Tennessee Titans Rookie QB Gets Benched For Not Throwing The Ball
Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel was unhappy with his rookie QB's performance in Thursday's preseason opener. Vrabel removed first-year QB Malik Willis citing a desire for the rookie QB to throw the ball more and run less.
Tennessee Titans Head Coach Mike Vrabel was unhappy with his rookie QB’s performance in Thursday’s preseason opener. Vrabel removed first-year QB Malik Willis citing a desire for the rookie QB to throw the ball more and run less.
“He needs to try and throw the ball when guys are open, be more decisive,” said Vrabel. “We’ll evaluate that.” Willis ended the day going 6-11 for 107 yards through the air adding 38 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Willis started the game in place of Titans starter Ryan Tannehill who is not expected to play in the preseason. When specifically asked why he benched Willis, Vrabel said, “I wanted Malik to throw the ball and he wasn’t. So I put Logan in.”
The rookie QB was drafted this year in the third round out of Liberty University. Originally starting out his college career at Auburn Willis transferred to Liberty after losing a QB battle to Bo Nix.
Willis put up huge numbers while playing under former Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze at Liberty, the largest Christian college in the United States. In his final year at Liberty Willis threw for over 2,800 yards, ran for nearly 900 more, and accounted for 40 total TDs.
HC Vrabel’s desire to see his young QB throw the ball more is not surprising. Willis fell to the Titans in the third round partly due to concerns about his ability to throw the ball consistently at the next level.
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Some analysts expected Willis to be a first-round pick in the 2022 draft largely because of his immense physical gifts. “Willis is the most physically gifted quarterback prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft, bar none.” according to The Draft Network.
Despite these physical gifts, some scouts had concerns about Willis’ transition to the next level. The jump from Liberty, a former FCS school that only recently joined NCAAF’s top division, was expected to lead to growing pains.
NFL evaluators were also worried about the “simplicity” of the offense Willis ran at Liberty according to NFL insider Ian Rapoport. “Everybody loves the talent, but the offense he plays in is so simple. There are questions [about] how quickly could he get acclimated to the NFL? Could it take one year? Could it take two years? That certainly has led to some of the hesitancy with him not getting selected.”
Willis acknowledged he tried to cover for some rookie mistakes by using his legs in his professional debut. “I mean, you’ve got a lot to learn from, a lot to look at on film, so I guess it’s really cool to get out there again and play football,” Willis said after the game, according to NFL.com. “You know, I missed some things, probably, and I just made up for it with my legs and continued to rely on that, but that’s what preseason is for.”
Willis remained optimistic “I’m going to remember the things I should have done better. But it is a learning experience – it’s the preseason, but it’s an opportunity at the same time. I just have to continue to work.”
His coach offered a small glimmer of encouragement “I wanted to get him out there and see how he responded. He did OK.” Coming from a surly veteran coach and Bill Belichick disciple like Mike Vrabel “OK’ is as glowing of an endorsement as a young QB could hope for.