Malik Willis

Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans

Malik Willis News

Will be backup QB Saturday

Willis will operate as the backup quarterback behind Joshua Dobbs for Saturday's regular season finale against Jacksonville, Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official site reports.

Analysis: With Ryan Tannehill (ankle) on injured reserve, Willis drew the start in Week 16, but he threw two interceptions and was benched for Week 17. While the Titans lost to Dallas last Thursday, Vrabel said he was encouraged by the way Dobbs played and is confident in the veteran backup's ability. Willis is a rookie third-round pick and figures to have a future in Tennessee, but barring an injury, it appears like he'll be relegated to bench duties for the remainder of the 2022 campaign.

Jan 2, 2023 2:14 PM EST

Candidate to start finale

Coach Mike Vrabel is still deciding whether Willis or Joshua Dobbs will start the regular season finale against the Jaguars, Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official site reports.

Analysis: The Titans went with Dobbs against Dallas on Thursday, and the 27-year-old quarterback threw for a respectable 232 yards with one touchdown and two turnovers in the 27-13 loss. Willis is more capable of making plays with his legs, but the rookie third-round pick out of Liberty failed to break triple digits in passing yards in any of his first three NFL starts. Needing a Week 18 win to make the postseason, the Titans will prioritize winning now over any future development, which seems to give Dobbs the inside track given Willis' struggles as a passer to date.

Dec 30, 2022 11:52 AM EST

Not expected to start Thursday

The Titans are expected to start Josh Dobbs rather than Willis in Thursday night's game against the Cowboys, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network and Adam Schefter of ESPN report.

Analysis: With Ryan Tannehill (ankle) already ruled out for the contest, it looks like the Titans are in line to start Dobbs, with the team likely to rest a number of key players with an eye toward being as healthy as possible for a looming AFC South title showdown against the Jaguars in Week 18.

Dec 29, 2022 9:56 AM EST

Getting another start Thursday

Willis will start Thursday's game against Dallas with Ryan Tannehill (ankle) ruled out again, Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official site reports.

Analysis: Tannehill won't return until the playoffs, if at all this season, and Willis' performance so far doesn't inspire confidence in the Titans making it beyond Week 18. Their game this Thursday is all but meaningless in terms of the AFC playoff picture, which probably explains why Derrick Henry (hip) and a slew of other key players are either listed as doubtful or out (to be fair, some of them have missed game recent games). With that in mind, the Titans could let Willis take more shots, even against a tough Dallas defense, as their playoff fortunes are almost certain to depend on the result Week 18 at Jacksonville and nothing else.

Dec 28, 2022 1:30 PM EST

Ugly effort in loss

Willis completed 14 of 23 passes for 99 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions in Saturday's 19-14 loss to the Texans. He added seven rushes for 43 yards and a touchdown.

Analysis: Willis drew his fourth start of the season with Ryan Tannehill (ankle) sidelined, but he struggled to get the Titans' offense moving. He averaged only 4.3 yards per attempt and his longest completion of the day went for just 14 yards. In addition, Willis threw a pair of interceptions, the first of which came on a potential game-winning drive inside Houston territory late in the fourth quarter. Positively, he did tally a 14-yard rushing score midway through the third quarter. While that hinted at his potential to excel, Willis' outlook for the final two games of the regular season is not positive.

Dec 24, 2022 3:45 PM EST

Should get at least two starts

Willis is expected to start Saturday's game against the Texans as well as the Titans' Week 17 matchup with the Cowboys next Thursday while Ryan Tannehill (ankle) is sidelined through at least Week 18 after undergoing a surgical procedure earlier this week, Adam Schefter of reports.

Analysis: According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Tannehill had a tightrope procedure on his right ankle after he suffered the injury during the Titans' first possession of last week's loss to the Chargers. Though Tannehill missed just one series before checking back in and finishing out the game, he didn't practice in any fashion this week after opting for surgery. Rapoport relays that a three-week recovery timeline typically represents a best-case scenario for these kind of procedures, but Schefter reports that Tannehill is still viewed as a "long shot" for a Week 18 matchup with the Jaguars, a game that could determine the AFC South champion. At least for the next two weeks, the Titans will have to turn to Willis, who previously started for an injured Tannehill in Weeks 8 and 9. Though the Titans beat the Texans and lost to the Chiefs in overtime during that two-game stretch, Willis wasn't asked to do much while Tennessee leaned heavily on running back Derrick Henry. Willis attempted just 26 total passes in those two starts, completing 11 of those throws for 135 yards and an interception while adding 52 yards and 13 carries.

