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From 90 to 53: Updating my 53-man roster projection coming out of Titans-Patriots

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The Titans have some tough decisions to make in the next two weeks.

Indianapolis Colts v Tennessee Titans Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images

The Titans will have to trim their roster from 90 to 53 on August 31st by 4:00 PM Eastern. With that in mind, let’s take a look at who might be in and who might be out as things stand coming out of preseason game number two.


Quarterback

In: Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill

Out: Logan Woodside

Maybe this is a bit reactionary after a rough outing from Woodside Saturday night, but I feel like it was always going to take a near perfect camp/preseason from the second year QB to force the Titans to keep three signal callers on the 53-man roster. The ideal situation for the team would be to sneak Woodside back on the practice squad to keep a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency option in the building if something were to happen to Mariota or Tannehill rather than taking up a roster spot with a guy who will automatically be inactive each week.


Running Back

In: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen, Jeremy McNichols

Out: Alex Barnes, Dalyn Dawkins, Akeem Hunt

My decision for the last spot on the offense came down to Woodside versus McNichols and I went with McNichols. I believe that Fluellen’s spot is still safe as long as he’s able to get healthy prior to the end of preseason. The team wants him to be the primary fullback this year in addition to providing some depth at tailback and his usual role as a key special teamer. McNichols has made a pretty convincing case for a roster spot during the first two preseason games. He’s run the ball well, caught the ball well, and done an excellent job in pass protection.


Wide Receiver

In: Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, A.J. Brown, Tajae Sharpe, Taywan Taylor, Darius Jennings

Out: Kalif Raymond, Cody Hollister, Anthony Ratliff-Williams, DeAngelo Yancey, Papi White, Tanner McEvoy

This group seems to be getting sorted out as we get further into camp. Based on rotations it seems that Sharpe and Jennings are going to be on the roster, joining Davis, Humphries, and Brown as guys that seem relatively safe.

The sixth spot figures to come down to Taylor versus Raymond as things stand right now and I just don’t think Raymond has done enough to force the Titans hand so far. Taylor was just OK in the preseason game against the Patriots — he made a couple tough catches, but couldn’t hang on to another one with a defender’s raking through his arms on a deep ball — but he was very clearly better in practice work and offers more upside than Raymond, who has also dropped a couple passes in preseason action.

I don’t believe any of these other receivers stand a realistic shot at making the roster. I think Hollister or Ratliff-Williams could end up grabbing a practice squad spot though.


Tight End

In: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser

Out: Ryan Hewitt, Cole Wick, Parker Hesse

There are a couple injury questions to answer here. First is how soon Jonnu Smith will be ready. Depending on what his timeline looks like the team may decide to start him on the regular season PUP which would rule him out for the first six games of 2019, but would give them an extra roster spot to work with while he’s out. The second injury that has some bearing here is David Fluellen’s. The team seemed set to use him as the primary fullback this season, but his injury has pressed Ryan Hewitt into that role. If Fluellen can’t get healthy by Week 1, do the Titans decide to keep Hewitt specifically for usage as a fullback?

Given the lack of injury information available, it’s really hard to project what is going to happen here. I’m going to assume that both Smith and Fluellen are going to be healthy within the first few weeks of the season and on the active roster. If that’s the case, I think we see the Titans keep four here, with Pruitt and Firkser joining Walker and Smith.


Offensive Line

In: Taylor Lewan*, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, Kevin Pamphile, Jack Conklin, Dennis Kelly, Corey Levin, Nate Davis, Jamil Douglas

Out: Aaron Stinnie, Hroniss Grasu, Austin Pasztor, Tyler Marz, David Quessenberry, A.T. Hall

*Lewan is expected to start the season with a four game suspension (his appeal hearing is this Thursday per Paul Kuharsky) and will not count against the initial 53-man roster.

I think there are seven guys who are mortal locks to make the roster here: Lewan, Saffold, Jones, Pamphile, Conklin, Kelly, and Davis. With Lewan expected to be suspended for the first four weeks of the season, the Titans will likely end up keeping nine total here including Lewan (Lewan won’t count towards the roster numbers until he is activated after four weeks).

