BALTIMORE — While the Baltimore Ravens won their 21st-straight preseason NFL game on Thursday night, the big story was Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis.
The Titans selected the quarterback out of Liberty in the third round of the NFL Draft after he was projected to be a first round pick, and even a top 10 pick at one point, for much of the offseason leading up to the NFL Draft.
Willis finished 6-for-11 with 107 yards through the air, adding a dynamic touchdown run with 38 yards rushing.
“I thought we saw everything we would’ve wanted to see from Malik Willis. He got the start in the game," Rowland said on Locked On Sports Today. "You saw the TD run from Willis, he made some guys miss, he handled pressure in the pocket, that’s the mobility and the playmaking that you knew you could get from him. You also saw the arm strength on the 48-yard completion to Racey McMath…He gave you everything…You also saw some rookie mistakes. There’s ups and downs. But the only 10 points the Titans scored were when Malik Willis was out there making plays.”
While Malik Willis certainly wasn’t perfect, Rowland says you saw the reasons why he should be the backup quarterback in Tennessee over current backup Logan Woodside.
“One of the big things I’ve been harping on throughout the offseason is the Titans feel some sort of misplaced loyalty to their current backup QB Logan Woodside, who simply isn’t an NFL quarterback in terms of talent," Rowland said. "He’s clearly a superior player to Logan Woodside. No, I don’t expect him to overtake Ryan Tannehill this year. But he clearly should be quarterback two for the Tennessee Titans. And that gives them the ability to use him in some packages to use that mobility throughout the year.”
Rowland said Malik Willis being in Tennessee is the perfect situation for him.
“Being in Tennessee is the perfect situation for Willis because he can all of the preseason reps and opportunities to get better and then it’s not like other high profile rookie quarterbacks, he doesn't have to play in year one, he can sit and learn. It’s a perfect match between a quarterback prospect and an NFL franchise.”
Giants start with preseason win
Meanwhile in the other preseason game Thursday night, the New York Giants started the Brian Daboll era on the right note with a win over the New England Patriots.
This was the debut of Daboll’s staff, also the debut for Daniel Jones in that new system. We also saw backup Tyrod Taylor play well in that game.
“As expected, they were very vanilla. All the pre-snap motion, the fancy looks we’ve been seeing in practice, we knew we weren’t going to see it in the game because why put them out there? That went for the defense as well. The first team offense was a bit of a mixed bag…Daniel Jones’ numbers probably could’ve been a little better if Kenny Golladay hadn’t had a drop in the red zone, should’ve been a touchdown and they settled for a short field goal. Not what you want to see, especially from a team that in the past, the red zone has been the dead zone for them. Otherwise Daniel Jones made good decisions and moved his feet when he needed to and there were no turnovers.”
We also saw Saquon Barkley back on the field after injuries last season. He didn’t put up much in terms of numbers with four rushes for 13 yards.
“He looked healthy, decisive. There weren’t many opportunities for him to break one open and the vanilla play calling kind of limited what he was doing. We saw his runs up the gut, which is not really his strength. We didn’t see the off tackle runs or misdirection runs we saw in practice. It was just a chance for the coaching staff to get some confidence and see he’s getting healthier and healthier.”
Backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor looked impressive as well. After Daniel Jones’ struggles over his first few seasons, could there be a chance that Taylor overtakes him for the starting role at some point?
“Tyrod Taylor is by far the best backup they’ve had in quite some time. But you have to remember the Patriots didn’t play their starters. Jones and Taylor both went up against the backups and i believe Tyrod Taylor got more snaps. His numbers were going to look a little better. Tyrod Taylor is a starting caliber quarterback and if Jones ever goes down, he’s a great option. Am i ready to say he’s the best QB in camp? I don’t think I would say that right now. But certainly as a backup option, I feel a lot better with him than their previous backups.”