Dec 24, 2022 5:40 AM EST

Stepping in for injured Tannehill

Head coach Mike Vrabel confirmed Thursday that Willis will start Saturday's game against the Texans with Ryan Tannehill (ankle) ruled out for the contest, Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official site reports.

Analysis: For the time being, Tennessee has ruled Tannehill out only for the Week 16 contest, but Turron Davenport of reported Wednesday that the Titans' top signal-caller is "very likely" done for the season due to a right ankle injury that is expected to require surgery. Tannehill's absence sets up Willis to make his third start of the season, including his second against the Texans, which came back in the two teams' previous matchup in Week 8. During Willis' prior two-game run as the starter, the Titans leaned heavily on running back Derrick Henry, with the rookie signal-caller attempting just 26 total passes and accounting for only 135 yards the air between a win over Houston and a Week 9 loss to Kansas City. The speedy Willis at least proved to be more of a threat on the ground, rushing 13 times for 52 yards in those games. While his rushing ability gives him some theoretical fantasy upside, Willis' lack of reliable passing volume makes it difficult to justify starting him in one-quarterback lineups.

Dec 22, 2022 11:21 AM EST

Sees action in Sunday's loss

Willis completed three of four passes for 20 yards and gained eight rushing yards on one carry in Sunday's 17-14 loss to the Chargers.

Analysis: The rookie was pressed into action in the first quarter when Ryan Tannehill was carted back to the locker room with an ankle injury, but the Titans' starting QB was able to return to the lineup before halftime, putting Willis back on the sideline. He's gotten snaps in seven games so far this season, but Willis is still looking for his first NFL touchdown, either through the air or on the ground.

Dec 18, 2022 6:46 PM EST

Plays in garbage time

Willis completed two of four passes for 16 yards in Sunday's 35-10 loss to the Eagles. He also ran the ball once for eight yards.

Analysis: Willis entered the game almost exactly halfway through the fourth quarter with the Titans down 25 points. He primarily handed the ball off to Julius Chestnut, though he did connect with Dontrell Hilliard for a gain of 10 yards and C.J. Board for a gain of six yards. Willis will remain the backup to close the 2022 season unless Ryan Tannehill becomes unavailable.

Dec 6, 2022 7:01 PM EST

Back to No. 2 role

Willis will return to a backup role Sunday against the Broncos with Ryan Tannehill (ankle) active for the contest and cleared to start, Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official site reports.

Analysis: While Tannehill was sidelined for the past two weeks, Willis started but handled little more than a caretaker role while the Titans leaned even more heavily into the Derrick Henry-led ground attack. Willis showed some rushing upside of his own by carrying 13 times for 52 yards in games against the Texans and Chiefs in Weeks 8 and 9, respectively, but he showed little polish as a passer, completing just 11 of 26 attempts for 135 yards and an interception. So long as Tannehill stays healthy the rest of the way, Willis' remaining opportunities this season will likely come in garbage-time situations late in games.

Nov 13, 2022 9:06 AM EST

Struggles in second start

Willis completed just five of 16 pass attempts for 80 yards and rushed eight times for 40 yards in Sunday's 20-17 overtime loss to Kansas City.

Analysis: Willis was thrust into another start with Ryan Tannehill (ankle) still unavailable due to injury. The rookie performed better than his mediocre stat line would suggest, as he was able to protect the ball and provide enough of a threat with his legs so that Derrick Henry (17/115/2) could eat. Willis' inexperience showed down the stretch when he suffered a couple of drive-killing sacks while trying to extend broken plays. Ryan Tannehill was questionable leading up to this primetime loss, so the the third-round pick may find himself back at second on the quarterback depth chart for next Sunday's tilt against the Broncos. If the former is unable to go, Willis should be treated as a low-end fantasy option based on his poor results over these last two emergency starts.

Nov 6, 2022 11:13 PM EST

Draws another start Sunday

With Ryan Tannehill (ankle) inactive for Sunday night's game against the Chiefs, Willis is in line for his second consecutive start at QB for the Titans, Turron Davenport of ESPN reports.

Analysis: In last weekend's 17-10 win over the Texans, Willis completed 6-of-10 passing attempts for 55 yards with one interception and no TDs, while adding five carries for 12 yards in a contest in which the Titans leaned heavily on running back Derrick Henry. A similar approach could once again be in order Sunday if game flow allows for it, though Willis should throw more frequently than he did against Houston. With that in mind, the 2022 third-rounder is a speculative fantasy option in Week 9 against the 5-2 Chiefs, but the rookie does at least represent an alternative for those who normally rely on Tannehill or who are seeking short-term help in QB-heavy formats, with six NFL teams currently on bye.

