Early Projections for Tennessee Titans' Final 53-Man Roster
The dust has settled on what has been a questionable draft and free-agency period for the Tennessee Titans, but it has helped shine some light on what the team's roster will look like on opening day.
Some position groups are shrouded in mystery, and several player positions remain unclear on the defensive front seven. Offensively, things are fairly set in stone at all but one or two positions.
As we continue to inch closer to OTA's, here's my first crack at solving what the 2014 version of the Titans will look like.
- Jake Locker
- Charlie Whitehurst
- Zach Mettenberger
Despite the recent fawning over Zach Mettenberger by the media during rookie minicamp, it's highly unlikely to see any change at starting quarterback by the start of the season.
The oft-injured Jake Locker is in the final season of his contract, after the team declined to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. Coach Ken Whisenhunt made it clear that though he supports Locker, the young quarterback is also on thin ice:
It is a make-or-break year for a lot of guys in the league. Jake is one of the guys. That is the nature of this business. He just happens to play a position that gets a lot of attention.
The current crop of of backups leaves a bit to be desired on the, to be frank, likely case that Locker is injured during the season.
Charlie Whitehurst has proved to be inadequate as a starting quarterback, while Mettenberger is recovering from two serious injuries and could probably use some more recovery time.
Running Back (5)
- Bishop Sankey
- Shonn Greene
- Dexter McCluster
- Jackie Battle
- Leon Washington
The picture at running back ACJ (after Chris Johnson) is becoming clearer by the day now that we know all the players involved in the team's committee approach.
With Greene going in for his second knee surgery in a year, the battle for starting running back is all but over. Sankey, who was expected to be the lead back after Greene's poor showing last season, should be the starting tailback on opening day.
Jackie Battle remains with the team as capable reserve and a strong contributor on special teams, while Leon Washington remains with the team solely for his ability on kickoff returns.
Wide Receiver (5)
- Kendall Wright
- Nate Washington
- Justin Hunter
- Michael Preston
- Jaz Reynolds
The situation at the top of the receiving corps has been set since the end of last season. The fourth and fifth receiver positions appear to be up for grabs.
Michael Preston should have a bit of a lead on the undrafted free agents the team signed after the draft, but the competition will be long and arduous before anything is decided.
Marc Mariani will be given an opportunity to make the roster as a receiver, given his abilities as a returner. However, after missing two consecutive seasons to injury, Mariani's timing for the game may be off.
Tight End (3)
- Delanie Walker
- Craig Stevens
- Taylor Thompson
The only change I can see happening with the team's current crop of talent at the position, is if one of the undrafted free agents brought in manages to outperform the disappointing Thompson for third on the depth chart.
Walker is entrenched as the team's top tight end and should see the career-best numbers that he posted last season improve even more.
Stevens is likely to to be given a few more opportunities to make some plays in the passing game after being used solely as a blocker last season.
Offensive Line (9)
- Michael Roos (LT), Andy Levitre (LG), Brian Schwenke (C), Chance Warmack (RG), Taylor Lewan (RT)
- Michael Oher (LT/RT), Chris Spencer (G/C), Gabe Ikard (C), Byron Stingily (RT)
I've been very skeptical of the team's signing of Michael Oher in free agency, citing his poor play over the last four seasons of his career.
I could easily see Lewan winning a position battle with Oher this offseason, making Oher a very well-paid reserve for the upcoming season. Lewan saw reps at both left an right tackle during rookie minicamp over the weekend, according to The Tennessean:
"Today was my first significant reps at right tackle," said Lewan, who played strictly left tackle during his four years at Michigan. "So there were some growing pains there. Everybody thinks left tackle and right tackle are the same thing. They're not."
The rest of the starting unit is set after the wholesale change that took place on the interior during 2013's offseason. While using nine roster spots on offensive line may seem like one too many, the need to keep Stingily is there due to Roos being on the final year of his contract and the uncertainty of Oher's play.
Next offseason, the team is almost sure to let Roos walk and allow Lewan to slide over to his more natural position of left tackle. Stingily could then remain on the team as a swing tackle. Oher could either be cut or given the opportunity to start on the right side.
Overall, it's a choice made for the future of the franchise in mind.
Defensive Line (7)
- Ropati Pitoitua (LE), Jurrell Casey (NT), Al Woods (RE)
- Mike Martin (DE), Sammie Lee Hill (NT), Antonio Johnson (DE)
- DaQuan Jones (DL)
The defensive line is the most unsettled unit on the team at this point, with players still not having their positions set. Pitoitua is the only player we can say with any certainty, will be manning one of the starting defensive end roles.
There will be a lot of tough roster cuts to make among this group of players, but with the switch to an odd front, the need for a large defensive line corp is not as prominent as years past.
- Akeem Ayers (OLB), Zach Brown (ILB), Wesley Woodyard (ILB), Shaun Phillips (DE/OLB)
- Derrick Morgan (DE/OLB), Colin McCarthy (ILB), Avery Williamson (ILB), Kamerion Wimbley (DE/OLB)
- Patrick Bailey
The inside linebacker position is just as muddled as the team's defensive line situation right now. At the very least, we will see two new starters in the linebacker corp.
Woodyard seems to be a lock to start at "Mike," with Brown being seen as the favorite to start at "Will."
However, the situation appears to be fluid. We can't be sure what will happen with Brown, Zaviar Gooden, McCarthy or Moise Fokou. While McCarthy's inability to stay healthy is concerning, he is capable of contributing on special teams and has shown flashes of being a quality all-around linebacker.
Williamson is player that has promise and Brown is your prototype "Will." The concern is his poor play through the majority of 2013.
- Jason McCourty
- Blidi Wreh-Wilson
- Coty Sensabaugh
- Tommie Campbell
- Marqueston Huff
The main focus during the offseason will be the situation at right, or No. 2, corner. The battle is for the position vacated by Alterraun Verner and will be fought over by Campbell, Sensabaugh and Wreh-Wilson.
I expect Wreh-Wilson to just edge out Sensabaugh due to his bigger size and more physical nature. Sensabaugh is more finesse but possesses great man coverage skills for covering the shifty slot receivers in the NFL today.
I just don't see it translating to the bigger and much stronger receivers that line up on the outside. Campbell will remain the team's fourth corner, and he'll go mostly unseen.
- Bernard Pollard (SS), Michael Griffin (FS)
- George Wilson (SS/FS)
- Daimion Stafford (SS)
Pollard and Griffin are set to start another season together at safety after an excellent first season paired together. Wilson is likely to serve as the backup for both and is sure to pick up a few snaps for certain sub-packages.
He is best suited to play strong safety but has the ability to man either position and perform well. defensive coordinator Ray Horton likes his safeties to be versatile. I expect Wilson to receive more playing time as a result.
Stafford had a redshirt rookie campaign and will have the opportunity to contribute if he can remain healthy. I expect him to remain on the roster as a possible future replacement for Wilson or Pollard.
Special Teams (3)
Travis Coons (K)
Brett Kern (P)
Beau Brinkley (LS)
Finding a kicker as reliable as Rob Bironas will be a tough thing to do, but the team has two options on the roster they believe can get the job done.
Maikon Bonani and Travis Coon will compete with one another for the team's kicking duties and have some big shoes to fill if given the opportunity.
I expect this situation to be resolved in preseason game action, when the attempts begin to matter.
Brett Kern continues his solid play, finishing with a net average of 39.7 yards per punt in 2013. While his average is very middle-of-the-pack, his return average was third-lowest in the league and pinned opponents inside their own 20-yard line 32 times, per ESPN.