Now that the Tennessee Titans have broken training camp, it's time for me to review what happened and which backups won the battles for roster spots. At least the training camp portion of the roster battles.
After attending every open practice but one this camp, these are how I see the roster battles at this point. We'll see if anything changes in the final two preseason games before the September 4 cutdown to 53 players.
As we know, Gerald McRath will be suspended for the first four games this season and will not be on the regular 53-man roster. Consider him as an ineligible 54th man for four weeks. The other 79 players now on the active roster will compete for the 53 regular roster positions.
There are 38 players who I believe are locks to make the team, which leaves 15 roster spots. 14 players have no chance at all to make the roster, which leaves 27 players to compete for those 15 spots.
|Pos||Roster locks||Good chance||Possible, less likely||Camp fodder|
|WR||Gage, Washington, Britt, D. Williams||Hawkins, Mariani||Edison||P. Williams, Sewall|
|TE||Stevens, Scaife, Cook||Ryan||-||Pfahler|
|OT||Roos, Stewart||Otto, Kropog||-||Toudouze, McCaskill|
|C/G||Scott, Amano, Harris||Velasco||Durand||Matthews, Howell|
|DE||Hayes, Ford, Morgan||Babin, Ball||Bakhtiari, Brock||Harrington|
|DT||T. Brown, Haye, Marks, Jones||-||Joseph, Howard||K. Brown|
|LB||Witherspoon, Tulloch, Allred, Curran||Winborn, Keglar||Thornton, Rivera||Trahan|
|CB||Finnegan, McCourty, Verner, Mouton||Hill||-||Ittersagen|
|S||Hope, Griffin, Fuller||Nickey, Schommer||Johnson, Rolle||-|
|ST||Bironas, Kern, Amato||-||-||Schmitt|
Here's how I view those roster battles.
QB -- Collins vs Simms. Although Simms had a decent camp, he needed a great camp to unseat Collins as the #2. Simms did not outperform Collins in camp and had a poor outing vs the Seahawks, as Drexel wrote.
RB -- Gado vs Blount. Gado proved he can still be an effective short-yardage back and can play special teams. Blount showed the ability to catch passes but did not show the ability to block or contribute on special teams. Advantage Gado.
WR -- Will the Titans keep 5, 6 or 7 WRs? After paying a lot more attention to this positional group than I normally do in training camp, I've got the 5-7 spots ranked as Hawkins #5, Mariani #6 and Edison #7. Hawkins consistently showed the improvement Mike Heimerdinger talked about earlier this summer. I don't believe Mariani dropped a single ball in the first week of camp, even catching passes he shouldn't have been expected to. Mariani and Edison played about evenly from weeks 2-4 but Mariani had that great first week and also has return skills, which is why I've got him ahead of Edison.
TE -- Ryan is making a strong case to be kept as a #4. I agree with Tom that he'll probably be kept as blocking insurance. Ryan isn't competing with another TE, rather his competition for a roster spot will be from another position group, such as a sixth or seventh WR.
OT -- I imagine both Otto and Kropog will be kept. Otto has impressed me as a better pass-protector and Kropog as a better run-blocker. If the Titans keep only one, which I doubt, I'd give the edge to Kropog, mainly because of the theory that a good run-blocker can develop into a good pass-protector more readily than a good pass-protector can develop into a good run-blocker.
G/C -- Velasco vs Durand. V for Velasco, V for versatility. I've written several times before that I thought Velasco had a better camp a year ago than Durand but Durand made the team by virtue of his status as a drafted player. I read that to mean upside. Also, the Titans had Harris as a backup C/G last year, so Velasco's versatility didn't matter as much then as it does now. I give the advantage to Velasco again this year.
DE -- Babin vs Ball vs Bakhtiari vs Brock. There are 7 DEs now on the roster who can and probably will play somewhere in the league this year. I have Babin fourth and Ball fifth on my depth chart, with Bakhtiari and Brock on the outside looking in. Babin has had a better camp than Ball but it wouldn't surprise me if the Titans kept Ball ahead of Babin because of Ball's experience. I believe there's a good chance the Titans will keep five, in which case Babin and Ball both make it. Bakhtiari has also had a pretty good camp but he shouldn't make it unless there's an injury problem, which is possible. The three 'locks' who should make the roster have all missed significant time in camp due to injury.
DT -- I doubt if either Howard or Joseph will survive the final cutdown unless Tony Brown's knee remains an issue. If that's the case I'd give the edge to Joseph based only on what he's shown in camp. However, the Titans might like Howard's potential enough to keep him instead.
LB -- Winborn and Keglar should both survive the final cutdown to be the fifth and sixth LBs unless Thornton makes an unexpected recovery. Rivera has an outside chance if the Titans keep seven LBs, if one of those is not Thornton.
CB -- Hill is the fifth corner on my depth chart, so the question is whether the Titans keep four or five. I seriously doubt if they keep six corners, which would be Ittersagen.
S -- Nickey vs Schommer vs Johnson vs Rolle; that's the order I have the reserve safeties ranked. I know there are a lot of Nickey haters out there but they will probably have to get used to seeing him for another year. He's remained with the second string throughout camp and nobody behind him has been able to beat him out. He's also a jack of all trades on special teams. Schommer has been alongside Nickey with the twos since he returned to action, with Johnson and Rolle playing with the third team defense. Once again, how many do you keep at this position group?