No person made extra of an affect on the opening evening of preseason than Malik Willis. The Titans’ rookie QB performed one half in opposition to the Ravens, and made himself inconceivable to disregard. It’s astonishingly early, however Twitter was abuzz with individuals already dubbing him “the steal of the draft,” and ready to anoint him as the following nice one. We are able to pump the brakes on that for now, however what we noticed was very, very promising.
Willis performed restricted time, going 6-for-11 with 107 yards by means of the air, dashing for one more 38 yards on the bottom, together with a landing. His efficiency was paying homage to his time at Liberty — and that’s big. One of many greatest questions on Willis previous to the draft is whether or not his recreation in opposition to sub-par competitors in school would translate to the NFL. Whereas it’s true he didn’t play in opposition to the Ravens’ top-flight protection, he nonetheless shredded NFL-caliber gamers, and by no means appeared just like the second overwhelmed him.
I’ll be sincere, I didn’t anticipate the transition to go this easily, this early. Previous to the NFL Draft he was the No. 1 QB on my board, and I believed he was the one quarterback in 2022 with the potential to develop into a celebrity. Willis possessed uncommon arm expertise, with a knack for scrambling solely when the pocket broke down and passing turned inconceivable.
“What makes Willis such a uncommon commodity is his short-yardage dashing capability, paired with the most effective arms I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s not simply that Willis possesses energy, it’s his contact on deep passes that units him aside from everybody else on this class. He appears to simply have an innate feeling for learn how to goal defensive backs deep, and routinely locations the ball the place solely his receiver can get it.”
We noticed precisely this in opposition to the Ravens, when he dropped a deep ball proper within the bucket to Racey McMath after it traveled 53 yards by means of the air.
This isn’t simply howitzer power, it was an anticipation throw that trusted the receiver in his break — whereas guaranteeing the security wasn’t free excessive to make a play on the ball. This can be a massive time NFL throw, and never one thing you’d anticipate from a 3rd spherical decide. After all, so far as I’m involved, Willis ought to by no means have been a 3rd spherical decide.
One other move, albeit riskier in execution, was this scrambling side-arm move to tight finish Tommy Hudson.
The ball comes out with velocity out of an unstable base, and picks up the primary down. This isn’t one thing you’d need to see each day, nevertheless it’s good to see that he has play-extending capability together with his arm, as nicely has his legs.
Lastly was the massive spotlight that everybody talked about, Willis’ landing run.
This wasn’t a designed run, or a participant who made his determination to run when the ball approach snapped. Willis stayed within the pocket, went by means of his first and second reads, THEN averted the frenzy and ran for a landing. This can be a massive time play that’s not wholly dissimilar to the kinds of runs Josh Allen makes when his pocket breaks down.
Sure, it’s all very early — however every little thing Willis did final evening confirmed glimpses of an elite quarterback. There’s a lengthy technique to go. He’ll want to interrupt down defenses on movie, cope with adversity when video games matter, and alter to defenses keying in on him after watching movie to scheme in opposition to him.
Nonetheless, the long run is ludicrously brilliant, and the sky appears to be like to be the restrict. Congratulations Titans followers, you bought a great one.