Titans' Malik Willis Makes NFL Debut as Ryan Tannehill Benched After 2 INTs vs. Bills

Doric SamSeptember 20, 2022

NASHVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Malik Willis #7 of the Tennessee Titans warms up prior to an NFL football game against the New York Giants at Nissan Stadium on September 11, 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)
Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images

Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis made his NFL debut, replacing starter Ryan Tannehill in the third quarter of Monday night's game against the Buffalo Bills.

Tannehill was benched after throwing for 117 yards and two interceptions on 11-of-20 passing. Willis is now the first rookie quarterback to see game action this season.

Rich Eisen @richeisen

It’s Malik Willis time. <br><br>3:49 left in the 3rd. <br><br>The Bills steal your souls, mess with your heads and then your roster.

The Bills had taken a 41-7 lead on a pick-six by Matt Milano, which sent Tannehill to the bench. The veteran was more effective in the season opener against the New York Giants, throwing for 266 yards and two touchdowns with no turnovers, though the Titans lost on a late field goal.

Willis was the third quarterback taken in the 2022 draft when Tennessee selected him with a third-round pick. He had initially been projected to be a possible first-round pick, but there weren't many quarterback-needy teams. The Titans took the chance to secure their signal-caller of the future when he fell down the draft board.

The 23-year-old is known for his dual-threat ability, as he rushed for 1,822 yards and 27 touchdowns in his two seasons at Liberty while also throwing for 5,107 yards and 47 scores. He adds a different dimension to the Tennessee offense because of his willingness to utilize his athleticism.

Prior to the start of the season, the Titans were hoping to bring Willis along slowly in his development.

"Naturally there's going to be a learning curve," offensive coordinator Todd Downing said in August. "He is a very gifted thrower that has great ball speed and has an accurate ball. There are probably times when he got away with things collegiately that he's not going to be able to get away with in the pros. Tying his feet to his progressions and helping the timing, there will be a major step in the process. He's made strides and realizing that he can trust that process."

After Monday, the process is now accelerated, and there's a chance this won't be the last time we see Willis this season.