The Titans had issues on defense last season. These issues permeated the entirety of the lineup, but one of the most obvious areas of need was at linebacker. In the new 3-4 scheme, more was asked of the linebackers, both interior and outside, in terms of defending both the run and the pass. With Dick LeBeau now joining Ray Horton in year 2 of this 3-4 installation, the Titans could see a resurgence from these units.
One of the players I had been excited to watch in this system was ILB Zach Brown, who was lost for the year in game 1 of 2014. He provides the athleticism and raw talent to excel in the multiple front 3-4, with the versatility to do a little bit of everything, including putting pressure on the QB. He figures to pair with rookie standout Avery Williamson in 2015 to form a more impressive interior ILB group. And the pressure is on for Brown in a contract year.
It isn't a rosy scenario for Brown, who was put in Mike Muchak's doghouse a few years back, and has been relatively quiet since his rookie season. Much of the hype and promise has been dimmed since that time, and it's easy to forget the excitement among analysts who watched the Titans during his rookie season and saw a young, raw playmaker in Brown.
Following his injury, Brown has been working out at the team facility rehabbing, and from all accounts out of St. Thomas Sports Park, he had been making great progress as of a few months ago. The real test of his ability will be a mental one, rather than a physical one. He has the height/weight/speed combination that makes scouts drool, and showed some good football instinct early on in Tennessee, but that feels like years ago at this juncture.
"He really did a nice job of buying in to what we were doing and being accountable on the field. Zach has to continue to do that. He has a chance to be really good in this defense."
Ken Whisenhunt, per the Tennessean.
Much of the attention has been heaped on last year's rookie out of Kentucky, Avery Williamson. While he has growth to do in year two, he was a bright spot last season amongst the chaos of a poor defensive unit. He can be relied upon to track down runners between the tackles and make sure stops in the underneath zones.
One of the most important qualities expected of these interior players is intelligence and athleticism. Both Brown and Williamson possess the ball-seeking qualities to track down running backs and to defense the interior on passing downs. The team has lacked a run-fit interior linebacker since the days of Stephen Tulloch. With Welsey Woodyard slotting into a more favorable rotational role as a situational pass defending linebacker, the Titans should be able to hope for better things in 2015. The real question is how well the two will function under LeBeau and Horton, and if they can turn this Titans defense around.