In first place of the AFC South at 7-7, suddenly, the Tennessee Titans’ postseason hopes could be on the rocks. In Week 15, Ryan Tannehill re-aggravated a previous ankle injury that kept him out of action for two games earlier in the year and now may be set to miss the final three games of the regular season.
It’s a tough spot for the Titans to be in, seeing as they’ve already lost four games in a row and have the 6-8 Jacksonville Jaguars at their heels in the NFL standings.
But maybe it can signal some hope for the future in the long run, as backup QB Malik Willis was drafted for a reason. We can’t act like Tannehill is in the upper tier of NFL QBs, and the 34-year-old isn’t getting any younger. He’s also headed into 2023 in the final year of his contract, where the Titans can move on by designating him a post-June 1 cap casualty, saving $27 million, while incurring a $9.6M penalty.
Yet right now, that’s not the expectation, as Tannehill is currently the best quarterback on a roster with playoff hopes heading into next season.
Then again, Willis has a huge opportunity to change perceptions over the next three weeks, and if he can lead the Titans into the playoffs, maybe longer.
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Malik Willis could become QB1 of the future in Ryan Tannehill’s absence
Back in April, the Titans pounced on Willis slipping to the third round in the NFL draft, he became the third quarterback selected. Coming out of Liberty, Willis was a highly-touted prospect who had some wondering if the electric athlete could even rise into the first round.
Yet, the 23-year-old was also viewed as an extremely raw prospect who may need a lot more seasoning before he’s ready to play with the NFL’s best on a weekly basis. There’s no question his athleticism translates, as he certainly has pro-level speed and power in the open field.
But it’s not hard to see Tennessee has questions about his abilities as a passer. In his previous two starts, Willis attempted just 10 passes in his debut and 16 in his second appearance. In total, he’s completed just 44.7% of his passes as a rookie.
He’s also been receiving more first-team reps as of late, with Tannehill reducing his snaps during practice as he managed his still-ailing ankle injury. Perhaps Willis getting more time operating the offense can lead to a more productive passing offense. We’re about to find out, with the Houston Texans on the schedule for Saturday.
Maybe we’ll look back in a few weeks and forget Tannehill was the team leader, or maybe we’ll quickly see why Willis lasted into the third round. For now, seeing how the Titans may or may not change their offense with a much more mobile option under center will be interesting. Expect a lot more rushing attempts.
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