The Titans will have to cut down from the 90 players currently on the team to 53 by 3:00 PM Central on September 1st. With training camp underway we are starting to get a better feel for rotations and where certain guys are in the pecking order.
Obviously, any order on the roster is a fluid situation right now though. We’ve already seen multiple players move up and down rotations based on early camp performances. The goal of this series is to give a snapshot of what the roster might look like if the 53-man roster had to be finalized today. We will continue to update this roughly once a week until cut down day.
Locks: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
Work to do: Luke Falk
I thought Blaine Gabbert looked pretty good this week. He has a big arm and was clearly ahead of Luke Falk. Falk struggled a bit in the practices that I saw and will need to show some development to end up making the roster. Preseason action will be big for him.
For right now I’m leaving him in the 53, mainly because the team invested a 6th round pick in him.
Projection: (3) Mariota, Gabbert, Falk
Locks: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis
Work to do: David Fluellen, Akrum Wadley
Longshots: Dalyn Dawkins
There are really just two questions that need to be answered here. Who wins the third running back spot between Fluellen and Wadley? Do the Titans opt to keep four backs?
So far Fluellen is working ahead of Wadley, but he’s put the ball on the ground a couple times which won’t help his case. Wadley is certainly the more dynamic of the two, and he has flashed that at camp already, especially in the passing game. Will that be enough to unseat Fluellen? That remains to be seen. Right now, I’m leaning towards the Titans keeping both.
Projection: (4) Henry, Lewis, Fluellen, Wadley
Locks: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor
Work to do: Tajae Sharpe, Michael Campanaro, Darius Jennings, Nick Williams, Deontay Burnett
Longshots: Jordan Veasy, Brandon Shippen, Cameron Batson, Devin Ross
The pecking order at the receiver spot has been among the most dynamic over the first few days of camp. It’s clear that the Titans are looking at different combinations here and rewarding the guys who are making plays with more reps.
With Rishard Matthews out, the starters have been Davis and Taylor. Those two, along with Matthews, are virtual locks to be the primary targets for Mariota this fall.
Behind that group it gets a little more murky. Michael Campanaro and Nick Williams have rotated as the top slot receiver with the 1s when the team goes to 11 personnel, and they are also both among the four players in the mix to return punts. Campanaro has the edge right now, but both may have additional competition in the slot soon in the form of UDFA Deontay Burnett who has been impressive early on.
Working as the primary second team receivers has been Tajae Sharpe and Darius Jennings. These two appear to be relatively even right now with both having moments in the first few days of camp.
Jordan Veasy is still working lower in the rotation, but he’s flashed a few times. His big body makes him stand out physically among this group and he uses it well, shielding off defensive backs and making contested catches.
As far as I can tell, I’d peg the receiver pecking order like this right now: Davis, Matthews, Taylor, Campanaro, Sharpe, Jennings, Williams, Burnett, Veasy, Batson, Ross, Shippen. It’s a very fluid group behind that top three right now though.
Projection: (5) Davis, Matthews, Taylor, Sharpe, Campanaro
Locks: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker
Work to do: Phillip Supernaw
Longshots: Tim Semisch, Anthony Firkser, Nick DeLuca, Ethan Wolf
I’m moving Stocker to the “Locks” group after seeing how involved he was with the first team group this week. Stocker’s ability as a traditional, in-line blocking tight end is valuable on its own, but even more so when you consider the fact that it takes some of the blocking burden away from Walker and Smith. That will save those guys a few unnecessary hits per game and keep those hands healthy for catching passes.
Supernaw was added to the PUP at the start of camp. We still don’t know the nature of the injury that is holding him out, but the PUP designation would seemingly suggest that the team believes there is a chance that he’s not ready to go by the start of the regular season. If he does get back in the mix, he will likely find himself on the bubble given the numbers at other positions.
Among the “Longshots”, Anthony Firkser has stood out the most to me early. The UDFA out of Harvard has made a couple nice grabs in team periods.
Projection: (3) Walker, Smith, Stocker
Locks: Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones, Jack Conklin, Josh Kline
Work to do: Quinton Spain, Kevin Pamphile, Dennis Kelly, Cody Wichmann, Corey Levin
Longshots: Xavier Su’a-Filo, John Theus, Aaron Stinnie, Tyler Marz, Elijah Nkansah, Nico Falah, Matthew Diaz
There has been some movement here since camp opened as well. With Lewan not participating in team drills on day one, the starting line to open camp was Pamphile, Spain, Jones, Kline, Kelly from left to right. Since Lewan returned to full participation, Pamphile has moved in to a rotation with Quinton Spain at starting left guard. It would be a shock to me if Pamphile didn’t make the roster given his experience and versatility. Whether he’s a starter or not is going to be the real question.
Spain remains the favorite at left guard with Pamphile and then Wichmann working behind him right now. Su’a-Filo and Levin don’t appear to be in the mix for this spot right now, but things can change as camp moves on. Dennis Kelly appears to be the likely Jack Conklin fill in right now, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Pamphile get a look here as well.
John Theus hasn’t been able to practice yet due to a mystery injury. It will be interesting to see if he’s capable of pushing Kelly at right tackle when he gets out there.
The numbers here are tough without knowing when to expect Conklin back. Assuming Conklin isn’t ready for Week 1, I would suspect the Titans will try to keep nine offensive linemen, but Pamphile’s versatility could allow them to just stick with eight.
