2020 Titans Training Camp: Projecting the 53-man roster less than four weeks from kickoff

The Titans are a little more than two weeks into their COVID-influenced training camp of 2020 and the Monday Night Football opener against the Broncos looms in just 26 days. As strange as it still seems, football season is rapidly approaching.

A reminder of that reality was served up yesterday when Jon Robinson made a flurry of moves, releasing Cole McDonald, Dalyn Dawkins, Kyle Williams, and Parker Hesse and replacing them with Trevor Siemian, Marcus Marshall, Krishawn Hogan, and Geoff Swaim.

That’s fairly normal for this time of year, but those moves along with some training camp reports that we’ve seen over the past week have given us some more hints about where certain guys stand in the pecking order for roster spots so I figured it was time to dust off my 53-man roster projection from a few weeks ago and try to update it based on what we know now.

(Players that I expect to make the roster are listed in bold)

Quarterbacks (3)

  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Trevor Siemian
  • Logan Woodside

The release of Cole McDonald was a bit of a shock. It’s not as if 7th round picks are huge investments — we regularly see Jon Robinson trade them away for back of the roster depth guys — but to only see him work on a practice field for three weeks before deciding he isn’t worth keeping around is a remarkably fast evaluation period for a guy who was always a developmental prospect.

That being said, adding a veteran here always made some sense. We’ve heard all these beats before — shortened offseason, fewer expendable practice reps, no preseason, risk of a positive COVID test suddenly thrusting a backup into the starting role — but they do all point to a veteran backup quarterback being a valuable commodity in 2020, especially for a team like the Titans who appear poised to contend.

Trevor Siemian is not terribly exciting, but he’s got 25 career starts and is known as a guy who can command a huddle and effectively lead an offense. The intangible stuff, like making sure the team is in the right play, can be critical to an offense functioning when the starting quarterback goes down he’s proven capable of doing that.

It is also worth noting that Siemian’s best season — 2016 when he went 8-6 as a starter, completing 59.5% of passes with a 7.0 YPA and 18-10 TD-INT ratio — came when he was working in Gary Kubiak’s wide zone offense in Denver, a scheme that is very similar to the one employed by Titans offensive coordinator Arthur Smith.

However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the QB2 race is settled. I still believe the team when they say that they really like Logan Woodside and it’s certainly not out of the question that he could beat out Siemian by the time Week 1 rolls around.

I also think this move increases the likelihood of the Titans keeping three quarterbacks on the roster. For the same reason that having a veteran backup makes sense, having an extra signal-caller on the ready in case of a bad COVID test seems like a good idea for this season.

Running Backs (3)

  • Derrick Henry
  • Darrynton Evans
  • Khari Blasingame
  • Senorise Perry
  • Cameron Scarlett
  • Marcus Marshall

Darrynton Evans is drawing mostly positive reviews from Titans training camp with the exception of a two-fumble practice over the weekend (Evans didn’t fumble once in his entire college career so I’m not worrying about that until further notice) and appears poised to step right into the role vacated by Dion Lewis as Derrick Henry’s primary backup and a regular contributor on passing downs.

Evans, Henry, and Blasingame figure to have spots secured so the question here becomes whether or not the Titans keep a fourth running back, and if so, who that fourth back is. The release of Dawkins makes veteran Senorise Perry — who has lots of special teams experience over stops with the Bears, Dolphins, and Bills — the most likely option, but my guess is still that Tennessee sticks with three backs as they did for most of 2019.

Wide Receiver (5)

  • A.J. Brown
  • Corey Davis
  • Adam Humphries
  • Kalif Raymond
  • Rashard Davis
  • Cameron Batson
  • Cody Hollister
  • Mason Kinsey
  • Kristian Wilkerson
  • Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
  • Krishawn Hogan

The top three here are set in stone. Brown, Davis, and Humphries is a really nice trio of starters to work with for Ryan Tannehill. After that, Kalif Raymond seems to have picked up where he left off in 2019 early in camp, consistently making big plays like this one with his elite speed.

Originally tweeted by AtoZSports Nashville (@AtoZSports) on August 14, 2020.

It’s hard to see a scenario where Raymond doesn’t end up on the roster, but he does have some guys pushing him for rotational snaps behind the starters.

Rashard Davis was added to the Titans practice squad in Week 10 last season and actually made his first NFL catch in the team’s playoff-clinching win over the Texans in Week 17, holding on for a big conversion through a tough hit.

Originally tweeted by Titans Film Room (@titansfilmroom) on August 6, 2020.

