The first preseason game gave us plenty of clues about where certain players stack up on the Titans roster currently. There were a few surprises during Titans-Jets and I hit on several of those here, but as we get more information things get much clearer. This list will not matchup completely with the Titans unofficial depth chart since I am adding in what we’ve seen in practice and the first preseason game which holds more weight that any depth chart at this time of year. You’re going to see that I cut some pretty good players in the list below — including all of our 6th and 7th round picks from this year — but that’s what happens with good football teams. It becomes tough for late round picks to make the roster.
The deadline for NFL teams to get rosters trimmed down from 90 to 53 players is September 2nd at 4:00 PM ET.
TRENDING DOWN: Alex Tanney
ANALYSIS: Tanney was very very bad against the Jets last week, but I wouldn’t call the backup QB battle “over” after just one preseason appearance. After all, we’ve seen Tanney look very good in the preseason before as well. Cassel is expected to get his first preseason snaps this weekend against Carolina so I will be interested to see how both those guys look playing back to back in the same game.
RUNNING BACK (4)
TRENDING UP: Akeem Judd
TRENDING DOWN: Khalfani Muhammad
ANALYSIS: The RB3 spot certainly appears to be David Fluellen’s to lose at this point. He is clearly ahead of both Judd and Muhammad in the running back pecking order right now and there are no signs of that changing. He’s looked good in camp and it would be a pretty cool thing to see a guy who spent two full years toiling on the team’s practice squad finally get his crack on the 53 man roster.
Behind Fluellen right now is the UDFA from Ole Miss, Akeem Judd, who was one of the few offensive stars of the Jets game. I can’t see Judd overtaking Fluellen based on what I’ve seen so far, but he’s a physical runner and could be a good practice squad candidate.
One of the bigger surprises from the first preseason game was seeing so little Khalfani Muhammad. He didn’t get any reps in the return game after struggling through some issues with drops during a few practices and he only ended up getting 3 touches on offense, all of which came after both Fluellen and Judd were in the game. I think we all expected Muhammad to be the likely front runner for the RB3 spot coming in to camp, but he’s got a long way to go as it stands now. In fact, he may not even make the practice squad if he can’t get in front of Judd. He did, however, have a nice practice on Wednesday this week so maybe we start to see the 7th round rookie turn the corner.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
***Tajae Sharpe is currently on the PUP list recovering from foot surgery so I left him out of the 53 at this point***
TRENDING UP: Harry Douglas
TRENDING DOWN: Tre McBride
ANALYSIS: The top 4 wide receiver spots are locked in at this point with Davis, Matthews, Decker, and Taylor looking to be the primary targets for Mariota this season — and I can’t wait to see them all healthy and on the same field again. Behind those guys there is a group that is fighting for what likely will be just 2 roster spots. I suppose it is possible that the Titans keep 7 receivers, but that just seems like overkill for a team that still wants to be a run-first offense.
Harry Douglas has helped himself over the last couple weeks with both his performance in camp and his work in the Jets game. He earned some pretty lavish praise from Mularkey yesterday when he called Douglas “invaluable” and spoke to how important it is for the young receivers to watch and learn from him. That sounds like a guy who is going to stick on the roster even if he’s inactive on most gamedays. Right now I would peg him as the most likely of this group to make the final roster.
Tre McBride seems to be trending down despite having a pretty good camp so far. Mularkey spoke recently about McBride’s need to be more consistent. As a coach who rarely speaks negatively about his players in the media, Mularkey saying a player “needs to be more consistent” is his way of saying a guy needs to pick it up. McBride is in a tough spot because he’s not as good a receiver as Douglas is and he’s not as good a special teamer as Weems is.
Speaking of Weems, he’s trailing Adoree Jackson in the kick/punt return battle right now and its hard to imagine that changing based on the early reports. This clearly hurts his chances of making the roster, but he is also among the best punt and kick gunners on the team so he would still bring value week to week.
