Titans select North Carolina LB Brown in NFL draft

By TERESA M. WALKER - AP Sports Writer
    2012-04-27 21:06

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - The Tennessee Titans need plenty of help on defense, and they started filling some of their needs by selecting speedy North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown.

The Titans started the second round Friday night trying to improve a pass rush that ranked next to last in the NFL last season with only 28 sacks. They drafted receiver Kendall Wright in the first round and then went for a linebacker in the second round for a second straight year.

The Titans can only hope that Brown contributes immediately, following in the footsteps of Akeem Ayers - who started all 16 games as a rookie in 2011.

But Brown's not the defensive end many thought the Titans would select very early in the draft. The Titans, however, also had the 82nd pick overall in the third round among the seven total selections they have in this draft. The Titans also have a handful of players at linebacker, but coach Mike Munchak said three play heavily on special teams while Brown brings something different with his speed.

``We got a guy we think is versatile, that can play the weakside backer,'' coach Mike Munchak said. ``We like to bring that linebacker, he's someone who has good rush skills, having five sacks this year as an outside linebacker that's something we really haven't had from that position. The fact that he can cover and run with the people that we have to cover in our division ... there's a lot of things he offers.''

The 6-foot-1, 242-pound Brown set the North Carolina record with a 6.72-second time in the 60 meters as a member of the Tar Heels track team in 2009. He was timed at 4.44 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine in February and was even faster at his pro day (4.37 seconds in the 40).

Brown had seven career interceptions at North Carolina, and he had his best season as a senior. Brown had 105 tackles with one fumble recovery, three forced fumbles and 13.5 tackles for loss to go along with 5.5 sacks.

The Titans wound up with two rookies starting at linebacker by the end of last season when fourth-round pick Colin McCarthy replaced veteran Barrett Ruud and started the last seven games. Gray said Brown's speed will let him play in space while also rushing the quarterback, and the coordinator isn't worried about being too young at linebacker if the rookie winds up pushing past veterans Will Witherspoon and Gerald McRath to earn the starting job.

``He's going to be competing and the best guy's going to get the job,'' Gray said.

Linebackers coach Frank Bush said Brown is a big, fast athlete eager to learn one position.

``One thing I can't coach is speed, and he's got it,'' said Bush, who added that he's heard talk about Brown not being a physical linebacker.

``We are just going to have to see now,'' Bush said on a conference call. ``Everybody that said that's the knock, they are going to find out when the season comes.''