The Titans will have to cut down from the 90 players currently on the team to 53 by 3:00 PM Central on Saturday. Cuts will probably start leaking out as guys get called in over the next two days though.
If you’ve ever seen Hard Knocks you know how this goes. Guys get a phone call from someone in the team office asking them to come in, they meet with the GM who explains that the team is releasing them, and usually offers some words of encouragement or advice. If the team wants to get that player back on the practice squad they usually give them a heads up then that they want them to stick around town for a couple days since players have to be formally released prior to 3:00 on cutdown day and then re-signed to the practice squad the next day.
Those conversations will likely start this morning and stretch until just before the deadline so the news of who is getting released typically trickles out one or two at a time.
Here are the 53 players I expect to make the roster along with 10 practice squad projections below.
Locks: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
Work to do: Luke Falk
There is zero reason to keep Falk around on the 53-man roster. In fact, I don’t know that I’d be thrilled to give him a practice squad spot. I will put him on the practice squad for this exercise since the Titans will need more than two quarterbacks to make it through practices over the course of a 16 game schedule, but I think the chances of the team grabbing a player that gets released by another team are pretty decent. If Josh Dobbs gets released by the Steelers as expected, he could be an option.
Projection: (2) Mariota, Gabbert
Locks: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen
Work to do: Akrum Wadley
Longshots: Dalyn Dawkins, Lenard Tillery
This is one of the most fascinating spots on the roster to me. The top three of Henry, Lewis, and Fluellen are locked in, but after that it’s anybody’s guess.
I liked Wadley to make the team coming in to camp, but I’m not sure he’s done enough during preseason — partially due to injury — to really make a strong case for them keeping four. However, he’s the best pass catching back outside of Dion Lewis and he has some wiggle to his game that could make him a nice Lewis Lite-type fill in if the former Patriot went down for a few games.
Dawkins entered with much less fanfare, but arguably outperformed Wadley in preseason action. The problem with him is that he’s a very small runner who is also not a great natural pass catcher out of the backfield, as evidenced by his dropped easy touchdown pass on Thursday night. There isn’t a ton of demand for that type of player.
There are a couple of “name” type running backs who could end up cut by their respective teams in Ameer Abdullah of the Lions and DeAndre Washington of the Raiders. They — or other lesser known talents elsewhere — could be guys to keep and eye on if the Titans aren’t completely sold on Wadley or Dawkins.
I’ve projected the Titans keeping four backs the entire time I’ve been doing this exercise and I’m going to stick with it, but I don’t feel great about this one.
Projection: (4) Henry, Lewis, Fluellen, Wadley
Locks: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe
Work to do: Darius Jennings, Nick Williams, Deontay Burnett, Devin Ross
Longshots: Jordan Veasy, Brandon Shippen, Cameron Batson
Injured Reserve: Michael Campanaro
This is another spot where I think there are some questions. If Nick Williams was healthy I would say it’s a clear group with Williams and Jennings joining the four listed as Locks above. However, Williams’ injury has at least cracked the door a little bit for Deontay Burnett.
I think Jennings is in based on the way Vrabel has talked about him over the course of camp and preseason. He often refers to “DJ” in the same breath as guys like Taylor and Sharpe and even made Jennings one of the team captains on Thursday night as a way to honor him for his work this preseason. Jennings also has played well on special teams, as a gunner on punt coverage especially, and that’s going to be important for whichever of these guys grabs these last couple spots.
To me the final spot comes down to Williams versus Burnett. Williams’ hamstring issue probably keeps this from being a lock. Without knowing how serious that hammy is hurt, it’s hard to say which way this one goes. I’m going to lean towards Burnett for now. He’s healthy and available and at just 20 years old he still has a real chance to develop in to a good NFL player.
Projection: (6) Davis, Matthews, Taylor, Sharpe, Jennings, Burnett
Locks: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker
Work to do: Anthony Firkser
Longshots: Tim Semisch, Ethan Wolf, Jerome Cunningham
As much as I loved Anthony Firkser early in camp, there are only three NFL tight ends currently on this roster. I wouldn’t be shocked if they preferred to keep four here — their base offense is listed as 12 personnel and they use 13 personnel from time to time at least — but I don’t know if Firkser is that guy. This could be another position to watch during roster cuts for other teams.
Projection: (3) Walker, Smith, Stocker
Locks: Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones, Jack Conklin, Josh Kline, Dennis Kelly, Quinton Spain, Corey Levin, Kevin Pamphile
Work to do: Cody Wichmann, Xavier Su’a-Filo, Tyler Marz
Longshots: Aaron Stinnie, Elijah Nkansah, Nico Falah, Laurence Gibson
I feel like it’s been hard to gauge how much they like some of the backup linemen based on preseason usage. The rotations have been pretty much the same from beginning to end with the exception of Pamphile briefly replacing Kline with the first team in Pittsburgh.
