Tuesday, January 31 2023

All eyes were on rookie quarterback Malik Willis during the Tennessee Titans‘ preseason opener Thursday.

Willis, a third-round selection by the Titans in this year’s draft, turned heads in a big way despite the 23-10 loss. He went 6-for-11 (54.5%) for 107 yards and rushed five times for another 38 yards and one touchdown.

On Friday’s “First Things First,” Nick Wright broke down what to make of Willis’ performance and what it means for Ryan Tannehill — who previously said the two are “competing against each other” and that it’s not his job to mentor Willis — moving forward.

“Can you imagine waking up this morning [as] a [Seattle] Seahawks or a [New York] Giants fan, knowing you passed on this guy four times,” Wright said. “Three times, each team, after the first round you passed on him. I’m not sitting here saying, ‘Based on last night, we know Malik Willis is gonna be a star.’ I’m not saying that. What I am saying is, a guy who was considered he might go sixth overall to Carolina — these quarterback-needy teams letting him fall all the way to the tail end of the third round was bananas.”

The Titans picked up Arkansas wideout Treylon Burks (No. 18 overall), Auburn cornerback Roger McCreary (No. 35) and Ohio State offensive tackle Nicholas Petit-Frere (No. 69) before selecting the former Liberty QB with their final third-round pick at 86th overall.

“Ryan Tannehill needs to have the shortest leash in the NFL this year,” Wright added. “Can I remind you how the Titans’ seasons keep ending? With backbreaking Ryan Tannehill interceptions and playoff games [the Titans] have no business losing. … I believe the emotional baggage for the team is gonna be damaging. ‘Well, we were the 1-seed last year.’ It didn’t matter, and they’re not gonna be the 1-seed this year with no A.J. Brown and with the other issues they have.

“When you have the potential upside of a Malik Willis, I would have packages involving him as soon as you can, and if the season starts to go even a little awry or Tannehill starts to be a little shaky — I would get Malik Willis on the field as early as possible.”

Every run and throw from Willis’ NFL debut was noteworthy, but that isn’t surprising given what he did in his college football days. After playing at Auburn for two seasons, Willis transferred to Liberty in 2019.

In two seasons (2020-21) at Liberty, Willis threw for 5,107 yards and 47 touchdowns. The 23-year-old added 1,822 yards on the ground and 27 rushing scores over that same time. Oh, and he’s never fumbled. The Flames went 17-6 with Willis as a full-time starter.

On “The Herd,” Colin Cowherd broke down why he has so much confidence in the mobile signal-caller.

“He’s got a huge arm, he’s a special athlete, but he went to a small college,” Cowherd said. “So all I heard about Malik Willis before the draft was things he can’t do, … but what I saw last night is what he can do — make other pro athletes look really slow. Stop nitpicking the ‘can’t’ and look at what they can do.”

Malik Willis shines in Titans debut vs. Ravens

The Liberty product raised a few questions about his game heading into the 2022 NFL Draft, but Colin Cowherd is here to set the record straight on Willis.

“[Malik Willis] can throw 65 yards off the wrong foot,” Cowherd added. “People confuse unique and different for ‘can’t’. Let’s stop boxing people in.”

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Source: FOX Sports


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