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Mike Vrabel on Titans QB Malik Willis' performance vs. Patriots: 'Love the way that he competed'

In Tennessee's final preseason game, Titans head coach Mike Vrabel got an opportunity to get a better look at second-year quarterback Malik Willis.

With Ryan Tannehill only playing in three snaps and rookie Will Levis dealing with a thigh injury, Willis led the Titans to a 23-7 win over the New England Patriots on Friday.

Willis completed 15 of 20 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Despite throwing two picks, Vrabel praised Willis for finishing the game strong.

"Love the way that he competed, loved it," Vrabel said, via the team transcripts. "Got to eliminate the mistakes. I think that the one there to Josh (Whyle), I thought that the protection kind of dictated that throw, that miss. And then the other one, you just have to make a better decision. But love what he was able to do after that. Just competed and finished and kept his eyes downfield. Just got to take care of the football."

Willis' first two drives led to two field goals. However, on the next series, he threw his first interception on a quick pass down the middle to Josh Whyle, which led to Calvin Munson forcing a turnover.

It wasn't until the second quarter that Willis got into a rhythm. He led the Titans to a 10-play, 90-yard drive that saw him scrabble to his left and deliver a 12-yard touchdown pass to Julius Chestnut for a 13-7 lead at halftime.

"I think it was cool to just get back out there with pads on and being in a live game situations," Willis said about his progress in all three preseason games. "Understanding that we just got to keep converting and getting first downs, understanding when we need to take the loss and punt, just to keep figuring things out."

The start of Willis' second half didn't go as planned. The third-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft threw a pass down the middle and was intercepted by Joe Giles-Harris. Willis responded with a 10-play, 78-yard drive and threw a beautiful 26-yard TD pass to Kearis Jackson to begin the fourth quarter.

Even though Tannehill will be the starter in Week 1 when the Titans travel to New Orleans to take on the Saints, Willis showed he can be a solid No. 2 quarterback in his final preseason game.

"I think there's a lot of stuff to clean up. I think there's a lot of work," Willis said. "I'm proud of the guys and the way they fought throughout the whole preseason. Guys down and other guys stepping up, I think it's been awesome that people got opportunities. It's just been cool."

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