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. Season ending injuries to Tye Smith and Johnathan Cyprien and the addition of Kenny Vaccaro are shaking up things in the secondary.
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
This position has just one decision to make: “is Luke Falk good enough to justify keeping him on the 53-man roster?” I don’t want to judge a young quarterback too quickly. It’s the most difficult position to play in sports and it takes time for these guys to develop. However, through seven open practices its hard to say that Falk has done anything to make me feel like the Titans have to keep him around. His arm strength leaves something to be desired and he simply hasn’t been impressive to this point. That being said, it sounds like Falk had his best performance of camp on Friday night.
Falk has four weeks of practice and four preseason games to continue to show progress so this is far from over, but if the cut came today I would be trying to get him back on the practice squad rather than using a 53-man roster spot on him. The Titans may feel differently because they obviously liked him enough to spend a draft pick on him — even if it was just a 6th rounder — but I’m leaving him out for now.
Projection: (2) Mariota, Gabbert
Locks: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis
Work to do: David Fluellen, Akrum Wadley
Longshots: Dalyn Dawkins
It’s hard to judge backs too much in practices because defenders are coached to “thud up” rather than taking guys all the way to the ground. You can see vision and speed and cutting, but the ability to make people misses and run through contact is harder. However, my perception is that Fluellen still remains at the RB3 spot while Wadley and Dawkins lag a bit behind.
The Titans only keeping two quarterbacks would make it easier to fit a fourth running back in so I’ll stick with Wadley grabbing a roster spot right now to essentially be a Dion Lewis insurance policy. While he’s nowhere near the back that Lewis is right now, he does some of the same things in the passing game and that could be important if Lewis were to miss time during the season, something he’s struggled with in years past.
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
I’m very close to moving Sharpe in to the “Locks” category as he continues to have a really nice camp. He also got some work on special teams this week and seemed to be getting a lot of coaching from special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman. That qualifies as a good sign for Sharpe in my eyes. Despite his strong camp, I see little chance that he ends up cracking the top three at wide receiver if Davis, Taylor, and Matthews are all healthy, and your WR4 really needs to be a special teams contributor if he’s going to be active on gameday. It looks like the Titans are trying to get Sharpe ready for that role.
Outside of Davis, Taylor, Matthews, and Sharpe, Darius Jennings and Michael Campanaro appear to be the guys with the best shots at making the roster. Jennings has basically worked alongside Sharpe with the second team group, occasionally rotating in with the 1’s. Campanaro has often been the first team slot receiver, though that will likely change when Matthews makes his return.
Nick Williams and Deontay Burnett are also in that mix with Campanaro as slot receivers with punt return ability. Both have had their moments in camp and have even earned first team reps at times. Just one of those three likely makes the roster.
The other guy that could have an outside shot is Jordan Veasy. He’s been good in camp, but it’s pretty hard to see him making the cut unless an injury bumps everyone up a spot here.
With Falk off the 53-man roster, I’m going to slide Darius Jennings on. He’s had a good camp and the team clearly likes him. He still needs to continue to build momentum through the preseason, but he’s headed in the right direction right now.
Projection: (6) Davis, Matthews, Taylor, Sharpe, Campanaro, Jennings
Locks: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker
Work to do: Phillip Supernaw, Anthony Firkser
Longshots: Tim Semisch, Nick DeLuca, Ethan Wolf
This spot has basically boiled down to two decisions for the Titans. Do you keep three tight ends or four? And if you keep a fourth, is it Supernaw or Firkser? Supernaw passed his physical on Friday and is now off the PUP list. However, while Supernaw was out, Firkser has soaked up a lot of reps and done really well with them. He’s making a nice play virtually every day in camp and has earned some reps with the first team offense.
Firkser is a very different type of tight end compared to Supernaw. He’s listed at 6’-2” and 246 pounds compared to the 6’-5”, 255 pound Supernaw. He’s far more of a move tight end/H-back type than an inline “Y” type blocking tight end, so if the Titans do decide to keep four tight ends on the roster, it may come down to which type of player they want. That’s why I’m still giving the edge to Supernaw and putting him on the roster, but this was one of the closest calls I had to make.
Projection: (4) Walker, Smith, Stocker, Supernaw
Locks: Taylor Lewan, Ben Jones, Jack Conklin, Josh Kline, Dennis Kelly
Work to do: Quinton Spain, Kevin Pamphile, Cody Wichmann, Corey Levin
Longshots: Xavier Su’a-Filo, Aaron Stinnie, Tyler Marz, Elijah Nkansah, Nico Falah, Matthew Diaz, Laurence Gibson
I’m moving Dennis Kelly up to the “Locks” line here this week. He seems to have locked down the right tackle spot for as long as Conklin remains out and will likely remain the team’s primary swing tackle once he heads back to the bench. The real position of interest here is left guard. Right now there are three guys that have gotten significant first team reps at that spot in practice: Quinton Spain, Kevin Pamphile, and Cody Wichmann. Spain is the favorite, but the team is taking real looks at other options. I would expect to see some rotation here in the preseason as well. If I had to guess today, I’d say Spain hangs on to his job, but it’s far from over.