Throw in the Tajae Sharpe situation and you have a really complicated formula for trying to figure out who sticks on the 53 out of the receivers. If Sharpe stays on the PUP much longer the team will probably opt for stashing him there to give him 6 weeks of the regular season to continue to rehab and work his way back in to shape before a Week 7 return while keeping another receiver on the 53 man roster. However, there have been rumblings this week that he is getting closer to being able to return. If he is activated off PUP during camp, then he can’t be stashed there to start the season which means that we are back to 4 guys for 2 spots. Sharpe is probably the best pure receiver out of this group and he certainly has the highest upside, but with him setting at WR5 at best for 2017 and WR4 at best for 2018, might the Titans attempt to dangle him for a trade?
TIGHT END (3)
TRENDING UP: Jonnu Smith
TRENDING DOWN: Jace Amaro
ANALYSIS: This group is pretty locked in. The only question is whether they opt to keep a 4th tight end — likely Amaro — but I think they have better players at wide receiver right now that they would prefer to use the extra spot for.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
TRENDING UP: Tyler Marz
TRENDING DOWN: Brad Seaton
ANALYSIS: This group has gotten more interesting over the past couple weeks with the emergence of Tyler Marz. He is currently listed as the second team left tackle behind Taylor Lewan, but he’s also getting some first team reps at right guard. Given where Marz seems to be it is almost a certainty that Brad Seaton is going to find himself on the practice squad.
Corey Levin’s spot in the 53 man roster is definitely on the bubble. Right now I have the Titans keeping 8 offensive linemen, which leaves Levin off the team. I think he’ll be tough to sneak on to the practice squad, but I don’t know who you pull off the roster to get him on the 53 right now.
DEFENSIVE LINE (7)
TRENDING UP: Antwaun Woods
ANALYSIS: Probably the biggest surprise coming out of the Jets game was Woods getting the starting nod at nose tackle over Williams. Mularkey has said that Williams will start against the Panthers, but Woods will rotate in. This is clearly a competition right now at nose tackle and I think it says more about how good Woods has been than it does about Williams doing anything wrong.
I think the top 7 in this group are almost a lock. I know the staff likes Abdesmad quite a bit, but there just doesn’t seem to be room for him on this roster. This is probably the best position group on the team from top to bottom.
TRENDING UP: Aaron Wallace & Josh Carraway
ANALYSIS: This group has had some attrition already with Victor Ochi and Kourtnei Brown both getting hurt and subsequently released during camp, but the Titans have declined to backfill those spots with other edge guys mostly — in my opinion — because they are pretty comfortable with what they’ve got here. Aaron Wallace flashed big time talent against the Jets and seems to be having a strong camp despite a sore back holding him out the last couple days. Hopefully he will be able to go against the Panthers.
Josh Carraway has also been earning some praise from the coaches and had a pretty strong showing against the Jets as well. It is tough to leave him off this roster right now, but the numbers just aren’t there for him.
INSIDE LINEBACKER (5)
TRENDING UP: Jayon Brown
ANALYSIS: This is another group that seems to be pretty strong. Williamson is having a great camp and seems ready for a big year. Jayon Brown has been constantly praised by the coaches for his work and we found out why during the Jets game. I think he’s going to get a lot of snaps as a rookie.
Palmer and Bates are both solid backups and good special teamers. Palmer offers the ability to play on the edge in a pinch which is a nice bonus. I still think those two both make this team.
TRENDING UP: Adoree Jackson, Kalan Reed, & Tye Smith
TRENDING DOWN: D’Joun Smith
ANALYSIS: This group is much improved from last season. Yes, Logan Ryan had a couple bad plays against the Jets, but I expect him to bounce back and be fine. LeShaun Sims and Adoree Jackson have been very impressive so far in camp and that battle appears to be bringing out the best in both.
Kalan Reed has been another star of camp and he showed out in the Jets game as well. He looks like a guy who is not just closing in on a roster spot, but putting himself in the mix to get some snaps as well. His ability to rotate in at safety if needed gives him a little extra value.
Tye Smith is another corner who has been making a push of late. He’s made a few head turning plays in camp and is the kind of corner that isn’t afraid to come up and make a big hit. With Demontre Hurst out with an injury, he’s taking advantage of some extra reps.
TRENDING UP: Curtis Riley
ANALYSIS: The top 3 here are locked so the only battle we might see would be between Trawick and Riley for that last spot. Trawick gets the edge here because of his special teams play, but I think this is going to be close. Riley is the more versatile player on defense.