I’m going to operate under the assumption that Jack Conklin will be on PUP to start the season and missing the first 6 games. We’ve heard that he’s been working out on the side at practices lately but it doesn’t sound like he’s particularly close right now. If he avoids PUP, that would be great news.
My gut feeling here is that Levin and Pamphile are relatively safe. Levin has played well in the preseason and has center-guard versatility. Pamphile hasn’t played as well, but he can play tackle or guard and was the first guy in the game when Kline came out. The 8th guy is where I have trouble. I thought Marz was close last year and I think he is this year as well. Like Pamphile, he offers tackle-guard flexibility and has consistently been pretty good here. I think he’s the 8th right now, but I wouldn’t be shocked to see Su’a-Filo or Wichmann sneak on here either.
Projection: (8) Lewan, Spain, Jones, Kline, Pamphile, Kelly, Levin, Marz
Locks: Jurrell Casey, DaQuan Jones, Austin Johnson, Bennie Logan, Julius Warmsley
Work to do: David King, Matt Dickerson
Longshots: Mike Ramsay, Du’Vonta Lampkin, Francis Kallon
I still think Warmsley should be a lock here after a great camp and preseason. I think Matt Dickerson is probably destined for the practice squad in all likelihood. David King did finally show up against the Vikings, but I’m not sure if that will be enough to make it on the roster.
Projection: (5) Casey, Jones, Johnson, Logan, Warmsley
Locks: Brian Orakpo, Derrick Morgan, Harold Landry, Aaron Wallace, Kamalei Correa
Work to do: Sharif Finch, Josh Carraway, Tobenna Okeke
Longshots: Tony Washington
The addition of Correa likely means that either Carraway or Finch will be left off the roster tomorrow. I expect Carraway to be the odd man out here. Finch has been working higher in the rotation and has been more impressive in preseason action.
Projection: (6) Orakpo, Morgan, Landry, Wallace, Correa, Finch
Locks: Rashaan Evans, Wesley Woodyard, Jayon Brown
Work to do: Will Compton, Daren Bates, Robert Spillane
Longshots: Nyles Morgan, Deontae Skinner, Jeff Knox
Injured Reserve: Nate Palmer
Spillane has at least worked himself in to the roster conversation. I think the 5th spot here comes down to him against Bates. Maybe this is me buying in to the hype, but I’m putting him on over Bates.
Projection: (5) Evans, Woodyard, Brown, Compton, Spillane
Locks: Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson, Logan Ryan, LeShaun Sims
Work to do: Rico Gafford, Kenneth Durden
Longshots: Trey Caldwell, Joshua Kalu
Injured Reserve: Tye Smith, Kalan Reed
Gafford has had moments, but Durden has had more. I think he’s the clear pick for CB5. Maybe the Titans keep 6 here but I think 5 is more likely the number considering the fact that some of the safeties can play corner if needed.
Projection: (5) Butler, Jackson, Ryan, Sims, Durden
Locks: Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro
Work to do: Dane Cruikshank, Kendrick Lewis, Demontre Hurst, Brynden Trawick, Steven Terrell
Longshots: Damon Webb, Jason Thompson
Injured Reserve: Johnathan Cyprien
This spot has some injury questions. Cruikshank and Lewis have both been dealing with injuries and may or may not be full go by Week 1. That could lead to extra numbers here. Vaccaro, Cruikshank, and Hurst all have experience playing some corner at one level or another which is part of why I think the Titans could go light at that spot.
Hurst and Lewis I think are the shakiest of this group, but I have them on the roster.
Projection: (6) Byard, Vaccaro, Cruikshank, Trawick, Lewis, Hurst
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: Tyler Marz, Deontay Burnett, Demontre Hurst, Robert Spillane
First Four Out: Nick Williams, Rico Gafford, Daren Bates, David King
I’m a slight defense lean with 23 offensive players, 27 defenders, and 3 specialists. Last season the Titans initial roster was even more unbalanced in favor of the defense with just 22 offensive players compared to 28 defenders, though it moved more neutral before the season actually started. Defenders are usually better special teamers so you generally won’t see it tilt the other way.
Teams can add 10 players to the practice squad after cutting down from 90 to 53 on the roster. There are several rules with regards to which players are eligible to be added to this group and you can check those out in depth here. Here is my guess for the 10 that the Titans would try to keep if the cut down was today.
- Luke Falk, QB
- Dalyn Dawkins, RB
- Devin Ross, WR
- Anthony Firkser, TE
- Nico Falah, C/G
- Du’Vonta Lampkin, DL
- Matt Dickerson, DL
- Josh Carraway, OLB
- Rico Gafford, CB
- Damon Webb, S
The issue with projecting practice squad spots is that teams can steal players off a team’s practice squad if they want them on their 53-man roster and the Titans may find other players who were cut elsewhere that they like more than one of the guys they currently have. There is almost certainly at least one player on another roster right now that will end up on the Titans roster in some form or fashion before they take a snap Week 1.
Cuts will start leaking out throughout the day today. What did I miss?