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Titans 53-man roster prediction at the start of training camp

It missed it last year, but it’s time for another post in an annual tradition, namely my attempt to predict the Titans’ final 53-man roster at the start of training camp. I didn’t get to do one last year, just a pre-free agency overview of the team’s roster, so see 2010 for the latest incarnation of this.

The Titans currently have 88 players on the roster, two short of the 90 maximum. I doubt any player they look to add at this late date has a serious chance of making the roster, but you never know. While I reviewed the unofficial depth chart put together by team media personnel, I did not pay very much heed to it.

As a reminder, here’s what kind of distribution by position the Titans used in the past, with the number on last year’s roster in parenthesis:

QB: 2-3 (3)
RB/FB: 4-5 (4)
TE: 3-4 (3)
WR: 5-7 (5)
OL: 8-10 (10)
DE: 4-5 (3 + 2 DL)
DT: 4-5 (4)
LB: 6-7 (7)
CB: 5-6 (4 + 1 DB)
S: 4-5 (4)
Special Teams: 3 (3)

With that in mind, here’s my go.

QB (3): Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Rusty Smith
Analysis: Hasselbeck and Locker are locks. Rusty, it comes down to whether they need his roster spot somewhere else or not. I didn’t find a place where it was needed, but they could decide otherwise.

RB/FB (4):  Jamie Harper, Chris Johnson, Quinn Johnson (FB), Javon Ringer
Analysis: The three running backs are pretty much chalk, since I can’t see them giving up on Harper this quickly. It is possible they could keep Collin Mooney over Quinn Johnson, but they picked up QJ off waivers late last season and went with only 2 HBs for a reason. I have no idea what it is and didn’t spot it in QJ’s play last year, but a fullback is primarily a special teams player.

TE (3): Jared Cook, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson
Analysis: Three chalk names, and with the only dedicated long-snapper in camp, Beau Brinkley, a collegiate tight end, I can’t see them keeping somebody else at the position.

WR (6): Kenny Britt, Lavelle Hawkins, Marc Mariani, Nate Washington, Damian Williams, Kendall Wright
Analysis: For purposes of this roster prediction, I’m assuming Britt will be healthy enough to play by the start of the season and not suspended; that could change, and I think the latter will change. With Palmer talking about keeping 5-6 WRs on gameday, they could find another spot for one here. Sorting through the roster chaff to decide who gets to take the extra spot if Britt isn’t healthy is very difficult; my guess is Michael Preston and James Kirkendoll would have the leg up, based on their experience on the practice squad last year, and Preston’s size intrigues me. They could look to add a stopgap veteran for a couple weeks, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see that not happen for Week 1, just so they’re not on the hook for his salary the whole year.

OL (9): Eugene Amano, Leroy Harris, Steve Hutchinson, Kevin Matthews, Mike Otto, Michael Roos, David Stewart, Byron Stingily, Fernando Velasco
Analysis: They only kept 10 for one week last year. I tried for find a spot for Kyle DeVan and particularly Jon Cooper, who gives them the ability to play both guard and center, but they seem to like Kevin Matthews. The other spots look pretty chalky. If you think William Vlachos’ collegiate honors mean anything, take a look at the NFL history of recent Rimington Trophy winners as the best center in college football; of the past six (not including the latest winner David Molk), only one has started an NFL game.

DE (5): Dave Ball, Leger Douzable, Derrick Morgan, Scott Solomon, Kamerion Wimbley
Analysis: Defensive line was the position I struggled with the most. I went in to this exercise thinking it was likely between Dave Ball and Scott Solomon for a roster spot, but think Ball is still a decent player with a very manageable contract and Solomon gets the draft pick benefit of the doubt.

DT (4): Jurrell Casey, Karl Klug, Sen’Derrick Marks, Mike Martin
Analysis: A hair light on the numbers here, but Leger Douzable gives them the flexibility to kick inside and basically takes away Malcolm Sheppard’s roster spot. Marks was decisively ahead of Shaun Smith the second half of last season and is cheaper to boot. After a rough cut, intended to cut away the pure chaff, I had about 12 defensive lineman left, so there were people I’m uncertain about. Sheppard was one. UDFA DaJohn Harris, who played with Casey at Southern California, was another.

LB (7): Akeem Ayers, Patrick Bailey, Zach Brown, Colin McCarthy, Gerald McRath, Tim Shaw, Will Witherspoon
Analysis: Ayers, Bailey, Brown, McCarthy, and Shaw were chalk. McRath and Witherspoon were the question marks, especially as they play the same position. If Witherspoon’s the starter at the beginning of the year, he’s on the team; if not, he’s not. I think he is and will be. McRath’s roster spot depends on his special teams ability. I think if they cut Witherspoon they keep Zac Diles as a cheaper veteran option. I considered Kevin Malast for special teams, but ultimately stuck with McRath for his greater experience in the base defensive scheme.

CB (5): Tommie Campbell, Chris Hawkins, Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh, Alterraun Verner
Analysis: One spot up for grabs here, which I gave to Hawkins. I’ve been in the “Ryan Mouton might have a shot” camp, and I still am, but his lack of production and time off the field are both problems; he basically has no experience playing for Jerry Gray. Hawkins does. I’m in complete “prove it” mode with Terrence Wheatley.

S (4+1): Jordan Babineaux, Aaron Francisco, Michael Griffin, Robert Johnson, Markelle Martin (PUP)
Analysis: My first (and only) fudge; with Martin undergoing knee surgery this week and slow to rehab from the knee injury he sustained working out before the draft, I bet he starts the season on the PUP list and ultimately most likely spends the regular season on injured reserve. Francisco picks up the Anthony Smith spot.

ST (3): Rob Bironas, Beau Brinkley, Brett Kern
Analysis: Bironas and Kern, of course. For now, I’m assuming Beau Brinkley wins the long-snapper job. If he does not, they could give Ken Amato or Jake Ingram a call, or give it to Fernando Velasco. More likely, they sign somebody else and make sure Velasco is available as a backup on an as-needed basis; teams don’t want to run long-snapper tryouts on the sideline during a game, like the Seahawks did last year.

Players I picked who may have the best chance of getting cut: Rusty Smith (third QB is a bit of a luxury), Leger Douzable, Chris Hawkins
Players I didn’t pick who may have the best chance of making the team: Random WR, Jon Cooper, Malcolm Sheppard

As you may recall, Andrew did his own prediction of the 53-man at the beginning of June. Here’s how our rosters compare:
On Andrew’s roster, not mine: Collin Mooney, Malcolm Sheppard, Shaun Smith, Ryan Mouton, Markelle Martin (asterisked on my roster), Jake Ingram (since cut)
On my roster, not Andrew’s: Rusty Smith, Quinn Johnson, Leger Douzable, Chris Hawkins, Aaron Francisco (signed since Andrew’s), Beau Brinkley

There are a few jobs up for grabs, probably including some where Andrew and I agreed, so we’ll see how things play out in training camp.