NASHVILLE — Tennessee Titans quarterbacks were not at their most crisp in Monday’s practice. Rookie Malik Willis’ struggles were noticeable as he continues his NFL acclimation process.

Growing pains are to be expected.

Tennessee’s quarterback competition lies only in the reserve role right now. Training camp will determine whether the Titans deem it worthwhile to keep all three currently on the roster when the regular season begins. As it stands, the order is Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside and Willis.

What does Willis need to do to supplant Tannehill’s current back-up?

Willis’ development in slow-burn mode

Ryan Tannehill QB rookie Malik Willis Tennessee Titans
Tennessee Titans quarterback Malik Willis (7) runs through drills during practice at Saint Thomas Sports Park Tuesday, May 24, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.

When I spoke to Titans quarterbacks coach Pat O’Hara last month, the Willis conversation was focused on operational prowess.

That work will continue for the duration of his rookie season in Tennessee. What we’re starting to notice now at training camp is the physical developments that Willis needs to make. Athletic gifts make a world of difference, but they are not enough to bail you out when everyone else has them too at the professional level.

The Titans coaching staff has the rookie quarterback focused on marrying his eyes and his footwork.

“I’m processing faster than I’m used to going within my footwork,” Willis said. “I’m processing the information. I know what I need to do, but in order to be on time and to be able to throw with anticipation, I need to help my feet get up with my processing ability.”

The only way to get that necessary quarterback skill up to par: reps.

Willis practiced well on Thursday after a players’ day off. The rookie threw two touchdown passes in red zone drills; receiver Terry Godwin caught one on an out route from Willis that the quarterback rifled into the end zone and tight end Briley Moore caught the other on a seam pattern. Towards the end of practice, Tennessee’s coaching staff threw the rookie out for some 11-on-11 no-huddle work.

That went less smoothly for Willis who completed two of his six attempts for 22 yards and took a sack. Exactly what one might expect it to look like for the quarterback in his first training camp.

“What’s really cool, though, with Malik is he’s able to retain information really well,” said O’Hara before Thursday’s practice. “So, his decision making, which we monitor, has been very good for a rookie. Things that he hasn’t had to do before, relative to working from the pocket, his feet need to catch up to his mind.”

The arm strength of Willis is impressive, and the play-making ability is clearly there. How those two things mesh within the Titans systematic requirements will bear out over the course of camp.

Featured Image: USA TODAY Sports.