The Tennessee Titans turned to the defensive side of the ball in the second round and added North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown, whom they believe can compete for the weak side linebacker spot with veterans Will Witherspoon and Gerald McRath in training camp.
Zach Brown will vie for the will linebacker spot with the Tennessee Titans
Brown, a four-year player at North Carolina, ran a 4.5 time in the 40 and had 5.5 sacks his senior season for the Tar Heels. Like first-round pick Kendall Wright, he made a pre-draft visit to the Titans.
Titans general manager Ruston Webster had high praise for Brown's athletic ability.
"Zach Brown is probably about as talented football player as you can find. He's big, fast and very athletic,” Webster said.
“They said they were gonna try and make it happen, and now I'm just ready to roll,” Brown said after being taken with the 52nd overall pick in the draft.
Brown said he considers former Titans linebacker David Thornton “a big brother” and someone who helped to mentor him through some tough times.
As for his contributions to the Titans, the coaching staff is excited to add a player who can be a three-down linebacker because of his speed and cover skills. Brown had seven career interceptions, including three as a senior at North Carolina.
“He'll come in and get a chance to play will linebacker and get a chance to play in space, maybe make some plays in space,” defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “He'll get a chance to blitz off the open side, which will be good for us, and we know he can run. He'll be able to get into our nickel package. He's an athletic guy and the speed that we're looking for.”
If there was a criticism of Brown, it was his tackling or perceived lack of it. Despite being credited with 105 tackles last year, NFL Network's Mike Mayock said Brown was “allergic to contact,” and ESPN's Jon Gruden offered a similar assessment.
Brown offered this rebuttal, “We're just gonna have to see now. Everybody that said there was a knock (on me), they're gonna find out when the season comes.”
Gray pointed to Brown's 29-0 mark as a high school wrestler that the label isn't correct, and that Brown was simply a product of what he was asked to do in the Tar Heel defense.
“If you're allergic to contact, I don't think you're a wrestler,” Gray said. “To me, that's the package they're using him in. A lot of times you can be put in a position to where they let you go run and chase and that becomes who you are. And they kind of put that tag on you.”