Titans 53-man roster projection after second preseason game

The Titans throttled the defending Super Bowl Champs, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. However, cuts are looming as Tuesday approaches, and the players that were showcased on Saturday night made the Titans decisions that much more difficult.

Some guys rebounded from week one, while others fell off a cliff. New additions surprised and one rookie had one of the best preseason performances I’ve ever seen. So how did the game Saturday change my 53-man roster projection? Let’s find out.

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

You can find the previous 53-man roster projection by clicking here.

Quarterbacks (2)

  • Ryan Tannehill
  • Logan Woodside

We have an actual competition: Matt Barkley

I am a known Logan Woodside supporter. The team is a known Woodside supporter as well given their actions over the the last year or so. However, I am not a blind follower, and we all saw how Matt Barkley has made their decision for who will take over as QB2 very difficult.

It’s still Woodside’s job to lose. I fully understand that all we’ve seen from Barkley is his willingness to push the ball down the field. Which is exactly what you want to see in preseason, but let’s not forget who Barkley is at his core, a guy who has started 7 games in 6 seasons and threw 10 Tis and 12 INTs in those starts.

That is not to say that Woodside in a start is automatically better, but I am just saying no matter who the QB2 is, you do not want to see them in the game, and really you want a QB that will limit mistakes. Barkley’s willingness to sling it, could hurt the team in crucial games if it came down to it.

Why have we seen Barkley get the chances to take the shots, while Woodside looks Moree conservative. I have a theory on that. Vrabel mentioned in his press conference, last week, that the playbook Barkley can run is limited. he is still a relatively unknown quantity to this staff. Whereas this team knows and is comfortable with what they have in Woodside. So when Woodside is in, they want to see what these running backs have. What kind of push the offensive line can get. When Barkley is in, they want to see what he can do first and foremost.

Something that supports this theory is the fact that Barkley’s and Woodside’s stats below

PlayerSnapsDropbacksAttemptsCompletionsCmp %YardsY/A
Logan Woodside32108787.5648.0
Matt Barkley30171612751157.2

It’s ultimately just a theory, but it is one that makes sense. I still have Woodside making this roster, and Paul Kuharsky said it best in this tweet from Saturday night:

This makes total sense. Woodside is the most knowledgeable QB readily available that is intimately familiar with Art Smith’s version of this offense. Could the Titans end up keeping Woodside? Could they possibly even keep three QBs and try to trade Woodside after final cuts? It’s an interesting storyline to watch, but I do err on the side of caution, that this team will stick with what’s familiar.

Running Backs (4)

  • Derrick Henry
  • Darrynton Evans
  • Khari Blasingame
  • Mehki Sargent (New Addition)

It’s probably over: Brian Hill, Tory Carter

Why are you still here: Jeremy McNichols

The absence of Darrynton Evans paved the way for the back up running backs to get some of the spotlight, and for the second game in a row undrafted free agent rookie, Mehki Sargent, stole the show.

Last week I said that Sargent was going to be that guy that everyone falls in love with and he just heads to the practice squad. Well when you keep stacking great in game performances, you play yourself on to the roster, and with Evans’s availability continually hovering as a question mark, at least it is for now, this team will need a third running back, if they truly want to keep Henry fresh. (Not that Henry needs it)

Sargent was clearly the better back of the three that played. Anyone, even the most basic of fans, could see that. They used him in a variety of ways that we would normally see them use Evans in. He ran 12 different routes and on top of that was able to get a receiving touchdown. He also had 16 carries, let’s break down those stats:

CarriesYardsYards/carryYards after contactForced missed tackles# of 10+ yard carries
16784.96793

To put this into perspective McNichols was wildly ineffective as he ran five times for -9 yards, and -1.8 yards per carry. While Brian Hill who needed to show the team something, anything, for him to secure his spot, had 10 carries for 24 yards, and 2.4 yards per carry.

Anything can happen in the last preseason game obviously, but I think it is very clear that if you’re going to keep a third running back and a full back, it has to be Sargent at this point and time.

Wide Receiver (6)

  • A.J. Brown
  • Julio Jones
  • Josh Reynolds
  • Chester Rogers
  • Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
  • Marcus Johnson (Although why did he miss?)

Needs to keep the momentum going: Mason Kinsey, Dez Fitzpatrick

On the brink of being cut: Racey McMath

Cut:

  • Cameron Batson
  • Cody Hollister – IR
  • Fred Brown

The wide receiver race got way more complicated this week. There was a lot of momentum shifts everywhere from snap counts to overall performances. Ultimately, I think at the end of all of this, the Titans will probably end up keeping seven wide receivers on this roster, but for now I am sticking with these six.

