May 28, 2024

Tennessee’s Nashville During the first six weeks of the season, rookie quarterback Will Levis of the Tennessee Titans checked into the team facility at St. Thomas Ascension Sports Park every Monday on his off day.

What is the target for the 2023 draft’s 33rd pick? to practice throwing to receivers and get ready for his call to action. Though he was unsure of when that would happen, one of the receivers working with Levis, 2023 seventh-round pick Colton Dowell, referred to the experience as a “QB training program.

While watching starting quarterback Ryan Tannehill lead the offense and splitting scout team reps with Malik Willis, the coaching staff came up with various strategies to gradually progress Levis. Part of Levis’ preparation for the eventual (if) call on his number was the program. That moment occurred during a victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Week 8, and on Thursday night when the Titans (3-4) travel to Pittsburgh to play the Steelers (4-4) bright lights will be on Levis.

With the second pick of the second round, the Titans selected Levis, a Kentucky product, by trading up eight spots in the draft in April. Levis and Willis battled it out for the backup spot during the first half of training camp. However, during joint practices, Levis injured his left thigh, which kept him out of the final two preseason games and made it challenging for him to move up above Willis in the depth chart.

Levis’ development had to be accelerated by the coaching staff because Tannehill was sidelined due to a right high ankle sprain. Following Tannehill’s injury during their Week 6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens in London, they were given a bye in Week 7, giving them two weeks of play. After Tannehill was injured in the fourth quarter, Willis entered the game and played the final two drives. He struggled to find receivers and was sacked four times, all on the final drive, despite finishing four of five passes for 74 yards.

Levis was prepared to seize the moment, so Tennessee turned to him next. The Titans won 28–23, scoring their highest point total since the season-ending game of 2021—the last time a Titans quarterback threw four touchdowns in a single game. He completed 19 of 29 pass attempts for 238 yards and four touchdowns.

Levis joined Marcus Mariota (Titans, 2015) and Fran Tarkenton (Minnesota Vikings, 1961) as the only quarterbacks to throw for four touchdowns in their NFL debut.

With no live action since the opening preseason game on August 12, the bye helped Levis’ preparation as a starter. Levis and Willis would alternate at quarterback if Tannehill was unable to play, according to coach Mike Vrabel. During the bye, both remained at the stadium and completed passes to wide receiver Treylon Burks, who was getting ready to make a comeback to the starting lineup following three straight games missed due to a left knee injury.

“Our bye week might have looked a little different from other teams,” Levis stated. “We stayed and worked very hard. Getting those reps with guys we haven’t had too many with was important to us. It helped to boost her self-confidence.

On the third play of the first drive, Levis gained a first down via quarterback sneak. However, on the following play, center Aaron Brewer’s high snap went through Willis’ hands and was recovered by the Falcons on Tennessee’s 28-yard line, upending Vrabel’s original plan to play both quarterbacks in place of Tannehill.

For the majority of the remaining snaps, the Titans went to Levis.

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