IRVING, Texas – The Titans were dealt a big blow at the inside linebacker spot at an impossibly early stage in their season on Sunday – something the Cowboys can surely empathize with.
It's hard to beat the quickness with which the Cowboys lost Sean Lee for the season – just one hour into the first OTA practice of the spring, back in May. The Titans had their own bad luck, however, after they lost Zach Brown to a torn pectoral on just the fourth play of their opener against Kansas City.
"Zach is out – Zach is going to be out for the year. Unfortunately, we're going to have to put him on IR at some point," said Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt on Wednesday.
Brown isn't quite as established a playmaker as Lee. A second round pick in 2012, he set a career high for tackles last year with 91, and he has four career interceptions – a number Lee matched in 11 games last year. Whisenhunt, who's in his first year with the Titans after serving as San Diego's offensive coordinator, said he needed Brown to prove his value during the team's offseason and training camp.
"Coming in here, I didn't know how big of a loss it would be, because there wasn't a lot of good things that I saw on tape about Zach last year," he said. "But now that I've gotten a chance to spend some time with him, and he's really committed himself to doing things the way we want them to be done, it's going to hurt."
The Titans are in the midst of a switch from a 4-3 alignment to defensive coordinator Ray Horton's 3-4 alignment. Brown had been lining up alongside free agency acquisition Wesley Woodyard as one of the inside linebackers.
"He's a talented football player, he was doing very well for us based on what we'd seen off preseason games and practice," Whisenhunt said.
Second-year linebacker Zaviar Gooden filled in for Brown and responded with four tackles and a tackle for loss. The third-year pick is relatively unproven, but he'll be the next man up – something Whisenhunt said he's sure the Cowboys can understand.
"It's going to be tough, but that happens in this league – the Cowboys certainly know that," he said. "They've had a number of those things happen to them, and the next guy has got to stand up."