In an article by The Tennessean's John Glennon, we find out that Zach Brown's successful rookie campaign came on the heels of a camp shoulder injury. He played all 16 games with a brace on his shoulder, electing to not have surgery until this off-season.
Still two weeks away from being cleared for contact, Brown said he was excited about having full range of motion and being able to use both of his arms. Most importantly though, was this quote by Brown:
"For me, my goal is not to let the tight end catch the ball. They've yet to do that in OTAs, even though it's 7-on-7s. Nobody's caught a ball on me yet."
I can't stress how huge this development and focus is.
Last year the Titans defense made any tight end with a pulse look like a pro bowler. I wanted to relive the agony, so I took the time to compile the yards allowed to opposing tight ends in each of the Titans games last year.
- New England - 119
- San Diego - 108
- Detroit - 61
- Houston - 72
- Minnesota - 60
- Pittsburgh - 75
- Buffalo - 15
- Indianapolis - 91
- Chicago - 0
- Miami - 4
- Jacksonville - 56
- Houston - 50
- Indianapolis -20
- N.Y. Jets - 57
- Green Bay - 101
- Jacksonville - 103
The Chicago and Miami games are obvious outliers due to the overpowering defensive play in both of those games.
Regardless, there seemed to be a stretch in 6 of the last 8 games where the Titans got the issue under control, but then fell apart again at the end. The worst part however, was that this wasn't Rob Gronkowski every week. The Titans were letting players such as Dante Rosario, Ladarius Green, and Rhett Ellison look like pro bowlers. You all have them on your fantasy roster, right?
Through the first half of the season, I was under the impression that the issue was a schematic one. The soft corner coverage, combined with a zone shell and a weak run stopping defensive line, left the linebackers in a no mans land. Play action killed them as tight ends were given free releases through the backers and secondary alike ending up wide open and unaccounted for on a number of plays.
At one point during the year, Jerry Gray alluded to the fact that the linebackers were responsible for the majority of the underneath routes, and that it was them not making the plays allowing the holes in the zone. Should the linebackers be expected to play the run first with such a soft shell behind them? Whether it was the linebackers not reacting quick enough or an issue with the scheme is debatable, the horrific results are not.
The coaches haven't come out and made it a public point of emphasis, but it's great to hear Zach Brown mention it. Having a speedy Will linebacker that can run with the NFL's fast and sizeable tight ends is a boon on the defense. Especially if they move to more man coverage as has been suggested.