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Titans rookie QB Will Levis preparing for NFL debut vs. Falcons

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There is an old high school football adage that goes something like this: Watch out for the team that looks best coming off the bus.

Enter rookie Will Levis, who is expected to serve as the Titans' primary quarterback in today's game against the Falcons.

"From a physical standpoint, he's going to be one of the coolest looking dudes," said a laughing Jordan Palmer, who serves as Levis' personal QB coach as he does for several QBs around the NFL. "How relevant that is is yet to be determined. But he's a big physical athlete."

Levis is the last of the top-four selected rookie QBs to play this season. Carolina's Bryce Young faces off against Houston's C.J. Stroud today in a matchup of 2023's No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks, respectively, while Indianapolis' Anthony Richardson (No. 4 overall) is on injured reserve after season-ending shoulder surgery. A second-round pick at No. 33 overall, Levis has so far spent his rookie season behind Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis as the Titans' third-string QB.

With Tannehill ruled out for Sunday's game due to a high ankle sprain, it's now Levis' turn to see action. Titans head coach Mike Vrabel did not publicly declare Levis as the starter when speaking with the media this past week, saying he and Willis (who filled in for an injured Tannehill before the bye during their Week 6 loss to the Ravens) would both play against Atlanta.

But sources say the Titans used the bye week to get Levis ready to start, and that did not appear to change this week.

"If my name is called, I'll be ready to go," Levis told reporters this past week. "Our bye week may look a little different from other teams. We stay and get a lot of work in. With a potential opportunity coming up, it was great to get reps with guys we haven't had the opportunity to work with."

Palmer has worked with Levis this past year from his draft prep through the season, and they still talk frequently. He describes Levis as a quick study, someone who has been exposed to different systems from his time at Penn State and, most recently, Kentucky. His two college coordinators -- Rich Scangarello and Liam Cohen -- have NFL roots.

"A lot of that has carried over into what they do in Tennessee," Palmer said this week.

Palmer describes Levis as someone who grinds for knowledge, specifically protections.

"He really nerds out on protections," Palmer said. "He's really into that."

As Palmer counsels Levis, that's one of his three focuses for him or any young QB early on his career. Essentially, Palmer wants them to understand where everyone is going, have a plan against pressure and to be able to buy yourself time.

Palmer notes that too many young QBs break the huddle unsure of what the routes are or how they set up on the call sheet and they have to be able to see the board.

As for having a plan against pressure, every defensive coordinator will spend time throwing a variety of blitz packages at a young QB. Understanding what the next move when under pressure is critical -- if there is a hot route, can you scramble? Can you get it blocked up?

And then, make sure you can buy time, whether under pressure or simply if you need an extra beat to understand and process what you are seeing.

"I think he's set up nicely to go 3-for-3 on those," Palmer said.

In the offseason, Levis worked on getting in a good pre-pass position to deliver the football and aimed to increase his velocity. He studied Joe Burrow, among others, and worked on handling a variety of situations.

"He's got a great understanding of things, he's a really good athlete and a powerful runner," Palmer said. "This sets up nicely for him to play well as a rookie."

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