Projection: (9) Lewan, Spain, Jones, Kline, Conklin, Pamphile, Kelly, Wichmann, Levin
Locks: Jurrell Casey, DaQuan Jones, Austin Johnson, Bennie Logan
Work to do: David King
Longshots: Mike Ramsay, Julius Warmsley, Connor Flagel, Matt Dickerson, Claude Pelon
This is a spot that’s really hard to peg right now. The top group in base defense has Casey and Jones flanking Bennie Logan with Austin Johnson rotating in at both defensive end and nose tackle. David King has been a staple on the second unit, but the other end spot has rotated between Julius Warmsley and UDFA Matt Dickerson. Dickerson flashed a little bit to me with his quickness, but it’s really hard to tell much about interior linemen early in camp.
While depth here has been a concern, the more I think about it, the more comfortable I am with just keeping five here. Jones and Johnson are versatile enough to play anywhere from a 1-tech to a 5-tech, and the amount to nickel the team will play with just two of these guys on the field means that keeping six would likely be overkill. This isn’t a premier special teams spot, so freeing up space for an extra linebacker could help that unit as well. King could have competition, but he’s the favorite until proven otherwise.
Projection: (5) Casey, Jones, Johnson, Logan, King
Locks: Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, Harold Landry, Aaron Wallace
Work to do: Josh Carraway, Gimel President, Sharif Finch
Longshots: Tobenna Okeke
Dodd’s release really makes this spot more simple. Orakpo, Morgan, and Landry are the clear top three with Wallace not far behind. In fact, I would call Wallace a lock to make the roster right now barring the team going out and adding a veteran at this spot.
The team is very likely going to keep at least five players here, and the fifth spot is truly up for grabs by the looks of things. Second-year pros Josh Carraway and Gimel President along with UDFA Sharif Finch appear to be the primary competitors. Finch’s college tape is intriguing and he’s looked pretty good in camp so far. He’s the guy I’m most interested in out of this group, but Carraway had moments last preseason and President is an excellent athlete.
Projection: (5) Orakpo, Morgan, Landry, Wallace, Finch
Locks: Rashaan Evans, Wesley Woodyard, Jayon Brown, Will Compton
Work to do: Daren Bates, Nate Palmer
Longshots: Robert Spillane
There is still a lot of sorting to do among the top four, but they’re all highly likely to make the roster. Bates and Palmer are both good special teamers and could earn a spot on the roster through that unit. One of those two is vitually guaranteed to be on the team, but I’m not sure if they’ll decide to keep both. The sixth spot here will likely be on the bubble for that 53rd spot.
Projection: (6) Evans, Woodyard, Brown, Compton, Bates, Palmer
Locks: Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson, Logan Ryan, LeShaun Sims
Work to do: Tye Smith, Kalan Reed
Longshots: Jarell Carter, Joseph Este, Rico Gafford, Joshua Kalu
The top four here are locked in and Tye Smith is close. He’s clearly CB5 right now and has earned praise from the coaching staff for his work so far in camp. Reed is a guy that I’ve liked for years, but he’s in a tough spot here. It’s hard to see him passing any of the five guys ahead of him right now and I’m not sure the Titans keep six corners with safeties Cruikshank and Hurst having the ability to work at corner if needed.
Rico Gafford has made the biggest impression among the “Longshots” in my eyes. He made a couple nice plays in team periods and is ridiculously athletic as evidenced by his eye popping pro day 40-time which clocked in somewhere around 4.23 and 4.26 unofficially. He’s got a tough road to a roster spot because of the Titans depth here, but he’s someone I’ll be keeping an eye on moving forward.
Projection: (5) Butler, Jackson, Ryan, Sims, Smith
Locks: Kevin Byard, Johnathan Cyprien
Work to do: Dane Cruikshank, Kendrick Lewis, Demontre Hurst, Brynden Trawick, Damon Webb
Outside of the starters, this group seems to be very up in the air. Lewis and Hurst appear to working as the second safety pairing with Cruikshank rotating in as well. Cruikshank was credited with an interception in a team period during the first day of practice, but it should be noted that the play was really made by Hurst who created the deflection. Hurst often gets overlooked, but he’s an experienced guy who was solid in camp last year. He has a shot to hang around here.
This position has a lot left to be sorted beyond the top two.
Projection: (5) Byard, Cyprien, Cruikshank, Trawick, Lewis
Kicker: Ryan Succop
Punter: Brett Kern
Long Snapper: Beau Brinkley
The Titans also have punter Austin Barnard in camp, but clearly, the Titans are set with the same excellent group they had last year.
Last Four In, First Four Out
Borrowing from ESPN’s Bracketology, here are the eight guys that I have straddling the cut line right now. The “Last Four In” are the guys that I view as roster spots 50-53 right now, while the “First Four Out” are the guys I think are the closest among those on the outside looking in right now.
Last Four In: Wadley, Levin, Palmer, Falk
First Four Out: Supernaw, Jennings, Hurst, Carraway
Right now I’m pretty balanced between offense and defense with 24 offensive players, 26 defenders, and 3 specialists. Last season the Titans initial roster was unbalanced in favor of the defense with just 22 offensive players compared to 28 defenders. Defenders are usually better special teamers so you generally won’t see it tilt the other way.
On offense I think one of the primary roster battles is going to be a competition between QB3, RB4, WR6, TE4, and OL9 to see who can force the team to take an “extra” at their spot. Right now I have the QBs, RBs, and OL getting extras, but that could move around. We could also see them go a little heavier on defense.
I will continue updating this as rotations change and we start seeing preseason action. Who did I leave out that you would have kept?