Will Levis is the correct — and clear — choice for Tennessee Titans this week | Estes

Shhh, it's a secret. But let’s just presume, for brevity’s sake, that the Tennessee Titans are planning to start rookie quarterback Will Levis on Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons.
That way we won’t have to walk on eggshells like the Titans did Wednesday, carefully avoiding words and sentence structure that might be spoilers. This was seemingly at the behest of their head coach.
“I never said that Will would be the starter,” Mike Vrabel said defiantly.
No, he didn’t. NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport did, citing sources.
Note to those sources: I’d try to stay anonymous. Can’t imagine Vrabel was too thrilled by that news leaking first thing Wednesday morning, in time for the Falcons and their coach, former Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith, to make good use of the information. Evidently, someone in the inner circle didn’t adhere to Vrabel’s wishes. That’d seem to be a problem, wouldn’t it?
But I digress . . .
This is good news for the Titans. Levis is the correct decision. He's also the obvious decision.
He gives them the best chance to win.
That’s just where the Titans are right now. They’ve cashed in some chips (see the Kevin Byard trade), and they’ll have to start letting the rest ride on a gamble. Levis is the best of some bad options.
Ryan Tannehill is recovering well — faster than anticipated, in fact — from a high ankle sprain, but you can’t put him out there behind a shoddy offensive line if he’s unable to protect himself. And Malik Willis? Well, we’ve seen that movie already.
Why rotate two quarterbacks?
Nonetheless, Vrabel has continued to insist that both Willis and Levis will play if Tannehill can’t go. My gut initially told me his words were largely a red herring for the Falcons.
Vrabel, though, has been digging in on the idea. On Wednesday, he went so far as to say the Titans “may run the plays in with them,” which sounds like rotating snaps.
“It could be by series,” he added. “It could be every two series.”
OK. But why? That's burdensome. This isn't a preseason game.
The Titans drafted up in the second round to take Levis because they’d lost faith in Willis. Own that decision. Put Levis out there. Leave him out there. Let him make mistakes. Turn this into a timely opportunity to find out what he can do.
Levis might surprise you. Won’t be his first rodeo. Dude played in the SEC — and he played last season at Kentucky behind a terrible offensive line. Poor pass protection won’t ruin him in the NFL. If so, then it’s already ruined him.
Vrabel noted such after drafting him. He also said that Levis had “some really impressive performances against some big-time defenses in the SEC.”
April wasn’t that long ago, right? Shouldn't some of it still apply?
Levis hasn’t even played a real game since then.
“I mean, this is what I love. I love football,” he said Wednesday. “I haven't been able to play it in a while. I'm excited to get out there and play if that's what needs to happen.”
What can we reasonably expect for Will Levis’ debut?
The wording of Rapoport’s report was that the Titans are “preparing” Levis to start. Technically, that’s nothing new.
But this is different. You can hear it in his answers. You can see it in his demeanor.
“We're preparing our tails off,” Levis said. “It's nice to have an extra week of preparation with the bye week. So that helps. But it's a good defense, a good team.”
It’s unfair to expect Levis to immediately thrive like CJ Stroud has in Houston — or even to play to the level that Anthony Richardson did before getting hurt in Indianapolis.
But why couldn’t Levis do what Tyson Bagent did?
Who is Tyson Bagent, you ask? He’s the undrafted rookie from Division II Shepherd University who stepped in and quarterbacked the Chicago Bears to a win over the Las Vegas Raiders this past weekend, completing 21 of 29 passes for 162 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
Not bad for a guy who people didn’t even know existed on draft night.
Levis, as I recall, didn’t have that problem.
Fame and haters and all sorts of storylines followed Levis to Tennessee after his draft-night slide. It's just that since he got here, we've barely heard a peep about him.
He got hurt during the preseason. He has been third string, taking a backseat not just to Tannehill and Willis, but to other top QBs in this rookie class who are starting elsewhere.
On Wednesday, Levis was asked how much his accuracy and decision-making have progressed since he got to the Titans. “17%, I don’t know,” he responded jokingly.
See, that’s funny.
“Enough to make me feel confident to go out there and play,” he said.
He doesn’t come across like a rookie. Never did, really. But that's all we've had to go on to this point. The question with Levis remains the same as when he was drafted: Can he actually play at this level?
I don't know. The Titans can't know, either. Not until they let him play.
Sounds like it's finally happening. The secret is out, and I'm interested to see it on Sunday.

Gentry Estes
Filed 10.26.2023

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