Titans 53-man roster projection after first days of training camp

The Titans 2021 training camp is officially underway and with it comes a few hints about where guys stack up in the competition to make the team’s initial 53-man roster. Before we get to my roster projection, let’s review the rules the NFL is operating under for cut downs as we go from 90 to 53 over the next month.

The league’s cut schedule is as follows:

  • Cut from 90 to 85: August 17th
  • Cut from 85 to 80: August 24th
  • Cut from 80 to 53: August 31st

The NFL also carried over the expanded 16-player practice squads from last season as well as the revised IR rules (unlimited IR returns and only a three week minimum when a player goes on IR) that were put in place for COVID last year. And, of course, the new roster rules created in the new CBA — the ability to call up two practice squad players to the active roster on game day and the allowance of 48 total active players as long as you have a minimum of 8 active offensive linemen — remain in place.

For right now, we’re going to assume that the players currently on the NFI or PUP lists (Bud Dupree, Caleb Farley, Aaron Brewer, Ty Sambrailo, and Jeremy McNichols) are not going to remain on those lists into the regular season. Let’s jump in, starting with the quarterbacks.

(Players that I expect to make the 53-man roster are listed in bold)

Quarterbacks (2)

  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Logan Woodside
  • DeShone Kizer

Woodside and Kizer are going to be competing for the backup QB job throughout training camp, but so far I think it’s pretty clear that Woodside has the leg up. He’s been much more decisive and accurate in the practices I’ve seen, which more than outweighs Kizer’s advantage in size, arm strength, and athleticism.

I’d be surprised if the Titans kept three here. They’ve almost exclusively carried just two quarterbacks on the 53-man roster during the Jon Robinson era. Expect the loser of this battle to wind up back on the practice squad most likely.

Running Backs (4)

  • Derrick Henry
  • Darrynton Evans
  • Khari Blasingame
  • Brian Hill
  • Jeremy McNichols
  • Mekhi Sargent
  • Tory Carter

Darrynton Evans is getting a ton of reps in training camp so far with Derrick Henry largely being held out of team periods out of precaution for the two-time defending rushing champ. I expect Evans to have a pretty significant role in this offense in his second season.

Khari Blasingame looks beefed up this year at camp. My guess is he’s closer to 250 pounds than he is to his listed weight of 233. With MyCole Pruitt — who frequently was used as an H-back during his time here — signing with the 49ers, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Blasingame’s role expand.

Depending on numbers elsewhere — and how comfortable they are with Evans’ pass protection — the Titans could choose to just keep three (including Blasingame) here, but if they keep one more it’s likely a competition between Hill and McNichols. McNichols starting on the PUP has given the more experienced Hill a chance to get a leg up on that battle early.

Wide Receiver (6)

  • A.J. Brown
  • Julio Jones
  • Josh Reynolds
  • Dez Fitzpatrick
  • Racey McMath
  • Chester Rogers
  • Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
  • Cameron Batson
  • Marcus Johnson
  • Cody Hollister
  • Mason Kinsey
  • Kalija Lipscomb
  • Fred Brown

A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, and Josh Reynolds are locks at the top of this group and it would be pretty surprising if fourth round pick Dez Fitzpatrick didn’t make the cut. After that, things get very interesting.

To me, there are two primary competitions going on for what is likely the last two roster spots at wide receiver. First, is a battle between Nick Westbrook-Ikhine and sixth round pick Racey McMath. Both receivers are big bodies who excel in special teams, particularly as gunners on punt coverage. McMath’s outstanding start to camp and higher ceiling as a receiver gives him the edge for me right now.

The second battle appears to include Chester Rogers, Cameron Batson, and Mason Kinsey. These three have been the team’s primary punt return options in camp so far — though running backs Evans and Hill got a chance to catch some punts Saturday — and that could be a ticket to a roster spot. Rogers has been busy in camp, serving as one of the team’s top options in the slot. Combine that with his experience (22 career starts) makes him an early favorite.

This is a very fluid group though and it wouldn’t shock me if Westbrook-Ikhine, Johnson, or Batson ends up earning a spot. The Titans have at least nine NFL quality players at receiver, a rarity for a franchise that has historically struggled with this position.

Tight End (3)

  • Anthony Firkser
  • Geoff Swaim
  • Tommy Hudson
  • Luke Stocker
  • Briley Moore
  • Jared Pinkney
  • Miller Forristall

The Titans have added a veteran tight end to the mix with Luke Stocker. He’ll provide some competition for the third tight spot for second year UDFA Tommy Hudson, who spent all of the 2020 season on the practice squad. Both Stocker and Hudson fall into the Geoff Swaim mold of 6-5, 260-ish pound prototypical inline blocking type tight ends.

