Over the first four four games of the 2013 season, Akeem Ayers and the rest of the Tennessee Titans linebacking corps played extremely well. From Week 5 on, however, the unit's play steadily declined to the point of near ineptitude.
One misconception about the team's linebackers is that while they did perform well as a unit over the first month of the season, Ayers' performance was nearly nonexistent. Moise Fokou and Akeem Ayers, especially, were terrific.
Through the first six games of the season, Ayers made a paltry 12 tackles, with five of them coming as assists, according to NFL.com. He had three games with one tackle or less in that span as well.
According to Pro Football Focus (subscription required), Ayers saw his usage rate drop to the lowest of his career, while his pass-rush attempts went up.
|Play Counts: Akeem Ayers|
Despite Ayers' increase in pass-rush opportunities under the tutelage of Gregg Williams, finished the season with just one sack. In the meantime, Zach Brown racked up four sacks with a mere 66 pass-rush opportunities all season.
While it's not a forgone conclusion that Ayers may be a lost cause, the amount of attention paid to Ayers' transition to a scheme that would seemingly suit him better has overshadowed a better talent in Brown.
I'm expecting Brown to win one of the starting inside linebacker roles in Ray Horton's 3-4 hybrid scheme and perform well. He has the size and burst to close on plays and is adept in coverage. His unique athleticism for the position should give opposing offenses fits.
The one concern for Brown going forward is his strength and ability to shed blocks. With fewer defensive linemen in front of him, opposing offensive linemen will be freed up to block the Titans linebackers more often.
This is where I expect Brown's speed to help him immensely. Expect to see Brown's opportunities to rush the quarterback to continue to rise along with his tackle numbers.