It's been over six months since Drexel examined the receiving group before free agency, and not much has changed. That's actually very good news, as we learned yesterday Kenny Britt wouldn't be facing any discipline from the league. Health permitting, he'll starting every game and presumably lead the team in targets, receptions, yards, and touchdowns. Unfortunately, health has been a problem for him again this year as his hamstring has kept him out of the three preseason games thus far. Mike Munchak said at a press conference today he'll play Thursday against the Saints, but he may still be limited against the Jaguars in two weeks.
Nate Washington will be the starter opposite Britt. He had a nice game against the Bears after a quiet first two games. Chances he develops into a lead wideout are slim, but if Britt's in he should be a solid veteran number two wideout.
Beyond the top two, if Britt is healthy, is still a series of question marks. Damian Williams is likely to be the third wide receiver. The Bears game looked to me like his big tryout to play at the 'X' or split end position, and he didn't rise to the challenge. Rather, like Washington, he'll play the 'Y' or 'Z', as a flanker or slot receiver.
Justin Gage didn't play against the Bears, and hasn't played a big role in the offense this preseason. I think he's the only natural split end on the roster other than Britt. His $3.5 million salary might be an issue, though, but I think he makes the team because of other guy's failings.
Lavelle Hawkins may or may not do anything. He mostly disappeared after the start of last season, as Damian Williams took over his role and he wasn't a very good special teams player. I doubt he makes the team.
Kevin Curtis was just added to the position. I think his signing is a damning reflection on what the team thinks of Hawkins and the undrafted wide receivers. He'll play Thursday agaisnt the Saints, and I think he has a very good shot at making the roster.
Marc Mariani is a return specialist, but the big question was how much he'd play as a wide receiver. I think he'll see a little bit of time if they only dress four wide receivers in a given game, but he hasn't gotten much playing time in this preseason. Keep your eye on him for the future more than this year.
James Kirkendoll, Michael Preston, and Owen Spencer, it's been fun seeing you guys around this preseason. I'd be happy to see Kirkendoll on the practice squad once he clears waivers, but none of you are making the team. Sorry, nothing personal.
I'm fairly satisfied with the Titans' top three, and a fourth that can be useful. If injuries don't strike the position group, it should be pretty solid. Note also Jared Cook will spend some time playing what effectively amounts to wideout, but we'll talk about him with the other tight ends. If they can find a little more/better depth, wide receiver should be a much stronger position than it has been for the past several years.
Yamon Figurs... I don't really know what they're doing giving Figurs as much playing time as he's had. He's a return specialist, which is a role more than ably filled by Mariani, and his NFL history shows he offers very little as a receiver against first-team defenses.
Gage certainly has been little used in the preseason games. He was only targeted once, in the initial drive against the Vikings. No targets versus the Rams and DNP vs the Bears. However, he did have a very strong training camp, as I believe I wrote a few times throughout my camp updates, so there is plenty for Munchak and Reinfeldt to like about him. He and Washington had the best camps among the WRs, followed by Mariani, who flashed early.
The main argument for him not making the team again is his $3.5M base salary, as Tom mentioned. The Titans can save both $ and cap space by cutting Haye (done), Hope (doubtful) and Gage (possible).
I agree with you Tom and Gemma that Curtis probably makes this team. He would have to fall on his face in the next few days to be cut. The fact that he was brought in here over the last few days has got to make Hawkins feel pretty vulnerable right now. It doesn't say much for Mariani's receiving skills either, but he is a lock to make the team because of his return abilities.
Like it or not, Williams is the third receiver on this team - for this year at least. He will be the back-up up for the X, Y and Z positions. I don't think Gage and Hawkins makes this team. Both have done nothing in the pre-season so far, and there is really no point in paying their salaries and prolonging the agony.
My guess is the Titans carry 6 receivers on the 53 man roster. Five of those will be Britt, Washingon, Williams, Mariani, Curtis. The 6th will be a free agent or a waiver-wire pick-up when other teams cut teir rosters down to 53.
It's funny how at the end of last season and during the lock-out, a lot of Titans fans (myself included) thought of the WR corp as a position of strength. The pre-season has given us a rude awakening. Britt and (to a much lesser extent) Washington aside, there is not a lot here to get excited about. For all that he's a fan favourite, it looks like its time for the Titans to let Hawkins go and Williams will be in the same position next year unless he makes a drastic improvement. Both are starting to look like failed experiments left over from the old regime (that's probably being a little hard on Williams but the clock is starting to tick on him).
Unless there are injury issues I think Curtis is a virtual lock to make the team as the slot receiver. Gage will probably be retained as back-up for Britt and Washington - but that depends in part on what cuts are made to accommodate Johnson. If Gage is cut then Williams will have to be the back-up. Mariani hasn't really shown that he is anything other than a STs' player (albeit an important one). Williams can back him up as a returner though a case could also be made for Figurs.
I'd see the ones that make the squad as: Britt, Washington, Curtis, Gage, Williams & Mariani. If Gage is cut then I think that Figurs makes the squad (unless they stick at five receivers).