Most noticeable is that Racey McMath ended up with zero snaps at wide receiver. That is alarming for a guy who had such camp buzz that has now since died off. He did have 23 snaps on special teams, but did not record anything with those opportunities. With seven punts and seven kickoffs to try and get a tackle or showcase his speed as a gunner, he came up short. The whole thing that was going to have McMath on the final 53 is a non- factor currently. He should have one more week and one more game to show something to this staff to try and beat out Nick Westbrook-Ikhine.

Speaking of NWI, he got the start at outside receiver opposite Josh Reynolds in Saturday’s game. This is his second start in as many games, and he was able to haul in one catch on his only target for 18-yards. I think he is the biggest roadblock to McMath making the team, and at this point, I see no reason for NWI not to be on this roster.

Why did Marcus Johnson miss both Thursday’s practice and this preseason game? That is the biggest question mark to me. Johnson should still be trying to prove himself in these games and show that what he is doing on the practice field translates to in game situations. This team is super secretive about injuries, and I am wondering if there isn’t one lingering with Johnson. It’s the only real thing that makes sense, because being a all-star practice guy doesn’t mean anything if you cannot put it together on the field, and unlike Reynolds, we’ve never seen Johnson put it all together.

Speaking of Reynolds, he is still going to make this team. The team is continuing getting his feet wet since his return from an achilles injury. I do think however that there is a chance that a certain player is going to eat in his snaps, and that’s just because he has earned it. That man? Chester Rogers.

Rogers right now really does deserve a lot of opportunities as this team’s slot receiver. He has taken what he’s shown at practice and translates it on the field. He has made a few contested catches, and is average 14 yards per reception through two preseason games. Not only that, once again, Rogers was electric as a returner and had a long gain called back because of a made up rule no one has ever seen enforced. the emergence of Rogers spells doom for one wide receiver, and makes it harder for another to make the roster.

Cam Batson is a nice story, and may end up on the practice squad either here, or somewhere else, but there is no real reason to keep him and Rogers, and most of us have known since last week, Rogers is making this team. Mason Kinsey is the other wide receiver that Rogers presence makes things harder for. I think Kinsey has been downright awesome, and his progress from last year has been an amazing story. Ultimately, he’s the poster boy for this team to keep seven wide receivers.

If this team truly believes in the fact you earn your way on the roster, how can Kinsey not be on this if he has another game like the last two. I get it, him and Rogers are practically the same person, but Kinsey has 10 catches on 12 targets for 107 yards and one touchdown. I am not sure he will make it to the practice squad if he is cut.

The prevailing story of the game is that Dez Fitzpatrick was able to haul in a touchdown. Now, I am what you a call a “hater”, but I did my best to clarify what my stance on Fitzpatrick actually stems from in this Fact or Fiction article. The team said he needed to rebound, and sure enough he did. The players also surrounded him after his touchdown catch to help him celebrate. It was a great scene to even warm the coldest of hearts. I am sure it helped lift some of the burden on his shoulders as well. However, it was a body catch, and more often than not those end up being drops, and for a guy who struggled with drops all week, you need to see some progress in that department or you will end up with a Taywan Taylor situation.

Dez helped his chances greatly, but I still do not think he sticks currently, he needs to build on this performance and improve some areas of his game to stick.

Tight End (4)

  • Anthony Firkser
  • Geoff Swaim
  • Tommy Hudson
  • Luke Stocker

One chance left: Miller Forristall, Jared Pinkney

Again, there isn’t really anything to report. The tight ends outside of Firkser and Hudson were not involved in the passing game. Firkser went 2 for 2 and 15 yards, while Hudson didn’t reel in his only target. I wonder if when the final cut day comes, and Swaim isn’t healthy if he doesn’t end up on IR. That’s the only thing that would really change unless Forristall shows out this last game.

Offensive Line (9)

  • Taylor Lewan
  • Rodger Saffold
  • Ben Jones
  • Nate Davis
  • Kendall Lamm
  • Dillon Radunz
  • Ty Sambrailo
  • Aaron Brewer – NFI list
  • David Quessenberry

They gone:

  • Christian DiLauro
  • Chandon Herring
  • Daniel Munyer
  • Paul Adams – Wrist injury
  • Brent Qvale
  • Cole Banwart
  • Ross Reynolds
  • Jordan Roos

Another spot where the list remains unchanged. While Radunz got his butt whipped, he is still going to make this team. I saw a lot of tweets Saturday night about how this team should have never let Dennis Kelly go. Look, the players that have played in this last two games are not the starters. This team eased in Ty Sambrailo for only 14 snaps Saturday night, and then Kendall Lamm has yet to play. It is not the time to make silly remarks about missing Kelly.