He has also built on a strong close to 2019, earning one of three offseason awards handed out by Mike Vrabel (Logan Woodside and Rashaan Evans got the other two). Davis has continued to earn praise from coaches and media during training camp and indications are that he’s working pretty high in the rotation among receivers at this point.

Then you have Cameron Batson, who appeared set to hold the Kalif Raymond spot last season before going down with a training camp injury. He’s healthy now and should be in the mix with Raymond and Davis to fill the undersized-but-very-fast-receiver-who-can-also-play-on-special-teams role. My guess is that the Titans keep a maximum of two of these three. Their skill sets are just too redundant for all of them to make it.

It seems like Cody Hollister would have a leg up on Kristian Wilkerson, Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, and the newly signed Krishawn Hogan for the backup “big receiver” role, but the team could opt not to keep any of those three.

Right now, I’m just projecting five receivers for the 53-man roster and I’m giving the edge to Raymond and Davis over Batson for the fourth and fifth spots, but I get the sense that the wide receiver depth spots are still very fluid at the moment.

Tight End (4)

  • Jonnu Smith
  • Anthony Firkser
  • MyCole Pruitt
  • Geoff Swaim
  • Tommy Hudson

Swaim’s addition to the roster makes this spot much more straightforward to me. The Titans led the NFL in three tight end sets last year and were third in the league in the use of two tight ends. They play their tight ends… a lot. For that reason, I was a little surprised that they were heading to camp with just second-year defensive end convert Parker Hesse and UDFA Tommy Hudson as options behind the proven trio of Smith, Firkser, and Pruitt.

Swaim is a five year veteran who has shown the ability to be a plus blocker in the past. His size at 6′-4″ and 260 pounds brings a different element to this group that has been missing since Luke Stocker left for Atlanta last offseason. My guess is that he pushes Pruitt for playing time as the team’s primary blocking tight end.

That addition also makes the path to a roster spot a little tougher for Hudson. Like Swaim, he’s a bulky tight end at 6′-5″ and 255 pounds and does most of his best work in the run game. I’d look for him to nail down a practice squad spot for now.

Offensive Line (9)

  • Taylor Lewan
  • Rodger Saffold
  • Ben Jones
  • Nate Davis
  • Dennis Kelly
  • Isaiah Wilson
  • Ty Sambrailo
  • Jamil Douglas
  • David Quessenberry
  • Avery Gennesy
  • Zac Kerin
  • Daniel Munyer
  • Brandon Kemp
  • Aaron Brewer

I feel extremely confident about seven of these guys making the roster. Taylor Lewan, Rodger Saffold, Ben Jones, and Nate Davis are all no-brainer starters on the offensive line from left tackle to right guard. The one spot that is in question at the moment is the right tackle spot where veteran Dennis Kelly and first round rookie Isaiah Wilson are battling for the starting job. I also think Jamil Douglas is extremely likely to take the backup center/guard spot that he held most of last year.

There is a good chance that the Titans keep at least one, probably two more to get to eight or nine offensive linemen on the 53-man roster. Free agent addition Ty Sambrailo feels like a good bet for one of those spots, but after that it’s hard to say who might claim a potential ninth spot.

I’ll go with David Quessenberry for now. He’s been with the team for a couple years now, bouncing between the active roster and the practice squad, and as we know, continuity will be key this offseason.

Defensive Line (5)

  • Jeffery Simmons
  • DaQuan Jones
  • Jack Crawford
  • Larrell Murchison
  • Matt Dickerson
  • Joey Ivie
  • Isaiah Mack
  • Kobe Smith
  • Teair Tart

The top four feel like virtual locks to make the roster to me. Jack Crawford — who was activated this morning from the reserve/COVID list — has started 25 games over the last four seasons, and while he’s not ultra-exciting, he is a proven veteran with a decent track record of production. Murchison will likely get the benefit of the doubt as a fifth round pick.

After that, things are really up in the air. I am currently leaning towards Dickerson — and maybe even Joey Ivie — over Mack due to the fact that those two overtook the former UT-Chattanooga star on the depth chart late last season. Obviously, this is a new year, but I haven’t seen anything suggesting that Mack has made a push past those two so I’m sticking with status quo for now.

Outside Linebacker (5)

  • Harold Landry
  • Vic Beasley Jr.
  • Kamalei Correa
  • D’Andre Walker
  • Derick Roberson
  • Wyatt Ray
  • Jamal Davis
  • Josh Smith

Lots of moving parts here over the past couple weeks. A quick recap… the team released Reggie Gilbert, signed Wyatt Ray and Jamal Davis, Kamalei Correa has been missing practices with a mystery injury, and Vic Beasley was late to camp, finally showed up, flunked a physical, and remains on the reserve/Non-Football Injury list as of this writing.

