Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis will make his first career NFL start on Sunday as the team downgraded Ryan Tannehill to out as he deals with an illness and an ankle injury. Willis got all the first-team reps in practice this week, gearing him up to start against the Houston Texans. Tannehill did not practice all week and will not travel to Houston with the team for the divisional matchup.
Willis had a "productive" week of practice, and received help from Tannehill, who was key in familiarizing the young quarterback with what he needs to know for his first start, per Jeremy Fowler.
Willis doesn't have much regular-season experience, but he did impress in the preseason. In the preseason, he completed 28-of-51 passes for 318 passing yards and two touchdowns. The dual threat quarterback also had 159 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. He's already seen limited action in the regular season, at the end of a Week 2 blowout loss against the Buffalo Bills. He went 1 of 4 with six passing yards and had four carries for 16 yards, including a lost fumble on one of his runs.
Willis was drafted in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft with the No. 86 overall draft. He was projected by most to go in the first round, with some predicting he could go as high as the second overall pick, so it was a surprise when he was still available in the third round.
With Tannehill unavailable for Week 8, the Titans will make quarterback Logan Woodside a gameday elevation, with Woodside returning to the practice squad after the game.
Willis faces a Texans team sitting at 1-4-1, setting himself up for a chance at his first NFL win. The Titans, currently 4-2 and leading the AFC South, look to get their fifth straight win on Sunday.