As far as depth players, I think there is a good chance that we see Dennis Kelly and then the two guys who miss out on the left guard spot end up on the 53-man roster. Pamphile is a highly versatile player who can line up at guard, center, and tackle if needed so I would be pretty surprised if he doesn’t make the roster. I keep flip flopping between the Titans keeping eight or nine here. Usually eight is plenty, but with Conklin’s injury possibly lingering in to the first few weeks of the season, nine could give them some extra cushion. However, the position flexibility of both Pamphile and Kelly could help them stay lean here. For now, I’m cutting this group down to eight.
Projection: (8) Lewan, Spain, Jones, Kline, Conklin, Pamphile, Kelly, Wichmann
Locks: Jurrell Casey, DaQuan Jones, Austin Johnson, Bennie Logan
Work to do: David King, Julius Warmsley, Matt Dickerson
Longshots: Mike Ramsay, Du’Vonta Lampkin, Johnny Maxey
There has been some movement here over the past week as Julius Warmsley earned some praise from Mike Vrabel and subsequently was seen working with the first team during a short period when Jurrell Casey came out. Warmsley could end up sliding in to the back of the roster if he continues to play well.
The other guy who seems to have some upward momentum here is Matt Dickerson, a UDFA from UCLA. He is pretty regularly working with the second team defensive line in practice. My thinking here has been that five would be plenty due to the fact that the Titans only have two players from this position group on the field for most snaps, and I still feel like that’s all they really need.
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
The top four are clearly locked in right now, but I think the team will keep five here. That leaves Carraway, President, and Finch battling for that last spot. All three have flashed in camp, but I’d probably still have them ranked Finch-President-Carraway right now. It’s close though and preseason performance could come be important in deciding this spot. Right now, I prefer Finch based on what I’ve seen, but that could change as camp wears on.
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
I had six of these guys on the 53-man roster last time I did this projection and that was probably overkill. I think the last spot comes down to Bates versus Palmer and I’d give the edge to Bates right now based on his special teams ability.
Projection: (5) Evans, Woodyard, Brown, Compton, Bates
Locks: Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson, Logan Ryan, LeShaun Sims
Work to do: Kalan Reed, Rico Gafford
Longshots: Jarell Carter, Joseph Este, Joshua Kalu
The Titans lost Tye Smith for the season this week which re-opens the competition for the fifth cornerback spot. Right now Kalan Reed has to be considered the odds-on favorite, but Rico Gafford has made some plays and offers elite speed to the back of the roster. Carter, Este, and Kalu could all potentially get in the mix with good work over the next month, but right now I’d say CB5 is Reed’s job to lose.
I’m using the spot I saved by cutting to five inside linebackers here and giving it to Gafford. Cornerback is such a crucial position and they generally make for good special teams players so it seems like a good spot to have extras. Gafford has rare speed and has flashed enough that I’d be curious to see what Kerry Coombs could do developing him as a long term project.
Projection: (6) Butler, Jackson, Ryan, Sims, Reed, Gafford
Locks: Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro
Work to do: Dane Cruikshank, Kendrick Lewis, Demontre Hurst, Brynden Trawick, Damon Webb, Jason Thompson
This spot got a big shake up this week when starter Johnathan Cyprien went down with a season-ending torn ACL. The Titans went out and signed former Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro to step in to the spot opposite Kevin Byard and he should be considered the prohibitive favorite to do just that.
The team also signed another young safety in Jason Thompson. Thompson spent last season bouncing around camps and practice squads in New England, Chicago, and Seattle. He also briefly appeared on the Cowboys roster. Thompson is pretty raw as a safety. He started his college career as a quarterback for Wyoming, but moved to defense after transferring to Utah. He didn’t get a ton of snaps as a Ute, finishing with just 21 total tackles in his college career. However, the appeal of Thompson is his special athleticism. At 6’-2” and 210 pounds he ran a 4.45 40-yard dash, a 39 1/2” vertical, and a blistering 6.57 second 3-cone drill during Utah’s 2017 pro day. It will be interesting to see where he slots in what is now a pretty deep safety rotation for the Titans.
With Vaccaro stepping in to Cyprien’s spot, the competition for roster spots doesn’t change a ton here. Cruikshank seems likely to make the team given the fact that Jon Robinson traded up to get him in the 5th round and he’s done nothing to change that opinion for me.
I still think Trawick makes it primarily as a special teams ace. So that leaves one more spot and right now I’d slot Kendrick Lewis in there, though Demontre Hurst seems close and his ability to play corner in a pinch could be attractive for a back of the roster spot.
Projection: (5) Byard, Vaccaro, 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: Jennings, Supernaw, Finch, Gafford
First Four Out: Firkser, Levin, Warmsley, Hurst
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 RBs, TEs, and WRs getting extras, but that could move around. We could also see them go a little heavier on defense.
On defense I think the base line is 5 per position group with one getting an extra. Right now I’m using that spot for a cornerback, but you could also grab an extra defensive lineman or safety or edge rusher if the team feels someone really stands out.
I will continue updating this as rotations change and we start seeing preseason action. Who did I leave out that you would have kept?