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From 90 to 53: Final 53-man roster projection

The 2019 preseason is in the books. Who is in and who is out for the Titans?

NFL: Preseason-New England Patriots at Tennessee Titans Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The Titans 2019 preseason is now in the books so attention will immediately turn to roster cuts. Unfortunately, many of the players who played the entire game last night will get the dreaded call to bring their playbook to the GM’s office between now and the 53-man roster deadline at 3:00 PM Central tomorrow.

Players with less than four years of service in the NFL will go through waivers where they can be claimed by other teams around the league. Priority in waiver claims goes in the same order as the 2019 NFL Draft, so the Cardinals can automatically pick up anyone they want that is subject to the waiver system. Players with at least four years of service will immediately become free agents, free to sign with any team they choose.

Waivers will clear 24 hours after the cut deadline so guys that make the roster initially on Saturday, may be released to make room for waiver claims that process on Sunday. With that being said, here are my predictions for the 53-man roster.

Quarterback (2)

Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill

I have gone back and forth on the Logan Woodside question all preseason. I think he’s been mostly good — clearly much improved compared to last year or his brief stint in the AAF — but at the end of the day, I don’t see him getting a roster spot. I expect the Titans to try and get him back on the practice squad (and I think there is a good chance they’ll be successful with that).

Running Back (4)

Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen, Jeremy McNichols

McNichols is going to be an interesting one to watch. He was the very last guy to make it on for me and it wouldn’t totally surprise me if he ends up getting left off in favor of an extra tackle or defensive lineman. I loved his preseason work and thought he had a strong camp as well, but it’s hard to keep a fourth back who isn’t a key special teams contributor and the Titans clearly have designs on using Fluellen as their primary fullback/H-back during the season in addition to his regular roles on special teams.

Wide Receiver (6)

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

Taylor getting a night off against the Bears is a pretty big hint that he’s making the team. I feel like the only way he’s left off the roster is if he’s traded away for draft capital between now and Saturday. That leaves Kalif Raymond as the tough luck loser here. He made a good push, but I think he ultimately comes up a little short (pun not intended).

Tight End (4)

Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt

There have been some rumblings about a possible decision between MyCole Pruitt and Ryan Hewitt for a spot here, but I’ve never quite understood where that’s coming from. Hewitt has primarily played as a fullback/H-back filling in for the injured David Fluellen who manned that role prior to getting hurt. He’s been OK, but I don’t know that he’s stood out in a good way. Pruitt isn’t a flashy player, but he was a good blocker last season and got a lot of work with the first team as an inline blocking tight end during camp and preseason. I think that’s the role they’ll need more with Fluellen set to be back soon.

Offensive Line (8)

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

*Lewan doesn’t count towards the 53 while he’s suspended.

I think the Titans would prefer to have another tackle on the roster to act as depth behind Kelly and Conklin while Lewan is out for the first four weeks, but that guy isn’t on this roster. Tyler Marz and Austin Pasztor both got ample opportunity in the preseason and neither of them looked like they had any business being on an active roster past Saturday. This is a spot that I would expect the Titans to be closing monitoring the waiver wire for options. If they find a tackle from another team that they like that would seemingly spell trouble for either Corey Levin or Jamil Douglas, but it’s also possible that they just keep nine here and go thinner elsewhere.

Defensive Line (6)

Jurrell Casey, Jeffery Simmons*, DaQuan Jones, Brent Urban, Isaiah Mack, Austin Johnson, Matt Dickerson

*Simmons is expected to start the season on the PUP which means he will miss a minimum of the first six games of the regular season while he heals from offseason ACL surgery. He will not count against the 53-man roster while he’s on PUP.

This is the position group that I had the hardest time with. The Titans sat undrafted rookie Isaiah Mack during Thursday night’s final preseason game which suggests he’s safely on the roster, but played veterans like Urban, Johnson, and Dickerson. Clearly, at least a couple of those guys that played against the Bears are going to make the roster, but I’m just not sure how many Jon Robinson and Mike Vrabel will want to keep here. On one hand, this is a spot that doesn’t generally contribute on special teams so you don’t want to overload the back end of the roster with them, but on the other hand, the Titans are playing a lot of fronts that feature three or four of these guys on the field at a time so they may need more depth. I ultimately settled on six with Amani Bledsoe as the top guy left off the roster here, but I could see them going with five or seven just as easily.

