The Tennessee Titans have already made some preliminary cuts to the roster, and so far, there aren't any huge surprises. I thought Will Vlachos would make the practice squad, but no one else really had much of a shot.
However, they still have a lot of names to cross off, and some will be much harder to get rid of than others.
As the deadline to the 53-man roster moves closer and closer, which players will be the hardest for the Titans to let go? Here are six guys they won't want to part with, but they will have to in the end.
Note: For purposes of this article, I'm ignoring the practice squad. There's no telling who will and won't make it because teams tend to stack it with certain positions in mind more than actual ability.
The Titans signed Collin Mooney right after his commitment to the Army was over, and he's been battling it out with Quinn Johnson for the fullback spot. Right now, I think Johnson is ever so slightly ahead of Mooney, but either of them could come out on top.
The team would not have signed Mooney if they didn't like him, and I'm sure that he could be a valuable leader and contributor to the team, but the truth of the matter is that there isn't room on the roster for two fullbacks.
Also, there is a good chance that the Titans will want to use their practice-squad spots on receivers and defensive players more than another fullback, so he may not make the practice squad either. The Titans won't like it, but they will probably have to cut him eventually.
Troy Kropog has spent almost his whole career on the Titans' practice squad, only appearing in six games since he was drafted in 2009.
Unfortunately for Kropog, he doesn't seem to have overtaken Mike Otto as the backup left tackle, and Byron Stingily, the more recent draft pick, seems to be the favorite as the backup right tackle.
Mike Munchak was Kropog's position coach in 2009 and 2010 before he was promoted to head coach. He was probably the reason the Titans drafted Kropog in the first place. For Munchak, cutting a player he's come to know very well over the course of three years will not be easy.
Keyunta Dawson has seen his name called a few times this preseason. In their most recent game, Dawson got three hits on the Cardinals' quarterbacks, even though he only had one tackle to add to his stats.
Despite the disruptive ability he's shown, the Titans happen to be pretty deep and very young on the defensive line. With Jurrell Casey, Karl Klug, Mike Martin and an improved Sen'Derrick Marks out front, and recent draft pick Zach Clayton holding on, there isn't room for Dawson.
It really is too bad, because I have liked what I've seen from Dawson this preseason. He's done well, but he just happens to be playing the wrong position at the wrong time to make the Titans' squad.
DaJohn Harris, like Dawson, has had a pretty good preseason. Also like Dawson, he plays an unfortunate position.
Harris had three tackles against Seattle and a sack against Arizona. He has been pretty disruptive when he's on the field, but not enough to earn a roster spot.
What will make him really tough to part with, like Collin Mooney, is that the Titans went out and signed him as a free agent after the draft. They wanted him for a reason, but however much they like him, he won't make the team.
He's also a former teammate of Jurrell Casey, who played beside him at USC in 2010, so it'll be hard for Casey to see his friend and teammate leave the squad too.
Dave Ball has been with the Titans for a while, and he was a very good rotational player as recently as 2010.
Finally though, in 2011, his age and his injury history started to take a toll. Ball only started in eight games and registered just four sacks. Earlier in the offseason, he considered retirement due to his many concussions.
However, he re-signed with the Titans for another year, only to be sidelined with another concussion.
Ball's career is over, and as sad as it is to say, he needs to retire or be cut for his own good before he causes himself any more permanent harm. If the Titans have to cut him, you can bet they won't like it; he's been with the team for four years.
The battle for backup free safety is pretty neck and neck right now.
Al Afalava is younger and had a pretty good game against the Cardinals, while Aaron Francisco has more NFL experience and has been better overall in the preseason.
Both are vying for one of the safety spots that will be open due to Markelle Martin's injury. With Robert Johnson entrenched as the backup, and maybe even eventual starting strong safety, the Titans need a backup for Michael Griffin.
I think that Afalava will win this one. He's younger, he's closer to a free safety than Francisco is and he's the better player in my mind.
Still, Francisco was a pretty recent signing by the Titans' staff, and they clearly saw something in him that they liked. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough room for everyone that the staff likes, and so Francisco will have to pack his bags before too long.