Defensive Line (5)

  • Jeffery Simmons
  • Denico Autry
  • Teair Tart
  • Larrell Murchison
  • Anthony Rush (New Addition)

Odd man out: Kyle Peko

Fighting for their spot: Woodrow Hamilton, Naquan Jones

The defensive line yet again showed up. So much so, and with some buzz from Mike Keith, I have decided this team is going to end up keeping five defensive linemen.

After the defense being so abysmal last year, this team seems to have made a quick and dominant turnaround so far this preseason. Tear Tart just absolutely explodes off the line of scrimmage. Both Kyle Peko and Anthony Rush’s names were heard throughout the whole week of practice and the game, with positive things about their effort.

On top of that on the OTP leading into the Tampa game, Mike Keith talked about how Rush was gaining ground as the “starting” nose tackle for this Titans offensive line. Keeping six defensive linemen is a luxury, and they are going to have to sacrifice Peko for a fifth inside linebacker for special teams purposes, however, one could argue that the best 53 players on this roster would include these five and Peko.

Another thing that is going to hurt the chances Peko making the roster is the fact that Rashad Weaver has been lining up with his hand in the dirt a lot on some passing situations these last two preseason games. It’s important to keep in mind that this defense has always been about coverage consistency, front multiplicity.

These five defensive linemen, plus Weaver, brings that kind of strategy to the forefront. Simmons and Autry can be moved around. Earlier I put quotations around the word starting when referring to Rush’s place as nose tackle on the team. The reason I am doing that is because more than likely this defense will start with just two defensive linemen.

If I had to guess about situational roles, Tart is the explosive guy that will come off the end, while Rush is the run stuffing nose tackle. March will be on the final cuts, but he won’t be active a lot on game days, unless there is an injury or competitive advantage. They have liked what they have seen from him, and he has a lot of upside. I also think him and Peko are pretty similar in abilities, and who that is the case you take the draft pick.

Outside Linebacker (5)

  • Bud Dupree
  • Harold Landry
  • Rashad Weaver
  • Wyatt Ray
  • Ola Odeniyi

Most Improved: Derick Roberson

Good but not great: John Simon

While Rashad Weaver wasn’t as eye-catchingly dominate as he was in Atlanta, he did build upon his performance last week adding four more pressures to his stat line. He also is credited with a batted pass. Putting together two good performances is all you can ask for this guy. Sure he had two penalties, including the special teams penalty from violating a fake rule, but overall, if Molden and the defensive backs hadn’t performed so well, we would be gushing over Weaver’s performance. Take note: Weaver once again found himself moved all over the defensive front.

Wyatt Ray and Ola Odeniyi, didn’t build upon their successful preseason performance, as neither were able to sack the quarterback. They combined for two pressures. It’s a perfectly average performance, but you would have liked to have seen them do just as much as they did last week considering the defense’s prior year’s performance at this position. Especially with a guy like Derick Roberson breathing down their necks.

Roberson really flashed a lot that first half. I saw number 50 in a lot of plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet, but he always looked to be around the ball. After being a nonreactor for 2020 and being outshined in game one of the preseason, I think Roberson is a guy who could end up overtaking Ray’s spot if he puts together another performance in the final preseason game.

John Simon was able to get a sack and also forced a fumble. It was good to see him turn this into somewhat of a competition, and while he does have an edge with being a Vrabel guy, I am not sure he has the time to show enough to over take one of the other guys. However, you can’t ever discount nepotism in the NFL.

Inside Linebacker (5)

  • Rashaan Evans
  • Jayon Brown
  • David Long
  • Monty Rice
  • Nick Dzubnar (New Addition)

Did himself a favor: Jan Johnson

Played okay: Justin March-Lillard

Last week wasn’t a fluke, as we all saw that the Titans have a special third down package in mind for its inside linebackers. David Long, Jr was in the game yet again this week, lining up alongside Jayon Brown, on third down situations. He once again stood out by sacking elite backup QB, Blaine Gabbert, to force a third and out. The linebackers allowed zero combined catches.

Seeing this continue is good news. As Mike Herndon (R.I.P.) put it, this is good news for all parties involved except Rashaan Evans’s bank account. This is the best utilization of the talent they have at inside linebacker. Evans can be the one dimensional, downhill run stopper he’s proven to be most effective at being, while the Titans don’t have him in on obvious passing situations where he has proven to be time and time again a major liability.

Monty Rice is proven to be a capable back end roster guy, while I still don’t feel he was worth a third round pick, I do think there is something there that the Titans can work with and he can work his way up sort of like Jayon Brown and David Long. Rice did allow both catches thrown his way, but it wasn’t anything glaringly awful. Rice also was able to be play 11 snaps on special teams.

