Titans turn to defense with pair of picks on second day of draft

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 11:23pm

Zach Brown lined up a lot of different places during his four-year career at the University of North Carolina. Through it all, he never stayed in one spot very long.

Simply put, the 6-foot-1, 242-pound is fast.

The Tennessee Titans, who selected him in the second round (52nd overall) of the 2012 NFL draft, plan to make the most of that speed by putting him at one position and turning him loose.

“He has the speed. Now let’s focus him in on what his job is,” defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said. “I think he’ll become a lot better football player when he doesn’t have to do everything.”

Brown was the first of two defensive players the Titans took on the draft’s second day. They added defensive tackle Mike Martin from the University of Michigan in the third round (82nd overall).

The final four rounds will take place Saturday beginning at 11 a.m.

“We feel like we had a productive day in terms of filling some needs and getting some talented football players,” general manager Ruston Webster said. “Zach Brown is probably as talented a football player as you can find – big, fast, very athletic. And then Mike Martin is what you want in a nose tackle. He is tough as nails. He’s a grinder, doesn’t mind doing the dirty work and brings the kind of mentality we want on our defense.”

At 6-foot-1, 306 pounds, Martin was the fifth-shortest defensive lineman in the draft. He performed well in all drills at the combine and in workouts, including the 40-yrad dash where he was one of six defensive linemen whose time was better than 4.9 seconds.

He was a three-year starter at Michigan who had at least two sacks in each of his four college seasons.

“When you watch him on film, he’s manhandling big people and he understands how to control big people,” defensive line coach Tracy Rocker said. “We’re not going to stretch him out anymore. We love him for what we got him for, and I think he does a good job with what he has.”

Whereas Martin benefits from a quick first step, every step Brown takes goes quickly.

He was a state champion high school sprinter in Maryland who set UNC’s indoor 60-meter record following his freshman football season. In a pre-draft workout he ran the 40 in 4.44 seconds, which made him one of the fastest linebackers available.

“I think it helps me cover the slot receivers and the running backs and the tight ends,” Brown said. “Not a lot of linebackers can do that.”

Brown, though, did virtually everything an outside linebacker can do at some time during his college career. He played primarily on the weak side through his first three seasons before he moved to the strong side as a senior.

He was a special teams captain as a junior and the team’s most valuable player as a senior.

“The obvious thing is the speed,” Titans linebackers coach Frank Bush said. “He’s a big, fast athlete. … Spending time with the kid, we found a kid who was passionate about the game. He had been there for four years. He had played in a lot of different positions, and quite frankly he wants to get honed in and learn one particular thing so he can do it even better.

“One thing I can’t coach is speed, and he’s got it.”

Brown made just 23 starts total but averaged nearly 60 tackles per season. He finished with five and a half career sacks and seven interceptions, including three in each of the last two years.

“I can do a little bit of everything,” he said. “I can blitz. I can cover. I can stop the run. Put me out there and I’m a linebacker. If you ask me to do something, I can do it.”

The Titans don’t plan to ask that much.