My annual rite is that I post my 53-man roster prediction the day training camp opens. I actually already posted one in early June, though, as a bit of a guide to OTAs. With only one official roster move and another that seems to be coming (adding TE DeMarco Cosby), I don't see a reason to do another full-fledged projection but will instead highlight what I see as the key things to watch.
First, though, here is that roster prediction:
QB: Nathan Enderle, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Locker
RB/FB: Shonn Greene, Chris Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Jalen Parmele
WR: Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter, Marc Mariani, Kevin Walter, Damian Williams, Kendall Wright
TE: Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson, Delanie Walker
OL: Andy Levitre, Mike Otto, Michael Roos, Brian Schwenke, David Stewart, Byron Stingily, Rob Turner, Fernando Velasco, Chance Warmack
DL: Jurrell Casey, Keyunta Dawson, Lavar Edwards, Sammie Lee Hill, Antonio Johnson, Mike Martin, Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Kamerion Wimbley
LB: Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown, Moise Fokou, Zaviar Gooden, Greg Jones, Colin McCarthy, Tim Shaw
CB: Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh, Alterraun Verner, Khalid Wooten, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
S: Michael Griffin, Robert Johnson, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson
ST: Rob Bironas, Beau Brinkley, Brett Kern
After the jump, the key questions that will likely affect who actually does make the final 53.
When I did this prediction last year, I believe I got 46 out of 54 right. Of the 8 players I missed, 7 went on injured reserve and weren't available to be on the 53. Who, if anybody, will be this year's equivalent of Eugene Amano, Leger Douzable, and Marc Mariani?
2. The second backups on the offensive line, both tackle and inside
Byron Stingily does not seem like a lock, but the Barry Richardson signing reflected a need to make sure they got through OTAs able to practice. Is there a challenge for Stingily's job? Mike Otto is a lead-pipe lock in my book.
Whichever of Schwenke or Velasco does not start at center (Schwenke in my view) will be one of the backup interior linemen. My assumption had been that Turner was a lock for the other one, but after watching him in detail I'm not so sure. If Warmack gets hurt, what would they do at right guard? I don't think Turner is that guy. Velasco at RG and Schwenke or Turner at center, perhaps? Do they like Chris Spencer or Kasey Studdard more than I do and think they should? Or is there a tackle like Stingily they think could play inside if need be?
A vitally important question, to be sure, but something to watch in preseason games. With Locker's injury history, I think they keep 3, though if they want a roster spot elsewhere I believe Enderle is still eligible for the practice squad.
4. Return man
Darius Reynaud or Marc Mariani? My opinion on this is unchanged-I think on par they're roughly as good, with the current NFL making Reynaud's slightly better punt return skills a touch more valuable. I think Mariani, though, could play a minor but useful role on offense while the evidence from late last season indicates Dowell Loggains didn't value Reyanud's skills on offense.
5. Veteran wide receiver
I've made what I think of Nate Washington's chances and likely role fairly clear. The Titans could decide they're fine with his type of receiver and paying $4.2 million for 25 catches and insurance. Walter's creaky back could prove his undoing and make me wrong. If he chooses to sign with the Titans, Donald Jones will be in the mix.
6. Defensive line depth
Casey, Edwards, HIll, Martin, Morgan, and Wimbley are the locks, but which players they keep beyond that is an open question in part because we're not surely exactly what they'll want their D-linemen to do. If you have any of those six off, I'm telling you you're wrong and feeling pretty good about it. Beyond that, I can see the case for and against basically everybody.
7. The defensive back bubble
I feel pretty good about McCourty, Sensabaugh, Verner, and Wreh-Wilson sticking at corner, plus Griffin, RoJo, Pollard, and Wilson on the roster at safety. I think this could be Tommie Campbell's last chance, with Wooten challenging him. Do they like one of the other safeties like Al Afalava, Markelle Martin (if he's actually finally healthy), Daimion Stafford, or Tracy Wilson enough? I don't see even a backup free safety in that group, in case why're wondering why I feel good about Robert Johnson's chances.
8. The surprises
Every team has them. Sometimes they make the roster, like DaJohn Harris did last year. Sometimes they're just fun to watch in the preseason, like Tramon Douglas was in the past. After what he did Tuesday, it'd be cool to see Tig Willard be that player.
I'll be starting the positional analyses soon, where I'll dive into more detail about what to expect from every position group.
QB - Locker, Fitz, Smith
RB - CJ, Greene, Battle
Battle was a great addition. Can play FB if needed. Hence no FB on roster.
WR - Britt, Washington, Wright, Hunter, Preston, Mariani, Williams
No Walter - back procedures are hard to return from. Think about a shorter route having to "break down" into your cuts. Lot of pressure on your back for that.
TE - Walker, Stevens, Thompson
Walker can also play FB on certain plays. Hence again, no FB on roster. Jack Doyle is someone to watch as well. Could try to sneak him onto the practice squad but I think he'd get claimed by another team possibly.
OL - Roos, Stewart, Levitre, Velasco, Schweinke, Warmack, Otto, Turner, Richardson
Not sure on Richardson. Just a guess. I just know they need 2 reserve swing tackles.
DL - Wimberly, Potoitua, Morgan, Casey, Martin, Edwards, Hill, Johnson
Difficult choosing Klug/Johnson. Think having Ayers rush more eliminates the need for an extra DE. Need the extra bulk from Johnson on the inside.
