TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: INSIDE LINEBACKERS
Offseason developments: Brown, who suffered a season-ending elbow injury last November against the Ravens, got healthy – and he also got a new contract. Brown and fellow inside backer Rashaan Evans worked side-by-side in OTAs this offseason. The Titans declined a fifth-year option on Evans back in May. The Titans added several linebackers/special teams contributors this offseason, including March, who played most recently with the Cowboys, and Bello, most recently with the Chargers. The Titans also drafted former Georgia linebacker Monty Rice in the third-round of the NFL Draft. Back in January, the team added Johnson on a futures contract, and he worked all offseason with the team. Meanwhile, linebackers Will Compton, Daren Bates and Nick Dzubnar had their contracts expire, and they remain unsigned. The Titans also waived Davin Bellamy back in May, and he also remains unsigned.
In the spotlight: Evans. After ending the 2019 season with a bang, Evans was expected to make a big leap in 2020. But Evans, a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, saw his tackle total fall from 139 in 2019 to 96 in 2020, while seeing dips in categories like sacks, and tackles for loss as well. Evans also led the team in penalties. The Titans need – and expect – Evans to bounce back in 2021. A durable and talented player, Evans had a good spring, when he played fast and communicated well. If he's able to regain his form heading into the season, it'll be a good development for the Titans defense.
Battle to watch: Back-up spots. Evans and Brown are the team's top two inside backers, so the competition is for the back-up spots. Long has stepped in and been productive when needed, and he's continuing to develop as a player. Rice, a cerebral player who is aggressive, improved during the offseason, and the team is hopeful he'll make even more strides in camp. March, Bello and Johnson will battle for special teams spots in the kicking game, which could earn them a spot on the roster. March and Bello have experience in the league, so the scrappy Johnson will need to keep working hard to give himself a chance in the competition.
Keep an eye on: Brown. The Titans missed Brown and his play-making ability at the end of last season. After signing a one-year deal back in March, Brown will be even more motivated to perform at a high level this fall. A fifth-round draft pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Brown has tallied 367 tackles, 9.5 sacks, 35 quarterback pressures, 17 tackles for a loss, three interceptions, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and 28 passes defensed in his career. He tallied 76 stops and a sack, with an interception and four quarterback pressures, in 2020 before suffering the elbow injury. Brown is feeling good, and the Titans are excited about having him back.
Next up: Outside linebackers.
See the Top Images from LB Jayon Brown's Offseason Workout. (Donald Page)