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NFL Team Report - Tennessee Titans - INSIDE SLANT
The Tennessee Titans have been sending messages to linebacker Zach Brown for two years now.
The question is whether or not he is receiving them.
On Saturday night, the latest message was delivered by Titans new head coach Ken Whisenhunt, who benched Brown for the opening series of the preseason opener against the Green Bay Packers for violating an undisclosed team rule.
"Zach had a little issue where he did something he wasn't supposed to do and that was punishment because of that," Whisenhunt said. "It wasn't a curfew situation, but it was a team rule that was not adhered to."
Whisenhunt declined to elaborate on the details of Brown's benching, saying, "I would describe it as pissing me off. That has to be more than significant than minor. In the grand scheme of things, I wanted to send a message.
"The purpose of doing that was to send him a message. Hopefully he got that message."
Whether Brown did or not remains to be seen. He said he was ready to put it behind him when asked about it following the game.
"He said I broke a team rule, so I broke a team rule. I've just got to put it behind me and turn the page," said Brown, who went into the game on the second defensive series. "What did he say? You've just got to go by what the head man says. I really can't elaborate on it. I'll just leave it at that. It was a mistake on my part. Everybody makes mistakes. You've got to flip the page on it. You've got to turn the page. You can't let that one mistake keep you down."
But it's not Brown's first mistake and not his first benching. Last year with Mike Munchak as head coach, Brown wound up in the doghouse and benched in one game with then-defensive coordinator Jerry Gray for his play late in the season.
Brown, a second-round pick by the Titans in 2012, was a guy who had a label coming out of the University of North Carolina as a talented but somewhat enigmatic player. Mike Mayock of the NFL Network famously tagged Brown as "allergic to contact" when the Titans selected him on draft day.
Brown's talent was hard to deny, though, and by the end of his rookie season, he had worked his way into the starting lineup and finished the year with 5.5 sacks.
Last year, he was expected to be one of the Titans top defensive playmakers, but slumped to just four sacks.
And while Whisenhunt was willing to give all the players a fresh start, Brown's came with a caveat.
"I think Zach needed to understand that he's under the gun here. He's got to prove to a new staff that he's going to do it the right way. There were things on tape from last year that weren't good, so hopefully that means Zach's working to show everybody," Whisenhunt said earlier in camp.
Brown had done well and was on what Whisenhunt termed "an upward plane" late last week before the incident Saturday night.
The direction that plane goes now apparently is up to Brown.
NFL Team Report - Tennessee Titans - NOTES, QUOTES
--Linebacker Colin McCarthy suffered a shoulder injury that could keep him out of action "for a while," according to coach Ken Whisenhunt. McCarthy, once elected the Titans defensive captain as a second-year player, is on the bubble to retain a spot on the Titans' 53-man roster and was playing with the third team Saturday night against Green Bay when he suffered the injury.
The exact timetable for McCarthy's return is not yet known, but with the Titans switching to a 3-4 scheme, McCarthy battling an injury and holding a $1.431 million base salary for the coming season, he could be behind the eight-ball in his quest to make the team.
--Wide receiver Justin Hunter has been drawing praises and promise throughout the entire offseason. Hunter said his goal this season is to catch 60 passes, which would be a far cry from the 18 he caught as a rookie last year.
"My biggest goal it to have a lot more catches this year. If I could catch 60 balls, that would be great. It would really help out the team," the former University of Tennessee star told 102.5 The Game in Nashville. "I'm working on those underneath routes and being a more complete receiver this year. I can't have a drop-off year. I have to improve from last year."
Coach Ken Whisenhunt sees flashes from Hunter, but wants to see more consistency.
"He's got room to improve. I think he's working at it. He's just a little bit inconsistent. The games are a good test, at least you get to see a little more, but he's doing some good things, and he's lacking some consistency sometimes," Whisenhunt said.
--Rookie quarterback Zach Mettenberger had his ups and downs in his NFL preseason debut, but in the end, he led the Titans to a fourth-quarter, game-winning drive.
Mettenberger had a ball hit off fullback Jackie Battle's hands that was intercepted, and also was stripped of the football once trying to pass, but redeemed himself with two laser completions to Chase Coffman (26 yards) and Brian Robiskie (38 yards) to set up Battle's game-winning score.
Mettenberger wound up 4 of 7 for 87 yards and exuded confidence following the game.
"I know I'm capable of playing this game. I can't make mistakes and turnovers like I did, but to put together the drive like we did was really good thing for this team. Hopefully, I'll keep developing," Mettenberger said.
BATTLE OF THE WEEK: Maikon Bonani vs. Travis Coons. Neither of the Titans inexperienced kickers seem to have completely gained an upper hand (foot) in the kicking competition, but Coons has been the better of the two. Bonani missed an extra point in the monsoon conditions Saturday night, while Coons converted his only try.
NFL Team Report - Tennessee Titans - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
The Titans signed center Steve Vallos and linebacker Kendrick Adams Wednesday.
The Titans also waived linebacker David Gilbert and offensive lineman Viondy Merisma to make room for the additions.
Vallos (6-foot-3, 310 pounds) is a veteran of six NFL seasons and has 59 games of NFL experience. Last season, he played in 15 games for the Denver Broncos. He also saw time with Philadelphia, Jacksonville, Cleveland and Seattle.
Vallos entered the NFL as a seventh-round selection by the Seahawks in 2007, where he remained through the 2009 season. The Wake Forest product has logged nine starts during his pro career.
Adams (6-5, 250 pounds) entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent who originally signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Over the past two seasons he spent time on the practice squads of Tampa Bay, Detroit, Cincinnati and New York Giants. He spent the offseason and training camp with the Cleveland Browns last season.
--WR Marc Mariani, trying to make the team as a fifth receiver or kick returner, handled all the kick return duties in the preseason opener as the Titans elected not to use Leon Washington or Dexter McCluster in those roles in sloppy rain-soaked conditions. Mariani had mostly fair catches and touchbacks, but did not have any turnovers in the game.
--S Marqueston Huff had a sack in his first preseason game. The fourth-round pick is working both at safety and cornerback in his rookie season for the Titans.
--QB Jake Locker's night didn't get going very much, thanks to the torrential rains at LP Field. Locker was just 1 of 2 passing for five yards and exited the game after the first quarter.
--C Chris Spencer left the game in the second quarter with an ankle injury and did not return. He is expected to miss some time.
--C Gabe Ikard, an undrafted rookie from Oklahoma, took C Chris Spencer's place and got some work with the second-team offense.
--T Taylor Lewan had a solid outing, playing 48 snaps in his debut. The first-round pick played tackle with the Titans' second unit.
--DE DaQuan Jones played the most snaps of any Titans defensive lineman and had a tackle for loss in his NFL debut.