Projecting Tennessee Titans' Final 53-Man Roster After Preseason Week 2
Well, the first two weeks of the preseason for the Tennessee Titans have been eye-opening. The pass rush and run game are still going to have some problems, while the passing game looks like it might do fairly well again.
The defense seems solid overall, and the Titans of 2012 are looking an awful lot like the Titans of 2011.
There are also some new stars on the rise in Tennessee. Amongst them are Pannel Egboh, Darius Reynaud and Zach Clayton. On the other hand, the Titans can only have 53 guys on the roster, so not everyone, even the guys that did well, can make it.
All that in mind, the final 53-man roster is starting to come together. Here's my prediction.
Locker and Hasselbeck are obviously both going to be on the roster, but in the end, I think Rusty Smith won't. If either potential starter sustains an injury, they'll certainly call on Smith, but they just don't seem to have the room for a third quarterback right now.
I want to put him on the roster, since the coaching staff seems to like him and he's made a lot of progress since he was drafted, but with all the other players contending for spots, I just don't see it.
Rusty Smith will likely be cut pretty soon and given a chance to sign somewhere where he can be used, since the Titans know there just won't be room for him.
The Titans aren't going to give up on Chris Johnson unless something drastic happens, so he's obviously in.
Javon Ringer looked good last season, and he proved that he can come through in a pinch, so his spot is safe as well.
Jamie Harper still hasn't developed into that power back that the Titans need, but he's also only in his second year, so they're going to wait a while before they really put his roster spot in jeopardy.
Darius Reynaud just keeps impressing every time he gets the ball. As well as he's played, I just don't see the Titans giving him a roster spot, even if it's mostly as a kick returner.
Either Collin Mooney or Quinn Johnson could win the fullback battle, but I think Johnson has a slight advantage since he was with the team last season and Mooney missed some time with a broken hand.
No surprises here. Britt is the No. 1 receiver when he's on the field, but his suspension and injuries are always a problem. Washington is coming off of a 1,000-yard season, Wright was a first-round draft pick, Williams was a high draft pick who showed some potential last season and Hawkins was just given a contract extension.
Finally, Marc Mariani was a Pro Bowler as a kick returner, so they'll keep him on even if he doesn't break into the receiver rotation. He's been good so far as a receiver this preseason, so he may see the field at that position more.
Again, this shouldn't surprise anyone. None of the tight ends beyond these three have jumped out and grabbed anyone's attention. All three are pretty important to the team, even if Thompson is only important as a recent draft pick.
The offensive line is tough to predict because it's hard to figure out just how many guys the Titans will keep.
I think the Titans will keep four tackles since Stewart is coming off a season where he missed some time, and I like Otto over Kropog as a backup left tackle, while Stingily is a more recent draft pick and a true right tackle.
The interior linemen are tough. Velasco, Hutchinson and Harris get an obvious nod since they're the starters, but after them it gets shaky.
Matthews gets a spot as a backup center who's also spent time at guard, and then I think DeVan has the best chance to be the other interior line backup since he has actually spent some time in the NFL as a starter.
This ended up being a big group, but there is a lot of talent with the Titans on the defensive line, so it was hard to see them cutting any of these players.
The Titans are suddenly pretty deep at defensive tackle. Casey and Klug had great rookie seasons and will continue to see regular time. Marks has shown sudden improvement and could likely start with rookie Martin rotating in. Sophomore tackle Clayton has been impressive so far this preseason and may see some time.
At defensive end, Wimbley will be a boost to the pass rush, while Morgan tries to prevent being labeled a bust. Egboh will rotate in with Morgan, and may take his spot if Morgan continues to struggle.
Solomon is a recent draft pick, and Douzable was a free-agency pickup, so I expect both will be on the roster.
This is a straightforward group. Last year's rookie starters, Ayers and McCarthy, will return as the starters, and each will have his respective backup in Malast and Shaw.
The interesting position in this group is the weak-side linebacker. Witherspoon is the incumbent starter, but Brown was the team's second-round draft pick and has already made a strong case to start now.
I expect Brown will end up starting, but the team will keep Witherspoon around as a solid veteran backup.
This group is pretty obvious. It's the two starters, the extra nickel corner and the draft pick.
McCourty and Verner have done nothing in the preseason so far to cast doubt on their roles as starters. Campbell will rotate in and will probably start at the outside spot in nickel packages. He will probably rotate in behind either McCourty or Verner to keep them fresh.
Sensabaugh was a raw player that the Titans drafted this year, so even if he isn't all the way there, he'll have a roster spot for sure.
I have a feeling that Markelle Martin might end up on the IR list, but for now, I'm putting him on the list with a roster spot.
Michael Griffin is the only clear-cut starter here, with Martin backing him up if he's physically able to. If not, then Afalava will serve as the second free safety.
At strong safety, there may be a battle in the works. Babineaux was the starter last season, and he did pretty well, but he's older and Johnson just earned a chance to start against the Buccaneers. He'll certainly have a spot on the roster and could replace Babineaux as the starter by the season's end.
Rob Bironas, K
Brett Kern, P
Beau Brinkley, LS
The likeliest kick returners are wide receiver Marc Mariani, cornerback Tommie Campbell and running back Darius Reynaud, so I don't have a kick returner listed here.
This group is straightforward as well. Bironas is a great kicker, Kern is a solid punter and they've both been with the team for several years, so it's no shock that they aren't going anywhere.
The newcomer in this group is long snapper Brinkley. There are no other long snappers on the roster even now, so his spot is secure as long as he doesn't do something crazy or sustain a major injury.
Rusty Smith, QB
Collin Mooney, FB
D.J. Woods, WR
Chris Morris, C/G
William Vlachos, C
Dave Ball, DE
DaJohn Harris, DT
Chris Hawkins, CB
The practice squad, believe it or not, is an important part of a team. When you have players that look like they might become pretty good in the future, but aren't there just yet, or solid backups that you just don't have room for at the moment, you throw them onto the practice squad.
Smith has progressed a lot since his only start, where he threw three picks against one of the worst secondaries in the NFL. However, like I said before, there isn't room for him. The Titans probably want him to be the long-term backup to Locker though, so they'll hold on to him if they can.
Mooney could make the roster if he beats out Quinn Johnson. The loser will probably see a practice-squad spot.
Woods looks like a receiver who could end up being good as a returner, or even a depth receiver. He won't make the roster, but the Titans will keep him if possible.
The Titans may end up needing new bodies at the interior line, so they'll keep Morris and Vlachos available to them on the practice squad.
Ball may retire since he got another concussion, but he's a solid player, so I could see him sticking around on the practice squad.
Harris has some upside as a backup defensive tackle, but the Titans are already deep there. His talent will keep him on the practice squad anyway.
Finally, Hawkins is a valuable veteran who could be a good backup if anything were to happen to a starting cornerback, so the Titans will find a way to keep him at their disposal by putting him on the practice squad.