LB - Ayers, McCarthy, Foiku, Brown, Gooden, Shaw, Jones, Solomon
Looks like I'm only one to put Solomon on here. I think he'll benefit from going to LB on run downs. Can put him on the line as a DE too. Could be a good ST player.
CB - McCourty, Verner, Wreh-Wilson, Campbell, Sensabaugh
Think Wooten gets added to practice squad
S - Wilson, Pollard, Griffin, Alfalava
Don't think Robert Johnson is going to return from injury in time. 2nd FS may not be on the roster right now. Alfalava is great against the run. We NEED someone who can cover the deep ball!
ST - Bironas, Kern, Brinkley
@ThomasGower- Don't sweat it, it happens. I really can't see them wasting a spot on Rusty Smith this year. Even if Locker falls on his face and the keys are passed to Fitz, Rusty wouldn't be the new #2. Meaning Locker would be back in should Fitz bomb or get hurt. They should cut Smith and keep the extra roster spot for an area where more depth would be beneficial or a tough decision to cut a solid player because of the numbers game. You are completely right about not knowing what to believe with what TN says vs what they actually do. DaJohn Harris came outta nowhere last year, Campbell the year before (yah yah he was draft pick but he was a janitor before the draft haha). So I can definitely see another one of those things happening this year especially on defense. I think Offense is pretty straight forward, though I think TN really like Mooney and would love to see him beat out QJ.
@Dragak1981- While I understand QJ isn't worth a spot they will keep a fullback and use them for about 12-15 plays. Loggains has already commented on that and CJ does run better behind a fullback (think Hall in his 2006 yard season). I agree about Campbell he fits what they are doing and I think he stays. Richardson However, I don't see beating out someone with potential given the Titans could lose Stewart and/or Roos after this season as they can opt out. He played well down the stretch and I think he has the mean streak to replace Stewart next year. Otto is so versatile that I think he stays as the Swing Tackle despite his hefty backup price tag. Nate Washington and Klug I agree aren't going anywhere. Britt hasn't played an entire season, Hunter hasn't played an NFL down yet and realistically Washington really is their most established Vet who can help mentor the young guys. Klugs only downfall is he has to show he can play end to make him more versatile, Dawson quietly was TN's best DE in preseason last year so he could be a dark horse to unseat Klug (though I'm betting on Klug).
@Mongo75- I agree completely about Mariani and could see Fisher bringing his sons friend to the Rams even in their logjammed receiving corps.. Realistically Reynaud or Mariani won't see positional play this season barring an injury anyway. I think Preston takes place of Walter and Mariani. He is a young, big, physical receiver who could play special teams and occupy the spot Williams holds next year when Damian leaves. As for Parmele I think he stays, he is a very good special team player, Reynaud provides the backup speed element to CJ (which if Mariani won who would do that, hence another reason he stays). I think TN keeps 3 RB's and 6 WR's, add 1 to either positional group based on who wins return duties.
Yes, the Enderle prediction is up there with the worst I've made. I thought I was going out on a bit of a limb, but it ended up being a very thin branch instead. Oh well.
The other names? Well, we'll see. I try to get as many names right as I can, but as their continuing affection for Quinn Johnson shows, I don't always follow why they do what they do.
- Quinn Johnson is not making it. Titans play without a full back. Jackie Battle signing may mean something since he is a big bodied running back.
- Tommie Campbell is on the team and if they plan on playing press coverage will likely be the starter IMHO.
- Barry Richardson makes the team before Byron Stingily or Mike Otto. Otto is expensive but perhaps better than Stingily.
- Nate Washington is not getting cut. He is their wide receiver insurance policy and is still capable of having a good season (40-45 catches, 5 TDs).
- I think Karl Klug makes the team, not Dawson.
I think you've got a lot of stuff correct...but as Brian noted, you didn't start off too well with Enderle as the first player on your list. Hey Chris Davis strikes out a lot and then hits homers over every fence post along the wall, so you're still alive. I still believe you are wrong about Reynaud (again agreeing with Brian). I still feel he is a better healthier choice on Spec. Teams, and the fact that a virgin play caller didn't use him much last year doesn't mean he is in his dog house. I would think that if emotions are left outside the main office, Mariani is gone. I love him, hope he fairs well, and hope for him he does make it and returns to elite status. But I just doubt it. I have to wonder about Parmele as well. If Reynaud wins the Return spot, does that boot Jalen out the door. If Mariani is gone then that leaves a hole for a receiver to enter, but who??? Jones maybe the guy but Indi needs him more and will probably chunk a bigger check his way than we would. But all in all I think you got the rest of that list pretty figured out Big Tom.
Enderle didn't even make it to camp so off to a bad start haha Mariani is a guy to root for but reality is no way he is near 100% which he would have to be to have a shot to unseat Reynaud and my dark horse Wooten for return duties. Walter is going to miss 5 weeks after missing most of OTA's b/c of back surgery so I think Preston sticks in place of Walter. I think TN keeps Campbell, consistent "no" still has a chance to become consistent with more experience especially in our new system "yes". I also don't think they keep 3 QB's. As you can no longer dress an unaccounted emergency QB on game days he would be a weekly inactive.