The Titans' most-improved sophomore in 2024 won't be who you think

Which Tennessee Titans sophomore player is best-positioned to be most improved in 2024? It's not quarterback Will Levis, who would be the popular choice.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis warms up before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024.
Tennessee Titans quarterback Will Levis warms up before a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tenn., Sunday, Jan. 7, 2024. / Andrew Nelles / The Tennessean / USA

The Tennessee Titans received notable contributions from their 2023 NFL draft class last season. The quintet of Peter Skoronski, Tyjae Spears, Will Levis, Jaelyn Duncan, and Josh Whyle combined to play 2,469 offensive snaps. If you include other rookies such as Colton Dowell, John Ojukwu, Eric Garror, Keondre Coburn, Matthew Jackson, Otis Reese IV, Anthony Kendall, Caleb Murphy and T.K. McLendon Jr. to that list, the total snap count played by Titans rookies in 2023 rises to 3,236, and that doesn't even include special teams, where fellow rookie Kearis Jackson was a contributor.

So which second-year Titans player has the best chance to showcase the most growth in 2024? My personal choice is sophomore guard Peter Skoronski. The No. 11 overall selection in the 2023 NFL Draft initially hit the ground running. Skoronski's play in the regular-season opener versus the New Orleans Saints earned him an elite overall grade of 81.3 from Pro Football Focus. It ended up being a season-high grade for Skoronski, who encountered unexpected adversity shortly thereafter.

Skoronski was forced to undergo emergency surgery for a burst appendix before Tennessee's Week 2 game with the Los Angeles Chargers. It caused the former Northwestern standout to drop 20 pounds and kept him out of the lineup for the next three contests. Being a first-year starter on a struggling offensive line is challenging enough. Battling through unforeseen sickness in the midst of it increases the difficulty level to unfair heights.

Expectedly, Skoronski struggled when he returned to the lineup at less than full strength. He forfeited four sacks and 13 quarterback pressures in his final five contests, though he pitched a shutout in the regular-season finale versus the Jacksonville Jaguars, possibly showcasing that his struggles were largely behind him. Even when healthy, Skoronski was surrounded by a struggling left tackle and center in Andre Dillard and Aaron Brewer, and being coached by an inexperienced offensive line coach (Jason Houghtaling) that struggled to navigate the conditions.

Skoronski will be surrounded by significantly more favorable conditions this season. Firstly, not dealing with an emergency appendectomy would qualify as enough. Skoronski notably reported to voluntary organized team activities (OTA's) looking every bit of the 6-foot-4 and 313 pounds the Titans list him at, albeit a likely outdated listing. Skoronski looks even bigger and beefier than that.

Secondly, Houghtaling has been replaced by legendary offensive line coach Bill Callahan, a 22-year NFL coaching vet that has guided 14 different offensive linemen to 35 total Pro Bowl selections. Skoronski will benefit from Callahan's hands-on coaching approach like so many linemen have before him.

The Titans also improved the supporting cast to the left and right of Skoronski. Gone are Dillard and Brewer, a struggling duo that allowed 18.0 sacks last season, more than any other tackle-center duo in the league. The plan is for first-round pick J.C. Latham to serve as the franchise tackle. Four-year, $50 million free-agent addition Lloyd Cushenberry should provide a significant upgrade at center.

I won't conclude this article without explaining why I didn't choose Levis to be Tennessee's most-improved sophomore. No, it's not designed to be clickbait. I possess every ounce of faith that Levis will develop into a legitimate franchise quarterback in 2024.

The upgrades along the offensive line should benefit Levis, too. Not to mention the upgrades across most skill-playing positions. The additions of Calvin Ridley, Tony Pollard, and Tyler Boyd should help improve Levis' outputs.

I do however expect Levis to remain a high-variance quarterback, yet as an improved version of himself. Levis averaged a league-high 11.1-yard average depth of target (ADOT) last season. As pointed out by Mike Herndon, Houston Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud finished second with an ADOT of 9.3 yards.

Part of Brian Callahan's job in 2024 will be to field a somewhat reined-in, but still aggressive in opportune moments version of Levis. Taking what the defense offers him and attempting fewer turnover-worthy plays than he did in 2023 (4.5 percent, third-worst among all qualifying quarterbacks, per PFF) is key to fully unlocking Levis' potential. Both the ADOT and number of borderline reckless throws Levis attempts should decrease in 2024.

I ultimately expect to see a familiar version of Levis this season. He’ll wow on occasion by making out-of-structure plays due to elite arm strength and athleticism. On occasion, he’ll probably also overlook a wide-open option in the flat. So long as the latter happens with less frequency in 2024, the Titans will have their franchise quarterback. That's the expected outcome.

Skoronski enjoyed fleeting moments of brilliance throughout 2023. The ceiling for change is higher as the conditions are set-up for the 22-year-old blocker to potentially flirt with Pro Bowl and maybe even All-Pro status in 2024. Skoronski should be the Titans' most-improved player this season.