Ahh the end of preseason. College ball is starting up, the oppressive southern summer is starting to break and lots of camp bodies are about to make the saddest walk to the parking lot they'll ever make. It's a damned hard thing to say that a guy has been cut from an NFL team. It often means the end of a dream they've had for their entire cognizant lives. As a sympathetic fan, the only thing worse is knowing that the player making that walk is better than the guy who gets to stay. Yet, it happens.
So with that in mind, I'm putting out my own version of this all-to-common post with a little bit of a twist: Lots of 53 man roster predictions are an attempt to guess what's going to happen, but this is a declaration of what should happen based upon everything I've seen, read and concluded from intensely following this team for years. The list is 54 players long if you count McRath. It's useless to predict who will lose a spot once he's healthy because, as any soldier will tell you, the best laid plans never survive first contact with the enemy.
So, with no further ado, lets head through the jump for the roster and my own comments:
QB (3): Vince Young, Kerry Collins, Rusty Smith
AW: No surprises here, it's what we've all been thinking it would be for months now. Smith hasn't impressed much in preseason matches, but he has done so in camp and will be the 3rd QB who isn't active for most games.
RB (3): Chris Johnson, Javon Ringer, LeGarrette Blount
AW: Gado could be the surprise here because the staff seems high on him. In the end though, I just don't see the benefit in having him on there unless there are questions about Ringer's ability to be consistent in the little things. If Gado survives the cut it's more a knock on Ringer than Blount, IMO.
FB (1): Ahmard Hall
AW: He's the Sarge. 'nuff said.
TE (3): Bo Scaife, Jared Cook, Craig Stevens
AW: it wouldn't shock me one bit to see the Titans find a way to carry a fourth tight end for blocking and special teams purposes, but I don't think it's a necessity since Stevens is a key special teamer and figures to lose reps to Cook in the passing game despite his growth in that role. Few teams in the league have the quality depth and familiarity with the system at this position we do.
WR (6): Justin Gage, Nate Washington, Kenny Britt, Lavelle Hawkins, Damian Williams, Marc Mariani
AW: Mariani should be a lock at this point. Not only is he a legit returner, but he's shown some flashes at the wide receiver position. Hawk has come on enough to be counted on at the bottom end of the rotation, and Williams is a promising young wide-out. This is the best group of targets we've seen in a while. If there's one position group on offense where it seems like I'm going with one more guys than they'll carry, it's here, but everyone on this list will help this team.
OL (8): Dave Stewart, Jake Scott, Eugene Amano, Leroy Harris, Michael Roos, Mike Otto, Troy Kropog and Fernando Velasco
AW: The starters are set in stone, and the back-ups are almost as obvious. Otto has been a fixture at the back-up tackle spot for a minute, and Kropog still has value as a versatile guard/right tackle. Velasco could be unseated, but the best candidate is Kevin Mathews, and the Titans should have no problem getting him through waivers and on the practice squad.
DE (6): William Hayes, Jacob Ford, Derrick Morgan, Jason Babin, Eric Bakhtiari, Dave Ball
AW: I know Bakhtiari isn't on a lot of 53 man roster predictions, but I get the vibe he's a guy the staff has liked for a while, and fits the Jim Washburn profile. He's played well in the preseason and shown some fire in camp (apparently to the occasional chagrin of Blount, apparently). Ball makes the cut because he can play inside and outside. Expect these guys to trade of DNPs from week-to-week depending on the match-up.
DT (4): Tony Brown, Jason Jones, Sen'Derrick Marks, Jovan Haye
AW: Seems like they have to carry more than four DTs, but keeping Ball on the roster really gives them five DTs. There's young talent in Howard and some of the other guys in camp, but they'd all be easy marks for the practice squad.
LB (6, before McRath): Will Witherspoon, Stephen Tulloch, Rennie Curran, Jamie Winborn, Collin Allred, Stanford Keglar, [Gerald McRath]
AW: McRath got popped for PEDs and won't count against the roster until his suspension is over. That's what saves Stanford Keglar's roster spot. Allred is a steady back-up who helps a ton on special teams and should be safer than some of the guys ahead of him (namely Jamie WInborn).
CB (5): Cortland Finnegan, Jason McCourty, Alterraun Verner, Ryan Mouton, Vincent Fuller
AW: While this group looks a little short, I think the Titans enter week one with just five CBs on the roster because their scheme and over-the-top coverage with the safeties makes it plausible to play safeties at the dime spot as needed. Fuller is always listed as a safety, but he plays the nickle, and Mouton and Verner can step in there as needed.
S (5): Chris Hope, Michael Griffin, Myron Rolle, Robert Johnson, Nick Schommer
AW: The Titans have to be honest with themselves and start grooming legit back-ups at the safety position. Nickey isn't going to play anything other than special teams at a level that isn't vomit inducing, and Fuller needs to concentrate on the nickle spot. Rolle and Johnson have the one thing no other back-up safety has brought to this team in years: up-side. You have to keep them, and I think there's no question that Schommer has outplayed both. So, to make the best safety group out of the available guys, it's time to cut Nickey loose. Any argument to the contrary is just stupid at this point.
K (1): Rob Bironas
P (1): Brett Kern
LS (1): Ken Amato
AW: These guys are locks, obviously