NASHVILLE, Tennessee — Ken Whisenhunt finally has an unofficial depth chart for the Tennessee Titans, listing Zach Brown as a first-team inside linebacker alongside veteran Wesley Woodyard.
Just in case Brown, or anyone else gets too comfortable, Whisenhunt noted Wednesday the depth chart is subject to change.
"It's all about trying to find the right 53," Whisenhunt said.
Brown has been watched closely as he learns a new defensive scheme and moving inside. The Titans selected the speedy linebacker with the 52nd pick overall in the second round out of North Carolina in 2012. But coaches were so upset with his play last December that they yanked him from an overtime loss to Arizona after a few plays and didn't start him the next.
Whisenhunt said early in training camp that Brown needs to understand he has to prove to a new coaching staff that the linebacker will play the right way. The coach said Brown had some play on tape last season that wasn't good.
Even Woodyard, the veteran signed this March to help the Titans transition to a 3-4 defense, had heard some things about Brown. Woodyard's perception changed once he met the linebacker.
"Out there on the football field, he's the guy next to me," Woodyard said. "And whenever I have a slip-up, I'm like, 'Zach, what are we doing on this?' He's a guy I'm able to rely on, so that's very great."
Brown wasn't happy when he was benched last December. Mike Munchak was fired in January after going 7-9 with Whisenhunt brought in to take over.
Now in training camp, Brown says he sprained a knee against Kansas City in October. He says he played five games hurt with his injury never mentioned. He still finished as the Titans' second-leading tackler with a career-high 117 tackles, and he either led the team or was tied for the lead in tackles in five games. He also had a team-high four tackles for loss and four sacks and an interception while forcing a fumble.
With defensive coordinator Ray Horton switching the Titans to a 3-4 scheme, the 6-foot-1, 248-pound Brown has moved from outside linebacker where he has started 26 of his 32 games inside. The Titans see Brown, who was timed running the 40-yard dash in 4.44 seconds at the NFL Combine, as athletic enough to cover tight ends and running backs in space and play near the line.
Having Woodyard beside him has helped Brown work through the differences playing inside linebacker rather than outside as he did the past two seasons. But Brown says he has heard people question him and uses that as motivation.
"For me, I'm always out to prove people wrong and prove myself right, 'Hey I can do this,'" Brown said. "People say I can't play inside linebacker. They're going to find out this year."
Whisenhunt said Wednesday he just wants Brown to keep working. The Titans open the preseason Saturday night hosting Green Bay, and that will be the next big test of how Brown is adapting.
"He's on a plane that's moving upward, and the challenge for him is to continue on that," Whisenhunt said.
Notes: The Titans waived quarterback Tyler Wilson on Wednesday. Whisenhunt said releasing Wilson now gives him a chance to catch on with another team early in the preseason. They also opened up a spot for DT Lanier Coleman, while getting more work for rookie Zach Mettenberger. The rookie quarterback, a sixth-round draft pick in May, had a rough practice Wednesday. He was intercepted in a goal-line drill, and he also had a pass that bounced off a garbage can on the sideline before hitting a woman watching at the fence.
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