AFC South Notes: Willis, Funchess, Ngakoue

Titans rookie quarterback Malik Willis impressed in limited time during the team’s Thursday night preseason game. Willis ran the offense for the first half against the Ravens and ran one play in the second half before taking his place on the sideline.

The third-round pick completed 6 of 11 pass attempts for 107 yards. Mirroring the playing styles of the quarterbacks on the opposite sideline, Willis added 38 yards rushing with a touchdown on five carries. He was sacked twice but managed not to turn the ball over in just over two quarters of play.

Despite the playing time he’s received so far this preseason, Willis is “very clearly the developmental quarterback” in the eyes of the Titans, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. While Tennessee is happy with his progress and will continue to let him get adjusted to the speed of the game this preseason, the prevailing sense is that Willis will be stashed for a bit of a redshirt year. There doesn’t seem to be any ideas of forcing Willis onto the field in any Wildcat-type packages, as has been done with other dual-threat quarterbacks in the past.

Here are a couple other rumors from the AFC South, both hailing from the Hoosier state:

  • Devin Funchess is attempting to make a strong comeback this year with a slight position shift. After spending the first five years of his career as a wide receiver, Funchess has spent the offseason working with the tight ends in Detroit. Funchess is looking to find his first regular season game action since a broken collarbone sidelined him in his first game with the Colts. Funchess joined Indianapolis on a one-year, $10MM deal in 2019, reportedly, so he could “be the top red zone target” for then-quarterback Andrew Luck. Luck shocked the world, including Funchess, when he retired a few months later. In an interview with Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Funchess remarked, “It was kind of a whirlwind having Andrew Luck retire on me. I went there basically for him. Turned down other opportunities and a lot more money to go play with him, so that was kind of a mental strain on me for that whole year.”
  • After spending time with four different franchises in his first six seasons, defensive end Yannick Ngakoue believes he has found a true home in Indianapolis, according to Zak Keefer of The Athletic. Ngakoue is one of the league’s more prolific pass rushers, accumulating 55.5 sacks in his six years of play and never missing more than one game in a season. Despite his continued success rushing the passer, Ngakoue has had trouble finding a team that will make a long-term commitment to him. Well, after only a couple of months in the state, Ngakoue seems to think he’s found the place he’d most like to stay. “There’s just something about Indiana,” Ngakoue told Keefer. “This is definitely where I want to be. This is where I’d love to retire.” If he continues his dominance over this two-year deal with the Colts, they should be more than willing to fulfill that wish.
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