Over the last couple years it’s been common for the Titans to four tight ends on the active roster, but I wonder if that will be the case this year with a stronger group of wide receivers and a weaker crop of tight ends. To me, it seems overly redundant to keep all three of Swaim, Stocker, and Hudson, so I’m going with Swaim and Hudson for now.

Offensive Line (9)

  • Taylor Lewan
  • Rodger Saffold
  • Ben Jones
  • Nate Davis
  • Kendall Lamm
  • Dillon Radunz
  • Ty Sambrailo
  • Aaron Brewer
  • David Quessenberry
  • Christian DiLauro
  • Chandon Herring
  • Daniel Munyer
  • Paul Adams
  • Adam Coon
  • Cole Banwart
  • Spencer Pulley
  • Patrick Morris

The top six here pretty well locked in. Kendall Lamm will get the first crack at the starting right tackle gig, but will get competition from rookie Dillon Radunz (and possibly Ty Sambrailo). Both Lamm and Radunz should safely make the roster though and I’d think Sambrailo probably makes it too.

Aaron Brewer — if and when he gets off the NFI list — should slot in as the backup center over Munyer, Pulley, and Morris. And my group rounds out with Quessenberry, who acquitted himself well when pushed into starting duty at left tackle last season. I wouldn’t rule out undrafted rookie Chandon Herring though.

We will learn a lot more about this group as the pads come on next week.

Defensive Line (5)

  • Jeffery Simmons
  • Denico Autry
  • Teair Tart
  • Larrell Murchison
  • Kyle Peko
  • Woodrow Hamilton IV
  • Trevon Coley
  • Anthony Rush
  • Naquan Jones

The top four here is pretty locked in. Both Tart and Murchison are off to good starts in camp and both have earned praise from Mike Vrabel already. After that, it’s anyone’s guess though for the fifth defensive line spot.

My guess is Kyle Peko, the 28-year old journeyman who most recently was with the Broncos before opting out of the 2020 NFL season. Peko has flashed consistently during the days that I’ve been able to observe.

Outside Linebacker (6)

  • Bud Dupree
  • Harold Landry
  • John Simon
  • Rashad Weaver
  • Derick Roberson
  • Ola Odeniyi
  • Wyatt Ray

This group is tough to sort at the moment. Dupree, Landry, and Weaver feel safe, but everyone else could go either way in my opinion. Simon has the veteran experience, Roberson has the most pass rush juice, and Odeniyi brings the most value on special teams. Odeniyi also offers some versatility with his ability to play inside linebacker in a pinch.

I’m keeping all three here and going lighter at inside backer, but this could definitely change.

Inside Linebacker (4)

  • Rashaan Evans
  • Jayon Brown
  • David Long
  • Monty Rice
  • B.J. Bello
  • Jan Johnson
  • Justin March-Lillard

The top four is pretty clear here so the question becomes whether they keep a fifth, and if so, who it is. We’ll get a better feel for the linebackers as pads come on and we get into preseason action, but for now, I’m going light with four here.

Cornerback (6)

  • Jackrabbit Jenkins
  • Caleb Farley
  • Kristian Fulton
  • Elijah Molden
  • Breon Borders
  • Chris Jackson
  • Kevin Peterson
  • Maurice Smith
  • Chris Jones
  • Greg Mabin

Borders and Jackson have all stood out early in camp and it feels like that duo is going to be competing for the final roster spots at corner. The safety/corner versatility of Jackson could give him an advantage when it comes to cut day, but for now, I’m keeping both.

Safety (5)

  • Kevin Byard
  • Amani Hooker
  • Matthias Farley
  • Dane Cruikshank
  • Brady Breeze
  • Briean Boddy-Calhoun

The question here will be whether the Titans choose to keep a fifth safety. Sixth round pick Brady Breeze needs to show value on special teams and enough upside to force them to find a spot in the 53 for him. I have him on right now, but preseason action will tell us more.

Specialists (3)

  • Brett Kern
  • Morgan Cox
  • Tucker McCann
  • James White
  • Blake Haubeil

Kern and Cox are locks, but the kicking competition is wide open. The Titans are reportedly bringing in multiple kickers this week for tryouts so it’s safe to say they haven’t been blown away by McCann or Haubeil to this point. I think there is a good chance that their Week 1 kicker isn’t currently on the roster.

McCann has been the better of the two kickers so far, but neither has looked great.

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: Breeze, Roberson, Peko, Hudson

First Four Out: Westbrook-Ikhine, Stocker, Bello, Batson

The pecking order for some of these groups will change as we go through camp and preseason. I’ll update my projections as we get to see and learn more about this roster.

Comments

    1. I really think Tart is going to be the guy. They could certainly look to grab someone besides Peko for depth, but they really like Tart and he’s flashed big time already at camp.

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