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Front Page - Friday, December 1, 2023

Coaches, teammates like what still-green Levis offers

Tennessee’s Will Levis has yet to match the success he had in his first start in late October, but his teammates and coaches see his potential as a franchise quarterback. - Photo by George Walker IV | AP

School is in session for Will Levis. The rookie quarterback just completed his fifth NFL start and realizes there is still a lot for him to learn about playing the position at this level.

Even in his press conferences.

A couple of hours after his postgame presser following Sunday’s win over Carolina, Levis took to X (formerly Twitter) to correct himself for using the word “capitulated” when he said he meant to say “matriculated” in answering a question.

The Titans are less concerned about Levis’ grammatical corrections than they are about him fixing whatever mistakes he might make on the field.

In his first five starts, Levis hasn’t yet had a terrible outing, though the offense’s output for the first three quarters in Jacksonville and in the second half Sunday versus Carolina was minimal.

Still, the Titans see Levis’ God-given physical skills, combined with intelligence, work ethic and confidence, and seem to think that with time Levis could be the true franchise quarterback this team has been searching for since Steve McNair left nearly two decades ago.

It’s not a stretch to say that Levis has been the second-best rookie quarterback in the NFL this season, though he trails front-runner C.J. Stroud’s output by quite a margin. Despite the pressures from blitzes and pass rushers, Levis certainly looked more comfortable and NFL ready than top overall pick Bryce Young did for Carolina Sunday.

Quarterbacks coach Charles London says he just wants to see steady growth from the rookie, both on the field and in the classroom.

“I think he’s gotten a little better at everything in the operation that we’re asking him to do each week,” London says. “Every time he sees something, it’s a learning experience for him.

“Now he’s understanding that we’ve got to get in and out of the huddle here; I’ve got to say this with the play. I’ve got to change the protection here. As he sees more and more things, I think he’s getting more and more comfortable, being able to recognize a lot of the disguises.

“He does a great job in the prep of studying film to understand what defenses are trying to do.”

In the aftermath of Sunday’s game, Levis knew there were teaching moments aside from his choice of words in answering a question from the media.

“I think this was the first game where I’ve had more than a couple of location issues in terms of accuracy, which I’ve got to keep working and know that I can make those throws,” Levis says. “But a couple of third down opportunities where I had someone, and I just missed the throw. Maybe one or two where I could have gone somewhere else with the ball, but I mean the location I just have to trust that I’m going to make those throws and they’ll come next time.”

The Titans are being careful, and the second half Sunday seemed to show that they haven’t quite taken the training wheels off Levis just yet.

Some of that was the situation of the game with Tennessee holding a 17-3 lead at halftime and knowing that, barring a fatal Titans mistake, the Panthers probably weren’t overcoming that. It led to a little bit of conservative play and Tennessee going 0-for-5 on third down in the second half.

Still, as Levis admitted, there were some plays that he could have made and didn’t. All part of the learning process for a young quarterback. And it seems as if the message is getting through.

“I’m just taking my coaching. I’m seeing the game and reading it as we see fit. I try to do a good job of knowing when we can go a little off schedule, and see things, and be confident but not reckless with types of throws,” Levis says.

“I’m just operating the game plan. … I love taking shots down the field, but you have to know when to. And today there were some opportunities that could have hit but I either missed the throw or didn’t make the decision to. I have to learn from it because there were big plays out there for us to be made.”

One of those misses was a play in which DeAndre Hopkins was running free deep down the field. Levis didn’t see him and wound up throwing wide of Kyle Philips on the play.

That, too, will be pointed out in the next classroom session. Not only by coaching professors Mike Vrabel, Tim Kelly and London, but also by Hopkins, who says he believes Levis can be special and works to hold him accountable.

“I’m going to hold him to a high standard and tell him, like I would any quarterback, that there are some throws out there that I wish he would have made, but he made some great throws, as well. I think Will can be a great quarterback, so I always hold him to a high regard,” Hopkins says.

It’s safe to say that for the remainder of this season, where the Titans are concerned, all eyes will be on Levis.

Terry McCormick covers the Titans for TitanInsider.com