With Rice steadily improving week to week, you have to wonder about Nick Dzbunar’s role with this team long term. They brought him in as a familiar face while in Tampa. He played 14 special team snaps and 14 defensive snaps on the night. However, there is currently a place for both, and Dzubnar’s familiarity in the system and the fact he was used in a few goaline plays last year, makes me think he is here to stay, while pushing Rice to be better.

After showing out a little last week, Justin March-Lillard took a step back. It was bound to happen, and unfortunately with Dzubnar recently signed, it will limit his chance. Jan Johnson, however, took the opposite approach and generated three pressures on just 13 snaps! That right there will help a guy make the backend of the roster and is something to keep an eye on as the last preseason game is looming.

Cornerback (6)

  • Jackrabbit Jenkins
  • Caleb Farley
  • Kristian Fulton
  • Breon Borders
  • Chris Jackson
  • Elijah Molden

The Other Guys: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Chris Jones

I think both Brien Boddy-Calhoun and Chris Jones made some nice plays and it would seem like most years we would be talking about how they’re making this team. However, this is not any other year. The Titans heavily invested in the cornerback room this year, and a few investments paid off.

Breon Borders and Kristian Fulton got the start and combined to allow three catches for 21 yards. What I saw that I loved a lot from a team perspective was that the defensive backs were swarming the ball, and whenever a red jersey caught a ball, there were about two or three white jerseys ready to pummel the guy.

That mentality generated turnovers and key stops for the defense. Caleb Farley had a good night too. I know. The majority of you think he got burned by Scotty Miller, and sure it may look that way, but what Farley did was use his speed, and his body to force Scotty to have to catch the ball in a spot where he could not stay in bounds. It showed very good awareness and technique from the corner, as a normally long completion didn’t have a chance to happen.

However, no one had a better night than Game Two MVP, Elijah Molden. I don’t think I have ever seen a preseason defensive performance in a Titans jersey quite like that. He made so many plays and he definitely showcased his elite mental traits and his unquestioned toughness Saturday night.

There was an offensive play in the first half where the defense just shot into the backfield for a run stop and there was a massive pile of people. The person who made the stop and came up from the pile last, was Molden. It didn’t stop there either. Molden had a forced fumble, two pressures, three more defensive stops, and a pass break up that led to an interception.

One of those pressures was a sack where apparently he blacked out, and was just running on pure instinct. That is wild, because it was a slip-n-slide sack that looks even better from the angle show in the tweet below. Imagine what he can do when he doesn’t black out.

Safety (4)

  • Kevin Byard
  • Amani Hooker
  • Bradley McDougald (New Addition)
  • Clayton Geathers (New Addition)

We will always have that TD: Dane Cruikshank

Thigh Guy? Thigh Bye: Matthias Farley

Just a Guy: Jamal Carter

Not on IR yet?: Brady Breeze

Right now the Titans front office have to be patting their backs about the additions they made at safety. Bradley McDougald and Clayton Geathers combined to allow zero catches. Geathers walked away with an interception, and McDougald was able to get a pass break up. On top of that both Gather and McDougald played 9 and 11 snaps on special teams respectively.

Both of these guys are NFL vets with quality experience, and they played like it Saturday night, outclassing the Tampa Bay offense with ease. Looking forward to seeing these guys contribute on special teams but also serve as rotational pieces in the safety room.

It’s over for the rest of the guys. Dane Cruikshank just can’t stay healthy, Matthias Farley’s performance versus Atlanta was easily erased by McDougald and Geathers, and while Jamal Carter had an interception, there’s only so many safeties a team can keep.

I am shocked Brady Breeze hasn’t ended up on IR yet, but I guess they may expect him back sooner rather than later? Something to keep an eye on as the Titans did use a sixth round pick on him, and he was making some headway before getting injured in the Atlanta game.

Specialists (3)

  • Brett Kern
  • Morgan Cox
  • Sam Ficken

To IR or PS: Tucker McCann

Sam Ficken had a perfect night. He was 4/4 in extra points while going 2 for 2 in field goals. Ficken made kicks of 48 and 58 yards in the preseason game on Saturday in Tampa, and I think the fan base and media let out a collective sigh that the worries about the kicker situation in Tennessee seem to be over.

This is unfortunate news for Tucker McCann. His injury was deemed day-to-day and he was just sore from that dirty hit in Atlanta, but I am not sure he has a real shot to unseat Ficken by the time the final cut day rolls around. Obviously, being that he is currently injured, he may be able to be put on IR, but I think the more likely destination is to try and snag him for the practice squad.

Who’s out? Who’s in? Leave your comments about the 53-man roster below!

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