Nov 6, 2022 4:03 PM EST

Could be in line for another start

Willis took most of the first-team reps in practice this week and could be on tap for another start Sunday in Kansas City with Ryan Tannehill (ankle) listed as questionable for the contest but uncertain to be available, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports.

Analysis: Though Tannehill traveled to Kansas City and is being treated as a game-time decision, Rapoport relays that the quarterback was "very, very limited" in practice this week after sitting out the Titans' Week 8 win over the Texans. While Tannehill plans to do everything he can to play, Rapoport suggests that there's "not a lot of optimism" the veteran signal-caller will be ready to play. With that in mind, Willis may be primed for a second consecutive start, but the Titans would undoubtedly prefer to lean heavily on the Derrick Henry-led ground attack for as long as the game flow allows for it. Even so, keeping pace with the Chiefs' prolific offense won't be an easy task, so if Willis starts, expect him to drop back more frequently than he did last week, when he attempted just 10 passes. While the rookie is unproven as a passer at the NFL, Willis demonstrated elite rushing ability in college and during the preseason, so he could have some intrigue in leagues that start two quarterbacks or have a QB flex lineup spot available. Fantasy managers will still want to have an alternative plan on hand for Willis, however, if Tannehill avoids the inactive list ahead of Sunday's 8:20 p.m. ET kickoff.

Nov 6, 2022 6:54 AM EST

Does little in first start

Willis completed six of 10 passes for 55 yards and an interception while adding 12 rushing yards on five carries in Sunday's 17-10 win over the Texans.

Analysis: The 2022 third-round pick didn't look ready for prime time in his first career start and failed to make an impact with his arm or his legs. Fortunately for Willis and the Titans, Derrick Henry was once again trampling the Texans defense into the dirt, and they didn't need the rookie QB to do much. Ryan Tannehill (ankle) could be ready to return next week, but if he isn't Willis will need to raise his game significantly in a road matchup against Kansas City.

Oct 30, 2022 7:37 PM EST

Slated for debut

Willis is expected to start Sunday against the Texans with Ryan Tannehill (illness/ankle) officially unable to play, Jim Wyatt of the Titans' official site reports.

Analysis: Tannehill started each of the Titans' past 49 games, but with the veteran on the mend due to an ankle sprain and also struggling with an illness, the team will turn to the 2022 third-round pick to make his first career start. It's possible Willis could actually improve a passing attack that currently ranks 25th in the NFL given Houston's defense will have to account for the rookie's explosiveness as a runner, but it's also fair to point out Willis' struggles throughout the preseason, which account for his only real action at the NFL level. Expect a heavy dose of Derrick Henry to help Willis ease his way into the contest to start, but provided the Titans uncork the athletic weapon, the Liberty product could be in for an intriguing fantasy day.

Oct 29, 2022 11:58 AM EST

Prepping for possible Week 8 start

Willis took reps with the first-team offense at Friday's practice and would be in line to start Sunday against the Texans if Ryan Tannehill (ankle) -- who is listed as questionable for the contest -- is unable to play, Terry McCormick of reports.

Analysis: Tannehill has started each of the Titans' last 49 games, but his availability for Week 8 is in jeopardy after he missed a pair of practices this week -- including Friday's session -- while managing a right ankle injury. According to McCormick, head coach Mike Vrabel said that the Titans will likely wait as long as possible to see how Tannehill heals up from the injury before determining the quarterback's availability for Sunday's contest, so Tannehill is seemingly trending toward a game-time decision ahead of the 4:05 p.m. ET kickoff. If Tannehill is inactive this weekend or dresses an emergency backup, Willis, a rookie third-round pick out of Liberty, would at least make for an intriguing option in DFS contests or in two-quarterback or superflex season-long leagues. Willis has taken just 19 regular-season snaps, but the dual-threat signal-caller turned some heads in the preseason with 28 completions for 318 yards and two touchdowns on 51 attempts while amassing 159 yards and a score on 14 carries.

Oct 28, 2022 12:20 PM EST

Makes regular-season debut

Willis completed one of four passes for six yards to go along with no touchdowns and no interceptions in Monday's 41-7 loss to the Bills. He added four rushes for 16 yards.

Analysis: Willis played the final 19 minutes of the game, entering in relief of Ryan Tannehill in the midst of the blowout loss. He struggled with his accuracy as a passer -- his lone completion went to Austin Hooper -- and also lost a fumble. On the other hand, he did show his potential as a rusher, one of the factors that made him an intriguing prospect in the 2022 NFL Draft. Despite Ryan Tannehill's early struggles, Willis will almost certainly remain the backup for the majority -- if not the entirety -- of the campaign.

Sep 20, 2022 6:02 PM EST

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