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Notebook: Brown's Confidence Grows

Posted Nov 30, 2012

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Zach Brown noticed the uptick after the Pittsburgh game.

The Titans’ rookie linebacker said his progression into the NFL eased as he increased his belief in his ability to play at football’s highest level.

“My confidence just turned up, my confidence just hit, so from then and there, I don’t consider myself a rookie anymore,” Brown said. I’m always thinking I’ve got to make this tackle and make every play I can make.”

Brown has recorded 26 tackles, including 20 solo stops, in the past three games. He had two tackles for loss against Chicago, a 47-yard interception return at Miami and 1.5 sacks at Jacksonville.

Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray said Brown’s development has been a product of Brown and the coaching staff increasing expectations on him. Gray said that will continue.

“The more he plays, the more confidence he gets in himself, and even then, we told him, ‘You know what? You rushed two more times last week. You should have had two more sacks,’ ” Gray said. “So, when a coach starts expecting things out of you and you expect it out of yourself, you become a better football player. When they don’t expect anything out of you and you go out there and do something, then the expectation rises, and I think that’s what he’s doing for himself.”

Titans coaches have been pleased with the way that Brown and second-year starting linebackers Akeem Ayers and Colin McCarthy have worked together, but disappointed that those opportunities have been limited by an ankle sprain that knocked McCarthy out of the season opener and forced him to miss four additional games.

McCarthy encountered concussion-like symptoms after the game at Jacksonville and has been ruled out of Sunday’s contest with Houston. McCarthy did not practice this week and was unable to get past the symptoms this week.

“It was a matter of seeing how he was afterward, the next day, again so-so, so we followed the protocol from there of how he was doing and had him work out, see how he responded, and (it’s) just not where we’re satisfied that he should be playing in a game on Sunday,” Titans coach Mike Munchak said. “You wanted him to get better or clear up a lot quicker. It’s not like he’s in a bad way by any means but I just think he’s not clear enough at this point that we think he should play in a football game, so he’s not playing.”

Munchak said the Titans likely will use a combination of veterans Tim Shaw and Will Witherspoon at middle linebacker in McCarthy’s absence.

FIRST-HAND LEARNING: Brown said he’s been much more comfortable preparing for the Texans this time than for their Sept. 30 meeting. Brown said the opportunity to play against Houston added to the understanding he developed from film study. He said the keys to containing Houston will be for defenders to stay on their feet by dodging cut blocks and discerning between play action bootleg passing plays and zone running plays.

“I learned a lot,” Brown said. “It was the first time I played them, and I’ve gotten used to their offense and what their tackles do, and I can tell a difference between their boot and their zone.”

Defensive tackle Sen’Derrick Marks also emphasized the need for defenders to stay on their feet to maintain gap responsibility to limit the Texans’ rushing attack.

“If we let the run game get going, then we know we’ll have a tough time defending the run and we know they also have the boots off it,” Marks said. “That can get out of hand very fast if we allow it, so it’s going to be like last game. We came out there and stopped the run and did pretty good against them. Hopefully we can do that with our front seven.”

The Titans were down 14-7 in the third quarter in the first meeting but momentum swayed when the Titans suffered two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the second half.

LOGGAINS ON SIDELINES: Munchak said Dowell Loggains, who was promoted from quarterbacks coach to replace Chris Palmer as offensive coordinator on Monday, will call Sunday’s game from the sideline. That vantage point will be consistent with the view that Loggains has had the past three seasons while coaching quarterbacks.

Munchak said Tom Moore, the 38-year NFL veteran who’s been helping the Titans this week, will be in the coaches’ box. Moore, who has prior offensive coordinator experience at Pittsburgh, Detroit and Indianapolis, will have a game-day role that is similar to what he’s had so far this week where he can offer suggestions and tips to the conversation.

“During the game, it’s another set of eyes. It’s like that most games, there’s not necessarily a lot of adjustments that go on during the game. I think if you’re seeing things or getting an idea, I think he’s another guy that can say, ‘You know what? They’re playing this way. Maybe you want to think about this route or think about that.’

“I think Tom is getting comfortable with what we are doing and how we’re attacking different coverages that the Texans play,” Munchak continued. “Just that way, if it’s one or two little tidbits or just another thing to think about, it’s very helpful for all of us coaches, for me too, to have someone else that’s been there, done that. It’s always nice to have someone right there that can kind of give you immediate impact if there are any issues that come up during the game.”

TIPS AT THE LINE: The Titans have yielded an interception after a pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage in each of the past two games.

Ayers tipped a ball at Miami that McCarthy intercepted and returned 49 yards for a touchdown, and Marks tipped the first pass of the game at Jacksonville, and Alterraun Verner captured the ball for his second interception of the season.

The technique has gained significant traction.

“That’s something that’s always in the back of a defensive lineman’s head,” Marks said. “The first play of the game I jumped offsides, so I knew I had to do something to make up for it. I just so happened to get my hands up. We’ve got this saying that we’re supposed to make plays on all tips and overthrows, and we did on that one.”

ROAD WARRIORS: Houston (10-1) has already tied last season’s franchise record with 10 victories, and a major component of that has been the Texans’ 5-0 mark on the road. Texans coach Gary Kubiak said he’s seen his team improve at “handling hostile environments” over the years.

“I think that goes with our quarterback (Matt Schaub),” Kubiak said. “He’s handled our football team great from that standpoint. We know winning on the road comes down to protecting the ball and those types of things. I just think we’ve improved and gotten better as a group. We’ve held our group together for the most part, so we have a lot of guys that have played some football together. Winning on the road is being consistent, so we’re trying to find a way to do that.”

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