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Tennessee Titans 53-man roster prediction at mid-preseason

I did one of these at the start of training camp, and now it is time for an update.

That was close to a month ago. The Titans have been practicing most days of that month, and have played two preseason games. We have a better idea of the depth chart, thanks to (a) the Titans releasing an unofficial depth chart and (b) revealed preference showing us which players the Titans have put on the field first in preseason games.

Then again, the roster I came up with for this post still has almost all of the same names as my prediction a month ago. Why is that?
1. Very few jobs are actually open for competition. Probably 40 or so players on the roster, maybe more, are live boy/dead girl safe, for some combination of contract, past performance, future potential, and/or admission of error reasons.
2. I’m still the same guy. I try to rethink my assumptions as best as I can and challenge what I think, but it takes a lot to change my view of things where I have at least a semi-informed opinion of things. Two preseason games is evidence, but it’s weak evidence that causes me to rethink relatively little about what I already believed of players.
3. The most interesting questions are at the edges of the roster, where the Titans could plausibly go in different directions. Horton’s 2012 Cardinals defense regularly dressed six defensive linemen and seven linebackers. How many more numbers than that do you keep at those positions, and what type of player do you keep? Practice squad eligibility of other players is involved here.

One thing I did for this roster prediction but did not do in my prior one was to think about the gameday 46-man roster, and which players might make the team but not be dressed on a weekly basis. This affected some of my thinking on the margins.

Here is my current thinking at each position.

QB (3): Jake Locker, Zach Mettenberger, Charlie Whitehurst
Analysis: Chalk, chalk, chalk. Any grouping other than this three barring Whitehurst’s finger injury sending him to injured reserve would rate as a shocking result to me.

RB/FB (4): Jackie Battle, Shonn Greene, Dexter McCluster, Bishop Sankey
Analysis: Is there room for a fifth player here? Whisenhunt’s tendency has been to keep five in the past, but there’s not a fifth player on the current roster that I wanted to keep. The position that needs filling is power back if Greene goes down. I kept Collin Mooney on the roster in my earlier prediction because I saw Battle as that player, but I’m not sure if the Titans will. I think the Titans could look to add a player like Brandon Bolden if the Patriots really do cut him. I don’t see Antonio Andrews as that player, but the Titans might, at least enough to give him a practice squad spot.

TE (3): Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson, Delanie Walker.
Analysis: Chalk, chalk, chalk. Is there room for a fourth? I kept Dorin Dickerson around on my prior roster prediction, but he’s on IR. If there is a fourth, I expect it to be Jason Schepler, who I’m pretty sure still has practice squad eligibility.

WR (5): Justin Hunter, Marc Mariani, Michael Preston, Nate Washington, Kendall Wright
Analysis: I really tried to come up with a different five, or to keep six. If you only keep four up on gameday, though, there’s no need for six. I kept Preston over Derek Hagan when I went from six to five. I kept Mariani as the returner over Leon Washington because I think he offers more value outside of kick returns and I wanted at least five wide receivers, but the Titans could easily disagree with me. If they do, I expect them to find a spot for a fifth wide receiver (both Preston and Hagan?) somewhere else.

OL (9): Andy Levitre, Taylor Lewan, Michael Oher, Eric Olsen, Michael Roos, Brian Schwenke, Chris Spencer, Byron Stingily, Chance Warmack
Analysis: Same basic issue as last time, with seven chalky names and then the question of whether you keep a second backup tackle and a second backup interior offensive lineman. Chris Spencer’s current injury status complicates that question, and was part of the thought process behind keeping Olsen. If Spencer is recovered by the start of the regular season they could only keep eight here. Keeping only one backup tackle is too risky to me, but if the Titans are confident in their ability to keep Jeff Adams on the practice squad and that he can be the gameday swing backup if somebody gets hurt, they could cut Stingily.

DL (7): Jurrell Casey, Sammie Hill, DaQuan Jones, Karl Klug, Mike Martin, Ropati Pitoitua, Al Woods
Analysis: A couple changes here from my earlier prediction. First, I went from six to seven players. Second, Klug was just a flub on my part the first time around; because I don’t think he’s as good as most Titans observers seem to, I let that override that he has a role on the team. Third, I dropped Antonio Johnson for Mike Martin. This was the change I made in thinking about the active rosters, the practice squad, and what traits the bottom of the roster players have. My idea is that Hill, Jones, Pitoitua, and Woods give them four bigs (roughly speaking) to go with two quicks (roughly speaking) in Casey and Klug. Martin instead of Johnson gives them a third quick player instead of a fifth big player. The need for a big player could be filled by giving a guy like Chigbo Anunoby a practice squad spot.

LB (9): Akeem Ayers, Patrick Bailey, Zach Brown, Zaviar Gooden, Derrick Morgan, Shaun Phillips, Avery Williamson, Kamerion Wimbley, Wesley Woodyard
Analysis: Nine players here is too many, especially if the Titans only dress seven regularly. Who’s down on Sundays? I have Bailey on the team because he’s a good special teams player, which is sort of a miscellaneous roster spot. The Titans have praised Williamson for his special teams play, so he’s up. If only one of Ayers or Phillips is up on a regular basis, which should or will it be? Phillips is a known quantity, Ayers could potentially threaten left tackles. The answer to that question is why I wanted the Titans to see one of them play both sides in the preseason. I’m leaning Ayers, which is part of why I have him on the team (he’s behind Bailey is my “most likely cut among players I kept” here).

DB (10): Tommie Campbell, Michael Griffin, Marqueston Huff, Jason McCourty, Bernard Pollard, Coty Sensabaugh, Daimion Stafford, George Wilson, Khalid Wooten, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
Analysis: I’m pretty comfortable with my prediction here. I kept Micah Pellerin the last time around, but didn’t have a roster spot for him now after adding players on the defensive line and at linebacker.

Special teams (3): Beau Brinkley, Travis Coons, Brett Kern
Analysis: Two pieces of chalk and one massive question mark, as I noted in this week’s ST positional analysis. I don’t project players not on the team as part of my 53, and it would not surprise me one bit to see the Titans go with a kicker currently on another roster when the season begins in Kansas City.

Comparative Analysis
How does this roster compare to other predictions?
On this prediction, not on my earlier prediction: Patrick Bailey, Zaviar Gooden, Karl Klug, Mike Martin, Eric Olsen
Not on this prediction, on my earlier prediction: Dorin Dickerson, Moise Fokou, Antonio Johnson, Collin Mooney, Micah Pellerin

On this prediction, not on Paul Kuharsky’s latest prediction: Marc Mariani, Byron Stingily, Khalid Wooten
Not on this prediction, on Kuharsky’s prediction: Derek Hagan, Brian Robiskie, Leon Washington

On this prediction, not on Jimmy Morris’s latest prediction: Patrick Bailey, Eric Olsen, Byron Stingily
Not on this prediction, on Jimmy’s prediction: Lavar Edwards, Moise Fokou, Leon Washington