign. The former Liberty standout is attempting to convince the Titans to carry three quarterbacks on the active 53-man roster, something they’ve rarely done since hiring Vrabel. Willis’ performance against the Bears will go a long way towards determining his fate.
Willis appeared in all three exhibition contests last season. He completed 28-of-51 passing attempts (54.9 percent completion percentage) for 318 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. Willis was yanked in Week 1 and replaced by Logan Woodside for a failure to go through his progressions and make designed throws.
Showcasing improved accuracy and decision-making is crucial for Willis. To his credit, he has taken steps forward in those areas during training camp practices. He’s now tasked with proving it in a live-action game versus the opposition. He’ll receive an opportunity against Chicago.