TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: INSIDE LINEBACKERS
In camp (6): LB Rashaan Evans, LB Jayon Brown, LB David Long Jr., LB Nick Dzubnar, LB Cale Garrett, LB Khaylan Kearse-Thomas.
Offseason developments: Some big movement here came at position coach, as the team hired veteran coach Jim Haslett to work with the inside linebackers. Haslett replaced Tyrone McKenzie, who is now with the Lions. The Titans signed Dzubnar, a special teams ace who spent the previous five seasons with the Chargers. The Titans also signed a pair of undrafted free agents in Garrett (Missouri) and Kearse-Thomas (Arizona State). Two linebackers from last year's team – Wesley Woodyard and Daren Bates – have not been re-signed and they remain free agents. Brown was placed on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list at the start of training camp, but has since been removed and is on the active roster.
In the spotlight: Evans. The Titans have a pair of talented inside linebackers in Evans and Brown. A first-round pick by the Titans in 2018, Evans led the team in tackles in 2019 with 139, posting double-digit tackles in half of the team's contests. He recorded sacks, made tackles in the backfield, scored a touchdown, and in the team's playoff win at New England, was a force at the goal-line in a critical series of plays. Evans said he wants to be even more of a leader in 2020, when he also wants to do more. His maturity and improvement will be on full display when camp kicks off.
Battle to watch: Race for 5th ILB: The Titans ended last season with five inside linebackers on the roster, and it's pretty easy to get to four heading in – Evans, Brown, Long and Dzubnar. Does the fifth spot belong to Garrett, a productive player at Missouri? Or could Kearse-Thomas (6-1, 224), who had 65 tackles and 4.5 sacks as a senior in 2019, be a surprise make? The Titans could also look to the waiver wire while also surveying the market, at this position as well.
A look back at linebacker Nick Dzubnar's first five NFL seasons with the Los Angeles Chargers. (AP Photos)
Keep an eye on: David Long Jr.. A fifth-round pick of the Titans in 2019, Long got a chance to play more down the stretch last season, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. After finishing the regular season with 15 tackles in 14 games played (he logged most his playing time on special teams), the instinctive Long racked up 16 tackles in three playoff contests, tallying eight tackles in his lone start at Baltimore. The Titans feel good about their front-liners in Evans and Brown, and the presence of Long makes the inside linebackers even more potent.
Next up: Outside linebackers.
Titans Online looks back at linebacker Rashaan Evans' 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)
Titans Online looks back at linebacker Jayon Brown's 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)