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The 53-man on the eve of the last preseason game

As we look forward to Thursday’s fourth and final preseason game against the Packers, the most important thing to keep in mind is that 22 players currently on the Titans’ roster won’t be there in 3 days’ time. It’s likely the coaches are already almost certain who will stay and who will meet the Turk before Saturday’s deadline.
Andrew has already given his take on players likely to stay and players likely to go. To help figure out how many players at each position will likely make the team, I took a look at the Titans’ opening-day roster for the past 6 years. Here’s what I found:
QB: 2-3
RB: 4
TE: 3-4
WR: 6-7
OL: 8-9
DE: 4
DT: 4-5
LB: 6
CB: 5-6
S: 4-5
Other: 3
With these numbers to guide us, here’s what a roster might look like:
QB: Collins, Martin, Young
RB: A. Hall, Henry, C. Johnson, White
TE: Blakley, Crumpler, Scaife, Stevens
WR: Chris Davis, Ealy, Gage, Hawkins, B. Jones, McCareins
OL: Amano, Harris, Loper, Mawae, Otto, Roos, Scott, Stewart
DE: Ford, Hayes, Kearse, Vanden Bosch
DT: T. Brown, Haynesworth, A. Johnson, J. Jones
LB: Bulluck, Fowler, Keglar, Stamer, Thornton, Tulloch
CB: Carr, Cole, Finnegan, Harper, Hill, King
S: Fuller, Griffin, Hope, Lowry, Nickey
K: Bironas
P: Hentrich
LS: Amato
Please note this list reflects what I think the Titans will do, not necessarily what I think they should do. I’ve been bullish on Quinton Ganther this preseason, but I’m skeptical of his ability to make the team. He’d be no higher than the #4 tailback, behind the three recent high draft picks, and Hall is already in place as the fullback. His best shot is as a special teams player in the role recently occupied by Casey Cramer. Cramer, who I’ve counted as a TE, I just don’t see a place for on this team. If Ganther does indeed make the team, it’ll probably be at the expense of Dwayne Blakley. Though he’s been slowed by an injury this preseason, I think the Titans are intent on rectifying the error of 2004.
The WR list represents my best guess. I thought keeping 5 WRs would be a good move by the Titans, but history says they’ll keep at least 6. Davis makes it because of his return ability. It wouldn’t surprise me to see Roydell make it over Ealy or Davis. Contra my earlier thought, though, he’s not eligible for the PUP list, so he’s either on the team and hobbled much of the year or cut.
I feel pretty comfortable about eight offensive linemen, and the 8 names I listed. I don’t see a ninth OL out there, either.
The Titans WILL keep 8 or 9 defensive linemen. I don’t see any realistic alternatives to the 4 DTs I listed. At DE, there’s more potential fluidity, with Sean Conover being the guy most likely to screw up my prediction.
Contra Paul Kuharsky recently, I just don’t see a roster spot for Colin Allred. The Titans are set at the starting positions, Tulloch’s there, Keglar may start in a year or two, and Stamer’s the special teams guy. Add in long snapper Ken Amato, and I just don’t see a need for another guy.
I think Cary Williams’ injury dooms him to the practice squad this year. Marquice Cole is the guy at the bottom of the depth chart at corner. If the Titans decide they do want to keep Allred, he’s probably the guy to go. It also wouldn’t surprise me to see a waiver wire pickoff here.
Some of you may be surprised to see Donnie Nickey’s name listed among the safeties. I’ll remind you that Jeff Fisher loves himself the veterans, and particularly those guys who are used to playing special teams. I also note Nickey’s contract was extend through 2009. He shouldn’t see the field much as a member of the actual defense, but I’d be surprised to see him not make the cutdown to 53.
What else? I’ve ripped on Bo Scaife this offseason, but I don’t see any way he doesn’t make the team. While the Titans haven’t kept 3 QBs the past couple years, this will likely be Kerry Collins’ last year, and the Titans need to figure out if Martin can be VY’s primary backup or if they’re just wasting time with a local player.
Thinking about this, I doubt the fourth preseason game will have much effect, if any, on who stays and who goes. I’ll try to pay special attention to the “bubble” wideouts, Colin Allred, and the borderline secondary guys of Cole, Williams, and Nickey, particularly any action they get during the Titans’ extended run with their first-string players. Aside from those couple guys, I believe the decisions that confront the Titans rely more on what positions they plan to emphasize in the upcoming season. And, to the extent Mike Heimerdinger and Jim Schwartz know what they’re doing with their respective units, they haven’t shared it with me.
I’ll be back Friday evening with a report of the proceedings from Lambeau. If anybody else is headed up to the game, I’ll be the dorky-looking guy with glasses in the VY jersey. Be warned and flee, or say hi, it’s all the same to me.