Here we go! The preseason is over (thank goodness) and now we can move on to games that really count. The Titans made it out almost completely healthy which is really the most important thing about preseason football.
Before we jump to looking at the Raiders, the Titans need to make final roster decisions. They must get down to 53 by 3:00 PM Central on Saturday. After cutting reserve WR Mekale McKay and CB Jeremy Boykins on Wednesday they now stand at 88, leaving 35 guys to get bad news between now and the deadline. These releases will probably start coming today and we will be tracking those for you, but here is my final guess at the Titans 53-man roster. Let’s see how close I can get.
ANALYSIS: This is a 100% lock. Tanney has had an awful preseason and will be on his way out with no controversy this year. Cassel is absolutely the #2 here. Ferguson was pretty much a disaster and likely won’t be retained on the practice squad. I wonder if we see the Titans make a move to try to get a 3rd QB either on the roster or on the practice squad after cuts are made. Its hard to imagine them only having two quarterbacks on the team (including the practice squad) all season. I wrote about some of my favorite options for QB3’s here about a week ago.
RUNNING BACK (4)
ANALYSIS: This one also appears to be locked in. Fluellen has run away with the RB3 competition in camp and seems poised to become a special teams contributor and “break glass in case of emergency” type running back for the Titans in 2017. Muhammad and Judd seem like potential practice squad candidates, but I wouldn’t necessarily rule out the Titans taking a look at a running back who gets waived from another team to take that role.
WIDE RECEIVER (6)
ANALYSIS: This is the position of interest as the deadline approaches. Everyone has a different take. I’m sticking with 6 as the number here which makes the decisions really difficult, but there are a couple spots that you might give up for a 7th receiver. I’ll highlight those as we move along to other position groups.
I have been on #TeamWeems since Day 1 and I continue to think he’s making the roster. He was one of the team’s first free agency signings and based on usage in preseason it seems like he will be the team’s first option at kick returner while also serving as a key member of kick and punt coverage teams and Adoree Jackson’s backup at punt returner. As I said earlier this week, I think the team experimenting with him on offense during the first drive of the Bears game is a sign that they know he’s on the team and are just trying to find other uses for him. I know a lot of people want McBride over Weems, but there is a big difference between being capable of playing on special teams — like McBride — and being very good at it — like Weems. The Titans made a point to improve on special teams this offseason and Weems is a key part of that.
I think Sharpe makes the team even though I’m not a huge fan of his 2016 play. He’s still young and can develop and he offers an ability to play all three spots at receiver which is valuable for a backup.
That leaves Douglas and McBride off the roster. I think the Titans would love to find a way to keep both these guys, but there is no way they can keep 8 and 7 would probably cost them too much elsewhere to justify it. Both these guys would likely be inactives (along with Sharpe) on most gamedays if everyone in this group is healthy. I just think it is the end of the road for both. The Titans may still be able sneak McBride back on to the practice squad which would be great, but some wide receiver needy team would be smart to come steal him away.
TIGHT END (4)
ANALYSIS: This the main spot that I struggled with against the 7th wide receiver option. I ultimately think that the way this team uses tight ends makes it pretty likely that they keep 4 on the roster. There is a chance that they decide to use Fowler as a reserve tight end to make room for a 7th receiver, but Amaro has come on a little bit as camp and preseason wore on and he may have done just enough to get himself on to the team. This is another spot where the Titans might be monitoring the waiver wire to try to find an upgrade over Amaro, but for now I have him on the team.
OFFENSIVE LINE (8)
ANALYSIS: I think this group is pretty close to a lock. Tyler Marz is almost certainly going to make the team based on preseason usage and performance. Kelly and the starters are obviously safe as well. The question for me is Lelito, Levin, or a 7th receiver. Marz doesn’t play center so the team needs a second option there behind Jones, but that is what makes the cross training we have seen from Kline interesting. If Jones goes down, Kline will slide over to center and Marz will slot in at right guard. The question then becomes whether that makes a guy like Lelito or Levin — who both can play guard or center — expendable. I don’t think it does. I think the work Kline has gotten at center has more likely been preparation for being able to leave Lelito or Levin inactive on gamedays. I think one of Lelito or Levin will make the 53 man roster. I think the guy that makes the team will depend largely on whether they think they can get Levin to the practice squad or not. If they think they can, I suspect they go with the experience on the roster and stash Levin for a year. If they don’t, they may choose to protect Levin’s upside and cut Lelito.
DEFENSIVE LINE (6)
ANALYSIS: I am interested to see what they do here as well. The top 5 of these guys are virtual locks — Casey, Jones, Johnson, Klug, and Williams — even though Williams has been less than impressive so far. The question becomes whether 2 or 3 make the team out of the Woods-Blackson-Staten group and which ones. I could be convinced of any combination of those guys. Blackson has the experience and probably still has the most physical upside here. Woods is a grinder and has a knack for making big plays in the backfield. Staten has flashed and was seemingly playing above Blackson in the “dress rehearsal” preseason game against the Bears.
I don’t think the Titans need two dedicated nose tackles on the 53-man roster, especially with Jones, Johnson, Williams, and Blackson all having the ability to play in there if needed so that’s why I left Woods out. The decision for me came down to Staten versus Blackson and I’m going with Blackson, but its very very close. Staten has impressed during camp and preseason, but Blackson still has the experience and upside to hold him off I think. If a 7th lineman is kept I think it is probably Woods, but I’m just not sure I see the value in hanging on to two guys who primarily play nose tackle. The Titans could pretty easily get either Woods or Brown — who has also played well — on to the practice squad and feel comfortable with that spot if something were to happen to Williams.
ANALYSIS: I am cutting Woods in this projection to make room for Carraway, who has exceeded expectations in preseason. He’s showed some juice as a pass rusher, and while 6 outside linebackers is a lot, this is also a position where you can never have enough talent. Carraway’s spot came down to him, Antwaun Woods, and Demontre Hurst with Carraway’s upside pushing him over the top.
Please stop with the “cut Dodd” stuff too. He’s not getting cut, and while he hasn’t shown the pass rush chops you would expect from the #33 overall pick yet, he has been very good against the run and is still knocking off the rust from missing a huge amount of time with the never ending foot injury from last season. Defending the run is important too, and it is something that Wallace, Walden, and Carraway struggle with. I’m anxious to see how the Titans plan to use Dodd when the games count. I don’t think you’ll see as many scenarios where he’s asked to cover the flat or run with tight ends down field. He’s bad at that and the Titans need to keep him out of those spots.
INSIDE LINEBACKER (5)
ANALYSIS: I am comfortable with this group. The only question to me is Palmer or Staples and I’m leaning Palmer. Both guys are good fill-ins for the Avery Williamson role if needed and both can bump outside to play the edge in a pinch. Bates makes the team on the strength of his special teams play.
ANALYSIS: I think the top 5 in this group are locked so the only question becomes whether Hurst or Tye Smith did enough to make them keep 6 corners over a guy like Carraway or Antwaun Woods. Hurst seems the most likely, but a camp injury forced him to miss valuable time and dampened some early momentum he had built. Tye Smith would be a great practice squad stash since Hurst is out of eligibility.
ANALYSIS: Trawick had his best game on defense against the Bears and I think that helped him solidify a roster spot over Riley.
PRACTICE SQUAD (10)
Khalfani Muhammad, RB
Tre McBride, WR
KeVonn Mabon, WR
Corey Levin, G/C
Brad Seaton, T
Antwaun Woods, NT
Jimmy Staten, DE
Tye Smith, CB
Curtis Riley, CB/S