Titans are working to protect QB Will Levis better and keep the rookie healthy

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Will Levis has always wanted to be in the driver's seat, and the rookie quarterback certainly has the starting job now with the Tennessee Titans.

Their challenge is protecting Levis enough to avoid hurting both his confidence and body. Winning more games would help too.

Nobody knows that more than the offensive linemen tasked with keeping Levis upright, which hasn't been easy. Injuries and mishits in both the draft and free agency have turned a line revamped during the offseason into a patchwork group.

Dillon Radunz, a second-round pick in 2021 out of FCS North Dakota State, said Wednesday there's no more excuses with their backs against the wall.

“I’d say we feel like we have something to prove, that we need to go out there and show it,” Radunz said. "And yeah, I think we’re going to be able to do that.”

Radunz, who has made eight career starts in 31 games played, is next up to replace Andre Dillard at left tackle. Dillard is the free agent signed in March by new general manager Ran Carthon. Nicholas Petit-Frere had the last shot before a shoulder injury put him on injured reserve.

Coach Mike Vrabel said rookie Jaelyn Duncan also would work at left tackle with Dillard currently in the concussion protocol after getting hurt in last week's loss in Tampa Bay.

Tennessee (3-6) also may get back veteran right guard Daniel Brunskill back after missing a game with an injured right ankle. Brunskill was limited at practice Wednesday, and the Titans claimed lineman Calvin Throckmorton off waivers from Carolina. He has 27 starts over three seasons at left and right guard.

Levis, the No. 33 pick overall out of Kentucky, has been sacked 10 times in three starts. Veteran Ryan Tannehill was sacked 19 times through the first six starts before being sidelined by an injured right ankle.

The Titans finish a three-game road swing Sunday in Jacksonville (6-3) where the Jaguars have just 18 sacks for the season. Tennessee is so banged up that when Dillard was hurt, Radunz was forced to move from right guard where Andrew Rupcich, an undrafted free agent who played in the NAIA in college, replaced him.

Brunskill went through a quarterback change in San Francisco last season and played in front of a rookie in Brock Purdy. Brunskill likes Levis' confidence, which can be hard for a young quarterback during games.

“If you’re in a huddle with a guy that’s kind of like shaking and stuff like ... now you get a little nervous,” Brunskill said. "But you got a guy out there with the confidence, it’s amazing what he can do. And then as much as we can get that experience for him, I mean, he’s going to do really good things.”

That means giving Levis more time to throw. He has been sacked four times in the pst two games — both road losses. Jaguars coach Doug Pederson knows the Titans are hurting in front of Levis.

“It does affect you a little bit,” Pederson said. “He can move around. He's tough. He's got a really good arm. He can throw it from all different angles.”

While Tennessee works on ways to protect the rookie, Levis is working to stick to the game plan.

“Obviously there’s some times where there are answers that you can kind of turn to if there is a pressure, whether we’re not picking it up or it’s coming a little faster,” Levis said. "So just keeping your wits about you and keep instilling confidence in those guys up front.”

NOTES: WR Treylon Burks remains in the concussion protocol with Dillard with neither practicing Wednesday. CB Sean Murphy-Bunting (right thumb) was limited after missing much of the past two games. Tannehill practiced fully for the first time since spraining his ankle Oct. 15.

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