Fans of the Tennessee Titans probably want to move on and forget about Monday night’s beatdown at the hands of the Bills as quickly as possible. But amidst all the negatives, they did at least get their first glimpse at rookie quarterback Malik Willis.
Willis got his first regular-season NFL action after the Titans waved the white flag in the fourth quarter, replacing Ryan Tannehill — who struggled throughout the night. Unfortunately for the Titans, Willis didn’t exactly set the world on fire either.
The former Liberty Flames signal-caller finished 1 for 4 with 6 passing yards, 16 rushing yards and a lost fumble. It’s worth noting he was on the field with a mostly second-string offensive unit, but the Bills’ starters had also checked out by that point.
Willis did lead his team on a promising drive in the fourth quarter only to cough up the ball.
The fumble came on a scrambling play after picking up a first down in Bills territory. He appeared to run into his own teammate on the play which caused him to lose control of the football.
Titans’ head coach Mike Vrabel discussed the decision to give his young young quarterback some snaps in the midst of a blowout loss.
“Nobody wants to go out there and lose that way,” he told reporters after the game.
“But I’m also a realist. I [understood] where we were at, the situation we were in… I felt like that was just a time to get Malik in there.”
Willis was taken by the Titans in the third round of this year’s NFL Draft. He was the third quarterback off the board — behind Kenny Pickett (Steelers) and Desmond Ridder (Falcons) — but on Monday became the first QB from his draft class to see minutes in a regular-season game.
It remains to be seen whether Vrabel will consider Willis for the starting job over Tannehill this season, but if Monday night is anything to go by, he could still use more time to adjust to the NFL before stepping into that role.
Willis didn’t turn heads. He wasn’t in there at that point in the game to do that. So, his grade can be considered somewhat incomplete.
The Titans are 0-2 and no team has reached the playoffs since starting winless in their first two games since the expansion of the playoffs. Should the Titans continue to struggle, Willis may see a greater share of the snaps to build his confidence.