Third-round pick Malik Willis got his first taste of the NFL on Thursday, when the quarterback started for the Tennessee Titans in their first preseason game. Willis also got his first taste of what it is like to lose in the NFL, falling to the Baltimore Ravens 23-10.
Willis was 6-for-11 for 107 yards and no touchdowns in the air but made a bigger impact on the ground with five carries for 38 yards, including an electrifying touchdown run. It was far from a terrible performance, but he did look like a rookie.
The 23-year-old says he has "a lot to learn from" the loss and "a lot to look at on film."
After the game, he noted that when he missed a play he made up for it by using his running abilities. "That's what preseason is for," Willis said on making mistakes and learning from the mishaps.
"I should have done better. Like I said, it's a learning experience and you have to take it for what it is. It's preseason, but it's an opportunity at the same time, so I'm just going to try and continue to work and watch through the film and just keep on going," Willis said (via NFL.com).
His release time could use some work and the chemistry with the receivers is still a work in progress, but he was able to put his running ability on display in the debut. Head coach Mike Vrabel agreed that Willis needs to release the ball faster.
Vrabel says his release time is something the team will evaluate.
"There were some good plays and obviously some plays we're gonna have to look at the timing on the release and if we're making the right decisions," Vrabel said.
Vrabel also commented on Willis' play and like the quarterback, noted there is room for improvement.
"I think it was OK. There were some sloppy stuff, but he got us into the right plays and it probably comes down to execution. It's different; it's a new experience for all of these guys. We've got a lot of rookies on this team, and there's going to be a lot of guys that will continue to develop and get better," Vrabel said. "Just want to make sure that they're competing each and every day, and they understand how difficult this league is, especially as a young quarterback, to step back in there with a live rush and seeing coverage."
Vrabel added that this is the point of preseason games and why he wanted Willis to get some preseason experience.
"That's why I wanted him to take the ball, to put him in those situations. That's the only way you can grow. He kept some plays alive with his legs, and we just have to be able to combine some of that with making great decisions when guys are open and being decisive and accurate with the football," Vrabel said.
The Titans next game is Aug. 20 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.