If it was up to me, I would keep Aaron Stinnie or Hroniss Grasu over Jamil Douglas, but based on everything we’ve seen thus far, Douglas is closer to earning a starting role than he is to getting booted off the roster (as scary as that is).

I think there is also a chance that the Titans end up keeping Pasztor or Marz simply for tackle depth while Lewan is out, but those two have looked terrible in preseason work and I believe the Titans would be better of sliding Saffold or Pamphile out to tackle if something were to happen to Kelly or Conklin during that time.


Defensive Line

In: Jurrell Casey, Jeffery Simmons*, DaQuan Jones, Brent Urban, Matt Dickerson, Austin Johnson, Amani Bledsoe

Out: Isaiah Mack, Braxton Hoyett, Frank Herron, Chris Nelson, Eric Cotton

*Simmons will almost certainly start the season on PUP list which means he will not be eligible to return until Week 7 at the earliest, but will not count against the 53-man roster.

This position group has been a pleasant surprise to me so far. DaQuan Jones has had an outstanding offseason and is showing up big in preseason action. Early returns are good on guys like Urban, Johnson, and Dickerson as well.

The Titans also have a couple undrafted rookies trying to crash the party here in Isaiah Mack and Amani Bledsoe. Both guys have flashed in preseason action and Bledsoe has seen snaps with the first team defense in the last week. I very narrowly give the nod to Bledsoe here because I believe the team likes his ability to play as an edge defender in four man fronts, particularly if they’re going to keep just four outside linebackers (as I have them doing in this projection).

Keeping seven defensive linemen (including Simmons who won’t count until he’s activated) seems high to me, but I like the options here better than I like the options at outside linebacker.


Outside Linebacker

In: Harold Landry, Cameron Wake, Sharif Finch, Kamalei Correa

Out: LaTroy Lewis, Derick Roberson, Josh Smith

I’m going light at outside linebacker for a couple reasons. First, guys like Lewis and Roberson simply haven’t done enough to show that they need to be on this roster. Second, the Titans can bump Rashaan Evans outside if they run into a real jam at this spot.

I still hold out some hope for Roberson — who I view as a potential high level special teams player with some pass rush upside — but he needs to start showing something in preseason opportunities if he’s going to force his way onto the roster. Otherwise, he looks like a potential practice squad stash that could develop.


Inside Linebacker

In: Rashaan Evans, Jayon Brown, Wesley Woodyard, Daren Bates, David Long

Out: Ukeme Eligwe, Quart’e Sapp

This group seems pretty cut and dry. David Long has flashed enough to earn a spot on the roster and Bates’ special teams ability will keep him around for another season.


Cornerback

In: Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Adoree’ Jackson, LeShaun Sims, Tye Smith, Kenneth Durden

Out: Kareem Orr, Mike Jordan, D’Andre Payne

The Titans have some really great options for depth at corner this year with Sims, Smith, Durden, and Orr all having very impressive camps. I have Orr as the odd man out right now based mostly on experience, but I could easily see him making it if he can continue his strong play.


Safety

In: Kevin Byard, Kenny Vaccaro, Amani Hooker, Dane Cruikshank, Joshua Kalu

Out: LaDarius Wiley, JoJo Tillery

The question here begins and ends with the fifth safety spot. Kalu had a rough game against the Patriots, but he’s largely had a good camp and offers some versatility and special teams play. I have him sneaking on the roster here, but I wouldn’t be totally opposed to the idea of keeping a seventh corner (Orr) or eighth defensive lineman (Mack) in his place.


Specialists

In: Ryan Succop, Brett Kern, Beau Brinkley

Out: Austin Barnard


Borrowing from Joe Lunardi’s “Bracketology” terminology, here are my “Last Four In” and “First Four Out” on my current projections.

Last Four In: McNichols, Kalu, Bledsoe, Douglas

First Four Out: Mack, Orr, Woodside, Stinnie

I suspect that things will change again between now and my final 53-man roster projection on August 30th, but this is where I see things as of today. What would you change about the 53?