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Titans Rookie QB Malik Willis Made Strides Over the Past Four Months, But What's Next?


NASHVILLE – Right after the Titans picked quarterback Malik Willis in the NFL Draft, the team put him on a crash course to get up to speed as fast as possible.

Over the past four months, Willis spent extra time with coaches in the classroom and on the field, got extra reps in practices, and he started all three of the team's preseason contests.

Because Willis improved as much as he did, the team felt comfortable enough to keep just two quarterbacks on the initial 53-man roster – starter Ryan Tannehill, and Willis. On Wednesday, the team signed Logan Woodside to the practice squad after releasing him on Tuesday.

Willis, however, knows his work is far from over.

"The thought process hasn't changed," Willis said. "It's about going in and trying to work every day, still being that sponge, learning from Ryan and Logan and understanding: The job isn't finished. It's just beginning."

Willis, taken in the third round out of Liberty, completed 28-of-51 passes for 318 yards and two touchdowns in the preseason, with one interception. He also ran for 159 yards on 14 carries, with a touchdown run.

Titans General Manager Jon Robinson on Wednesday complimented Willis for his progress.

"He really improved,' Robinson said of Willis. "He certainly made some impressive plays in the preseason in the games, even at practice. The ball coming out of his hand a little quicker. Throwing with a little better anticipation, deciphering working through coverages. We just thought he was on the right track. He still has a long way to go, but certainly trending in the right direction."

So, what now?

Head coach Mike Vrabel on Wednesday discussed Willis and his potential role with the scout team.

"It will be how it would be with any backup quarterback," Vrabel said of Willis. "He is still preparing like he's going to be the starter, so is Logan (Woodside). He'll get some reps throughout the course of the day, but the majority of his work and every backup quarterback that I've been associated with, that's where their work is."

Willis knows he has to keep improving as he takes a backseat to Tannehill.

He's far from a finished product, not even close.

As Willis said himself, he's just getting started.

"It's about going out there and earning your keep," Willis said, "and earning your spot every day."

"There's no way for me to look at it like: "OK, I don't feel like I am going to be playing now because the preseason is over with, so I don't have to go as hard in practice, or I don't have to try and keep trying to progress,'" Willis said. "I have to truly continue that mindset of trying to get better every day and soaking up any information I can on and off the field, soaking up any interactions with my teammates, that may help me in the future and understanding what comes with it."

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