Then you have the never ending saga that is #ClowneyWatch.

A positive development here, however, is the universal praise that second-year OLB D’Andre Walker has received from both the team and the media. It sounds like the 2019 fifth round pick has been getting a lot of work with the first team defense in the absence of Beasley and Correa and has made the most of it. Whether he sticks in the rotation once those veterans return to the practice field remains to be seen, but Walker is the real wildcard in this group and early reviews have been glowing.

Originally tweeted by Jim Wyatt (@jwyattsports) on August 16, 2020.

Ray, a former teammate of Harold Landry’s at Boston College, also drew praise from position coach Shane Bowen for flashing in his first few days with the team. His path to making the roster probably goes through Derick Roberson right now.

Inside Linebacker (5)

  • Rashaan Evans
  • Jayon Brown
  • David Long
  • Nick Dzubnar
  • Cale Garrett
  • Khaylan Kearse-Thomas

We know Evans, Brown, and Long are locks at this spot, but I think early indications are that Nick Dzubnar’s spot is pretty safe as well. He was brought in to be a key special teams contributor primarily and his connection to special teams coordinator Craig Aukerman from their time together in San Diego is a big part of why he’s here to begin with.

I still think the Titans keep five here — mostly because that’s been the number in past seasons — but there is a chance they just keep four since some of the outside backers (Correa and Beasley) have some experience as off-ball linebackers as well. If they do keep five, I think Garrett is the final player to sneak in.

Cornerback (5)

  • Adoree’ Jackson
  • Malcolm Butler
  • Kristian Fulton
  • Johnathan Joseph
  • Kareem Orr
  • Tye Smith
  • Chris Milton
  • Kenneth Durden

This position really blends with the safeties to some degree, but I think there is a clear top four corners who are absolutely making the roster in Jackson, Butler, Fulton, and Joseph. Based on the limited information we have gotten from training camp, it looks to me like Fulton is getting a long look at the slot corner spot vacated by Logan Ryan.

The fifth spot is really up in the air. Smith has the most experience, Milton is the best special teamer, and Durden had a couple picks in practice the other day. However, I’m going with Orr, who blew me away with his recall ability during his episode of Tape With a Titan and offers some inside/outside versatility.

Safety (6)

  • Kevin Byard
  • Kenny Vaccaro
  • Amani Hooker
  • Dane Cruikshank
  • Chris Jackson
  • Joshua Kalu
  • Ibraheim Campbell

Like corner, the top four here are pretty safe as Byard, Vaccaro, Hooker, and Cruikshank make for a nice set of safeties atop the Titans depth chart. Who makes the roster beyond those four is far less certain.

Early reviews of seventh round rookie Chris Jackson’s performance have been very positive so far and I think he’s going to get a real shot to make the roster given his corner/safety/special teams versatility, though Campbell and Kalu have both made some plays at the NFL level and could make things difficult.

Specialists (3)

  • Brett Kern
  • Beau Brinkley
  • Greg Joseph
  • Tucker McCann

The kicker competition was one of the more interesting position battles heading into camp, but the early returns are heavily favoring Joseph. According to the Titans own Jim Wyatt, Joseph is 15-for-15 in camp so far, bettering McCann’s 13-of-15 effort by a couple kicks. That’s not a huge gap, but most reports have indicated that McCann’s misses have been pretty wide misses and that Joseph’s kicks have a lot higher trajectory — good for not getting kicks blocked — than McCann’s.

Despite all the hand-wringing over the kicker job, it’s impossible to ask more from Greg Joseph than what we’ve seen from him so far in a Titans jersey. He went 18-for-18 on extra points last year and 1-for-1 on field goals, including the playoffs, and now he’s gone 15-for-15 during training camp reps.

Last Four In, First Four Out

I like to borrow this format from ESPN “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi when projecting 53-man rosters to give you an idea of who I think is on the bubble. The “last four in” are the four guys that I feel are currently included in my 53, but are on the most shaky ground. The “first four out” are guys that I came close to including and could see swapping with a “last four in” guy.

Last Four In: Garrett, Kalu, Quessenberry, Orr

First Four Out: Campbell, Batson, Ray, Ivie

We will be tracking news out of camp and reports from our own John Glennon to try and glean as much information about the pecking order of the roster over the next few weeks and updating this projection accordingly.

Jump in the comments and leave the changes you would make to my 53!

Comments

  1. I mostly agree Mike, I would think Tye Smith over Orr, but it’s almost a rock/paper/scissors with Milton, Orr, Smith. Glad to hear Walker is playing well, I was hoping he’d get in the mix last year prior to injury.

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