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Titans QBs Malik Willis, Will Levis Preparing for Whatever Comes Next


NASHVILLE – The Titans have some things to sort out behind now injured starter Ryan Tannehill.

Since the start of the offseason, quarterbacks Malik Willis and Will Levis have been preparing for a moment like this. Now, it could be time for the Titans to make a big decision based on what they've seen so far.

The future became the present in a hurry.

"It's a unique situation, trying to develop two young quarterbacks," said Charles London, pass game coordinator/QBs coach for the Titans. "I think they have both done a great job."

But which one would the team pick, if needed? That's the big question.

Willis joined the Titans last year as a third-round pick out of Liberty. He's played in 10 NFL games over the past two seasons, making three starts, and when Tannehill suffered an ankle injury on Sunday against the Ravens, Willis finished the game.

Levis, meanwhile, was drafted by the team in the second round of the 2023 NFL Draft. He missed two of the team's three preseason games because of an injury, and he's been the team's No.3 QB the first six games of the season. He hasn't played in an NFL regular season game.

Today, during the team's bye week, the Titans are giving both quarterbacks extra work as Tannehill begins his recovery process. The Titans are scheduled to return to action on October 29 against the Falcons, knowing there's a real possibility one of their two young quarterbacks will be behind center.

Titans Coach Mike Vrabel said he hasn't yet decided which one it would be yet.

"It'll be one of those two guys if Ryan (Tannehill) can't go," Vrabel said. "I don't know who that would be yet. We'll see how they continue to practice. It'd be good to get them some work this week, maybe with some guys that they haven't necessarily worked with. They've been working on the show team during the season. I'm excited to get both those guys some reps with some of our offensive guys and see how they handle that."

London said the team feels comfortable with Willis, while also discussing the improvement the team has seen from Levis.

"Anybody that's on this roster right now, we feel comfortable they can go out there and execute whatever job they are asked to do," London said. "Whether that's Malik, whether that's Will, whether that's a guy at defensive end – they are on this team for a reason. We feel comfortable with everybody on our roster.

"I think (both quarterbacks) have done a great job. I think you continue to see Will grow, whether it's his understanding of concepts, understanding of what coverage is being thrown at him. You just see a guy who is getting more and more comfortable each week with what we are asking him to do. And it's the same thing with Malik within the offense. We just have to keep pressing those guys, keep pressing them forward. And when they are asked to play, they have to go in there and operate."

Vrabel thinks both quarterbacks will benefit from the work during the bye week.

"I'm sure that they're studying every day that they go home. I'm positive of that," Vrabel said. "I've seen those guys handle the game plan and be prepared and know the opponent. But I think that there's a certain element to, all of us, sort of just trying to get some things accomplished here. Those guys will keep studying and there won't be a game plan, you know what I mean? There won't be a game plan for Atlanta (this week). It'll be just understanding and watching coverages, progressions, defenses and having pressure-answers.

"Being able to see and identify when pressure may be coming. I think that's a huge part of being a quarterback is kind of having the answers already in your head as you're going through the cadence and seeing whether they're holding to the disguise, and then all of a sudden at the last minute, being able to recognize some of these things and either have the correct read, put the ball in the right spot and get rid of it quickly or having an answer for the rest of the offense into a play that we think can be successful."

Vrabel said he's seen improvement from Willis when he's played, and improvement from Levis when he's practiced.

"I've seen some really good practice reps," Vrabel said of Levis. "You see a more comfortable player. Just a more comfortable person, a rookie in a unique situation. Coming in this league as a quarterback with an existing quarterback, with a player in his second year, that's unique. And I think he's handled that well. I think his comfort level and just being around here has improved."

A year ago, when Tannehill was unavailable, the Titans turned to Willis.

Willis completed 31-of-61 passes for 276 yards with zero touchdowns and three interceptions in 2022, with a 42.8 rating, while also rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown. Willis was sacked 10 times in his three starts.

On Sunday against the Ravens, Willis completed 4-of-5 passes for 74 yards, with a 111.8 rating. He was sacked four times in two series.

After the game, Willis said he'll be ready for whatever comes next with Tannehill's recovery process under way.

"Your job is to be ready if called upon," Willis said. "We didn't come out with the dub (Sunday), so it's on me. I have to go back to the drawing board and understand what it takes. You have to execute when called upon.

"I'm just taking it day by day, and whatever is asked of me, (I'm going to) go in and try and do my best."

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