32 Teams in 32 Days: It’s a Make-or-Break Season for Titans QB Will Levis

Tennessee hired an offensive guru in Brian Callahan as its head coach, and now it’s up to him to get the most out of his second-year signal-caller.
Levis is learning a new offense this offseason.
Levis is learning a new offense this offseason. / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA
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Will Levis could be headed toward a make-or-break 2024 season after the many offseason moves the Tennessee Titans made to recover from their dismal 6–11 record last season. 

It’s a new era in Tennessee with Mike Vrabel, Derrick Henry and Ryan Tannehill no longer around, but the organization appears optimistic about Levis being around for the long haul. They probably wouldn’t have splurged as much as they did in free agency had they not believed in the second-year quarterback. 

The Titans provided Levis with a new wide receiver in Calvin Ridley, a new left tackle in rookie JC Latham and many other key offensive weapons. Most importantly, the Titans hired coach Brian Callahan, the offensive guru who helped Cincinnati Bengals coach Zac Taylor build a dynamic scheme for Joe Burrow. 

These moves clearly show the Titans were impressed with what Levis displayed in nine games after the 2023 second-round pick replaced Tannehill as the starter. 

The Titans also aggressively pursued L’Jarius Sneed in free agency to be their shutdown cornerback and help the defense get on the right track this year.

Biggest gamble this offseason: Going all in during free agency 

The Titans spent more than $310 million in free agency, second most in the NFL, according to Over the Cap. On offense, Levis will have many new teammates, including center Lloyd Cushenberry III, running back Tony Pollard, Ridley and Tyler Boyd. For the defense, Tennessee traded draft picks, including a 2025 third-rounder, to the Kansas City Chiefs for Sneed, who quickly signed a four-year, $76.4 million extension with the Titan. 

That’s a lot of moving parts in Callahan’s first season as a head coach. Bad teams that splurge in free agency for the quick fix often regret many of their big-name signings, but perhaps the Titans will have better success because of their strengths on the offensive and defensive lines. They drafted Latham in the first round and defensive tackle T’Vondre Sweat in the second round to pair with veteran Jeffery Simmons. If Levis quickly grasps Callahan’s offense and the rookie head coach gets everyone on the same page, perhaps these moves pay off to get the rebuild headed in the right direction. 

Toughest stretch of the season: Weeks 4 to 8

The Titans caught a break with an early bye week because they might be underdogs for the first seven games of the season. After matchups against the Chicago Bears (on the road), New York Jets and Green Bay Packers, the Titans travel to face the Miami Dolphins in Week 4. They then get a bye week before returning to face Anthony Richardson and the Indianapolis Colts at home. The gauntlet concludes with back-to-back road games against the Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions. Perhaps the Titans can steal a game or two to start the season, and it helps that they face the Colts after a bye week. 

Breakout player to watch: RB Tyjae Spears 

Tennessee Titans running back Tyjae Spears
Spears averaged 4.5 yards per carry last season as a rookie. / Denny Simmons / The Tennessean / USA

Spears could lose carries with the arrival of Pollard, but judging from how well he played in a limited role as a rookie, it would not be surprising to see Spears as the lead back. In Cincinnati, the Bengals’ rushing attack was at its best with the tandem of Joe Mixon and Samaje Perine, who was the change-of-pace back. Pollard struggled to be the workhorse for the Dallas Cowboys in 2023 and could flourish returning to the role of a third-down back who can contribute in the passing game. Spears didn’t get many carries playing behind Henry, but the 2023 third-round pick learned from one of the best when it comes to running between the tackles. 

Best-case scenario: Levis flourishes in new scheme 

Levis should benefit from having a stout offensive line featuring Latham, Cushenberry, left guard and 2023 first-round pick Peter Skoronski, and rising right tackle Dillon Radunz. With extra time to throw, Levis could let his reads develop—and he can always lean on his athleticism if he takes too long to react to coverages. 

Obviously, the Titans want Callahan to build an offense resembling what he created for Burrow. But the Titans have the personnel to continue being a physical offense, only with more versatility than what they had with Henry doing the bulk of the work. The Titans could become a nightmare for opposing defenses, who will have to deal with physical jump-ball specialists Ridley and DeAndre Hopkins, a strong offensive line and a dynamic rushing duo of Spears and Pollard. 

Worst-case scenario: Titans regret Ridley, Sneed additions 

Tennessee Titans wide receiver Calvin Ridley and cornerback L'Jarius Sneed
Ridley and Sneed squared off against each other last season and now join the Titans on big free agent deals. / Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union / USA

The Titans drew criticism for signing Ridley to a four-year, $92 million contract as heads into his age-30 season. It doesn’t help that he had an up-and-down lone season with the Jacksonville Jaguars and his skill set is similar to Hopkins’s. The trade for Sneed is also risky because he won’t have as much help as he did with the Chiefs. Sneed will need to prove that he’s more than just a cornerback who benefited from Steve Spagnuolo’s defensive scheme. 

If Ridley is running the wrong routes and Sneed is getting torched in coverage, it could be a long few years for the Titans to recover from the lucrative contracts they handed them this offseason. But it bodes well that Ridley stepped up for the Jaguars in the final weeks of the regular season and Sneed thrived while defending teams’ top wideouts on a weekly basis. 

Head coach-quarterback tandem ranking

No. 29: Brian Callahan (30) and Will Levis (24)

After helping the Bengals reach consecutive AFC championship games in 2021 and ’22, Callahan now takes over a Titans roster teeming with talent. The big question is whether Levis is more stopgap or savior. In his rookie season, the second-rounder threw for 1,808 yards and eight touchdowns in nine starts. —Matt Verderame

Sleeper fantasy pick: Levis

The Titans brought in a new offensive-minded head coach, and added Pollard, Ridley and Boyd to an offense that already has Hopkins and Spears. Now, the ball is in Levis’s court to make good on his talent and take advantage of what could be a loaded offense. He has sleeper-breakout potential in the fantasy football world. —Michael Fabiano

Best bet: Tony Pollard under 6.5 rushing TDs (-145) at DraftKings

Maybe I am a jaded Cowboys fan, but Pollard has only exceeded this TD prop once in his career—and it wasn’t last season when he had career-high 252 rushing attempts and a career-low yards per attempt (4.0). Throw Spears into the mix and add in that the Titans have loaded up on talented receivers, and the under looks like the better play. —Jennifer Piacenti 

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

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Gilberto Manzano