Outside Linebacker (5)

Harold Landry, Cameron Wake, Sharif Finch, Reggie Gilbert, Kamalei Correa

The Titans traded a seventh round pick for Gilbert and that really cleared this position up for me. I had been struggling to find a fifth player at this spot after D’Andre Walker’s injury. My guess is that Gilbert surpasses Correa on the depth chart here in relatively short order and ends up seeing a lot of snaps on special teams and a few snaps on defense every game. Derick Roberson made some plays in the final preseason game and caught my eye at practice multiple times, but he simply wasn’t consistent enough to earn a roster spot. He’d be among my top priority practice squad players though.

Inside Linebacker (5)

Rashaan Evans, Jayon Brown, Wesley Woodyard, Daren Bates, David Long Jr.

This spot is pretty easy to call for me now as well. Bates got to sit out with the rest of the veterans that are likely to make the roster Thursday night which erased any small, creeping doubt about his status. Long did play, but he played well once again and the team seems to like his aggressiveness and ability to contribute on special teams. I think he’s a pretty safe inclusion on the roster.

Cornerback (5)

Logan Ryan, Malcolm Butler, Adoree’ Jackson, LeShaun Sims, Tye Smith

I think the Titans will ultimately keep either ten or eleven defensive backs with at least five of those being cornerbacks. I think that tenth defensive back spot likely comes down to Joshua Kalu, Kenneth Durden, and Kareem Orr. Out of those three, Kalu has the most versatility, playing both corner and safety as well as contributing on special teams — he was working with the first team special teams groups against the Steelers which is a good sign — so he’s the one I kept. I would expect Orr to be a high priority for the practice squad.

Safety (5)

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

As mentioned above, Kalu gets the nod here thanks in large part to his versatility. I could see LaDarius Wiley or JoJo Tillery getting the call for the practice squad.

Specialists (3)

Ryan Succop, Brett Kern, Beau Brinkley

No surprises here. Ryan Succop taking kickoffs on Thursday night eased my concerns that the Titans might go crazy and keep Austin Barnard to handle just kickoffs which would have been a huge waste of a roster spot in my opinion.

Practice Squad

Once released players clear waivers, they are free to be added to practice squads across the league. Each team is allowed to sign ten players to the practice squad and an extra spot is allowed for teams that participate in the NFL’s International Development Program, something the Titans have not been pursuing in recent years.

There are different types of practice squad slots available. Teams can sign up to four veteran players with NFL experience, but those players can only have a maximum of two accrued seasons — an accrued season happens when a player spends six or more weeks on the active roster during a season. The remaining six spots are reserved for players who have been on the active roster for less than six games OR were on the 46-man active game day roster for less than nine games.

The rules with the practice squad are a little complicated. Players that are signed to this part of the roster practice with the team, but are not eligible to play in games unless they are promoted to the 53-man roster first. Practice squad players are also free to sign with any NFL team that will put them on the 53-man roster, though their current team will get the opportunity to promote them immediately to protect them. There are also rules that prohibit teams from stealing players off the roster of the team they are playing that week in an attempt to gain information.

There is a really good chance that the Titans will end up with at least three or four guys from other rosters on the practice squad, but since those will be virtually impossible to project, I’m going to list my top ten practice squad options on the current roster.

  1. Logan Woodside
  2. Derick Roberson
  3. Amani Bledsoe
  4. Kareem Orr
  5. Dalyn Dawkins
  6. Anthony Ratliff-Williams
  7. Kalif Raymond
  8. Hroniss Grasu
  9. David Quessenberry
  10. LaDarius Wiley

Cuts will be rolling in throughout the day today and tomorrow so we will keep you posted with those as they happen.

Which guys would you have on your 53?