Malik Willis

When Kenny Pickett made his first appearance for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason, he was the centre of many eyes. As the 20th overall choice, they clearly view him as a potential successor to Ben Roethlisberger. Considering that Mitchell Trubisky is currently the starting quarterback for the Steelers, a transition strategy may need to be put in place sooner rather than later.

The Steelers’ Pickett led them on a game-winning drive, but he had to be on the field late in the game, facing off against a defence that had just finished Week 1 of the preseason. Malik Willis, the quarterback many predicted the Steelers would select first overall, began last week for the Titans in their game against the Ravens.

If Tannehill is fit to play, he will start the season at quarterback. He took over for Marcus Mariota in 2019, and ever since then, the Titans have played their finest football since Steve McNair was at the helm. In 2017, the Titans were the AFC’s top seed for the first time since Kerry Collins’s 2008 season, however, they were eliminated by the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round. Tannehill threw his third interception of the game late in the fourth quarter, costing the Titans a chance for a tie game and ultimately the contest.

Tannehill was outstanding in his first 10 starts of the year, but his play has declined since then. There were 14 picks last year, and he finished with fewer passing yards than Roethlisberger. Now 33 years old, the Titans will need a new quarterback if they are to make the final leap toward a Super Bowl title.

Malik Willis

With Tannehill sidelined for Week 1 of the preseason, Willis got his first shot to be that person and he absolutely blew everyone away with his extraordinary athleticism. He took a breath, settled his shoulders, and unleashed a pinpoint pass to second-year wideout Racey McMath for 48 yards. Willis, who rushed for 878 yards for Liberty, showed off his speed by scoring a touchdown from seven yards out in the first quarter.

In spite of Willis’s stellar first-half performance, Vrabel benched him earlier than expected in the second. “I wanted Malik to throw the ball and he wasn’t,” Vrabel said to the media after the game. To that end, I substituted Logan Woodside.

Vrabel also pointed out that Willis could be more decisive and throw the ball to open receivers more often. On a play that may have resulted in a score of 50 yards or more, Willis dropped a pass intended for Titans first-round pick Treylon Burks. On average, Willis was keeping possession of the ball for 3.98 seconds every play. Next Gen Stats reports that Jalen Hurts had the slowest average throw time of any quarterback last year, at 3.12 seconds.

While Willis certainly has the potential to be a successful NFL quarterback, he still has a lot to learn. The 197 carries he made for Liberty in 2021 won’t be repeated here. To be fair, not even Lamar Jackson carries the ball that frequently for the Ravens. Willis also needs to practise directing the offence while in a huddle. According to ESPN’s Turron Davenport, Liberty called plays from the sidelines.

Willis has had an up-and-down training camp as the Titans have tried to get him adjusted to operating mostly from the pocket. Also, he used the shotgun primarily in college, which is not a good fit for a club with Derrick Henry at running back.

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Willis is not just the most gifted quarterback in his rookie class, but also on his own team. He still has a lot of work to do before he can successfully lead an NFL system, but it’s evident he’s worth the investment. The way the football flies when he lets go of it with assurance is a sight to behold.

It is par for the course for a first-year quarterback in the NFL to struggle with the rapid pace at which choices must be made. The Patriots’ quarterback coach had a note on Tom Brady that read “everything he does, he needs to do quicker” during Brady’s rookie year. The helper explained how his actions and choices were being evaluated.

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