Tennessee Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis is reportedly set to make his first career start Sunday against the Houston Texans.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, Willis took all the starter reps in practice this week as Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill has been dealing with an illness as well as an ankle sprain.
The illness caused him to miss the team's walkthrough Saturday, solidifying Willis as this week's starter. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport added that Tannehill has been downgraded to out and will not travel with the team to Houston.
Willis appeared in two games this season, with 17 of his 20 snaps coming late in a 41-7 blowout loss to the Buffalo Bills after Tannehill was benched. The 23-year-old completed one of his four passes for six yards, and he ran the ball four times for 16 yards but lost a fumble.
A third-round pick out of Liberty, Willis was originally projected to be one of the first quarterback prospects to be selected in this year's draft. But when he inexplicably tumbled down the draft board, Tennessee decided to secure its quarterback of the future.
The Titans intended to bring Willis along slowly as he developed behind Tannehill. Now that he's thrust into the starting role, Tennessee would be wise to cater to his strengths. Willis is at his best when he utilizes his dual-threat ability to challenge defenses with his powerful arm as well as his speed.
The Week 2 game against Buffalo was the last time the Titans lost. Tennessee has won four straight and has done so in gritty fashion, with each victory coming by fewer than 10 points. The team ranks fourth in the NFL in rushing defense at 96.8 yards allowed per game.
As long as Willis can limit his mistakes, the Titans will have a good chance at earning their fifth straight win Sunday against the 1-4-1 Texans.