When the Jets signed LB Avery Williamson away from the Titans in March of 2018, it opened up a glaring hole in the middle of the field next to veteran starter Wesley Woodyard. The Titans were going to need to replace 92 tackles and 3 sacks worth of production.
Fast-forward to draft night, and the Titans were precariously perched at pick number 25, waiting for their moment to address a hole in the roster. When Alabama LB Rashaan Evans started to slide down the draft, Titans GM Jon Robinson knew he couldn’t let a player of his caliber be drafted before the Titans could get their hands on him. So, the Titans made a call to the Ravens, who picked at number 22 and made the move.
The early returns on Evans weren’t as fantastic as the Titans had hoped. After suffering an “Undisclosed injury” during the off-season, Evans went on to miss almost all of the Titans’ off-season programs. These summer practices can be the big difference between success and failure at the NFL level, and many speculated that it would take quite a bit of time for Evans to catch up to speed.
When Week 1 of the regular season came around, Evans was still in the recovery stage. The once highly touted LB would have to wait even longer to make his debut. With Evans out, the Titans had to look inward to fix their starting lineup next to Woodyard. After careful consideration, Head Coach Mike Vrabel decided that off-season acquisition Will Compton would make the start in the heart of the defense.
After becoming disappointed with Compton’s play, the Titans needed solutions. They decided that in Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles, 2nd-year coverage LB Jayon Brown would get the start. The former 5th round pick of the 2017 draft had never started a game in the NFL, but he had impressed with limited playing time in sub-packages as a rookie a year ago. It was this subtle move that helped the Titans discover another key defensive building block.
Meanwhile, Evans had been rehabbing and recovering. He worked his way into the starting lineup in Week 3 against the Jacksonville Jaguars. While Evans looked confused and lost at points early in his rookie season, he progressed and made strides before it was all said and done.
The Titans had solved their middle linebacker worries, and accidentally discovered so much talent that Former Pro Bowler Wesley Woodyard was forced to take a seat after returning from his own injury. Brown produced Pro Bowl level production. He recorded 97 tackles, 6 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and a pick-six. Evans steadily improved until he became an absolute force patrolling a stout Tennessee defense. He finished the year with 53 tackles and a pass deflection.
So much of the Titans’ success depended on the stalwarts that marched the middle of the field. The impact of their improvement shoved the Titans back into the playoff race late in the season, and Brown single-handedly kept the Titans in their last game of the year against the Indianapolis Colts with his pick-six that led to a complete shift in momentum. Unfortunately, the Titans would not be able to overcome the Colts, and that would be the end to the season.
So, what’s next for these two? It’s simple. Jayon Brown was a Pro Bowl snub in the AFC, and if this level of play is the new normal for him, there’s nothing more the Titans could want. He is a complete LB, able to match up with any TE in coverage and able to effectively rush the passer on blitz calls. For Evans, his next step starts with the off-season. It will be extremely beneficial for him to experience a healthy off-season in the workout programs while progressing his game. His steady improvement should bring the Titans the man who dominated at the collegiate level into the NFL.
With Brown and Evans in the middle, the AFC South, and the entirety of the NFL needs to watch out for what could be a dangerous Titans team. And, if Evans does get hurt again, the Titans would turn to another dangerous weapon: The Pro Bowl LB they now keep on the bench in Wesley Woodyard.
|T/T HOODIE-DOUBLE SIDED||$28.00|
|THE TALK HOODIE||$25.00|
|THE TALK LONG SLEEVE||$19.00|
|THE TALK T-SHIRT||$18.00|