Zach Lyons is a NFL Senior Contributor for Broadway Sports. He is also Co-Host of the wildly popular, award winning, and world renowned podcast, “A Football & Other F Words”, new episodes released every Wednesday wherever you get your podcasts.. He’s also a co-host for Nashville’s first ever football only show with a global reach, “A Football Show”. “A Football Show” airs LIVE every Monday and Thursday at 1p CST. Subscribe and turn on notifications here.
The final 53 projection this year is a little less murky than years past outside of maybe one or two spots. The majority of the players that will be active on Sundays in the regular season are pretty much set. The rest of the back end players are rarely enough to quibble about.
So really how should a 53-man projection actually look? Should it be based on predicting the roster spots right after the final cut deadline or how the roster will look when game one of the regular season kicks off? Why not both?
What I aim to do, besides provide you with my usual snark, is predict the make up of the roster, with what I think could be the 53-man roster by game day. If that’s a little confusing the Quarterback section may help clarify what I mean.
The league’s cut schedule is as follows:
Cut from 90 to 85: August 16th Cut from 85 to 80: August 23rd
- Cut from 80 to 53: August 30th
- Ryan Tannehill
- Logan Woodside / Veteran QB
- Malik Willis
First, let me say, I am choosing players/roster spots, based on what I think the Titans will do, not what I would do or think they should do. As I said on the latest podcast, and Monday’s “A Football Show”, I prefer they just keep two and let Malik Willis roll as QB2. I just don’t think they will.
Now whether that other quarterback spot is taken up by Logan Woodside or not is another discussion. Recently, this idea has been brought up by a few of the local media members. One of them being Jim Wyatt, who said in his most recent mailbag the following:
At this point, I don’t think Malik has proven himself ready to be the No.2. And, I can’t help but wonder if Woodside is instead competing against another QB who could become available in another week or so.Jim Wyatt
Now obviously this is Wyatt’s opinion, and he has had the wrong notion before, but it is worth discussing and breaking it down. And I will do this in a more respectful way than someone filming themselves in their car & scolding Wyatt’s opinion by saying: “I don’t know how fucking stupid you can be”. (A schmuck actually said this about Jim Wyatt of all people on Tuesday.)
I think it’s plausible that the Titans may be looking at Woodside and Willis and thinking that Willis isn’t ready, and that Woodside isn’t good enough. However, I don’t think it’s likely that:
- A veteran quarterback hitting the market that is familiar with this offensive system
- That veteran quarterback being better than Woodside
Let’s take former offensive coordinator candidate, Sean Mannion, and use him as an example. The Vikings recently traded a conditional 7th round pick for Nick Mullens, to try and solve their issues behind Kirk Cousins at the back up quarterback spot. So it’s likely career back up, Sean Mannion, may get cut soon.
Mannion does cross of one of the perceived requirements for the Titans back up job. He is familiar enough with the McVay/Shanahan style of offense he would be able to transition quickly. However, at 29 years old, and 0-3 as a starter, is he really that much better than Woodside?
This is why Woodside has such a leg up. If it’s between Woodside and Mannion, Woodside has the familiarity with the offense, the staff, and the other players, that if there’s no real back up quarterback that becomes available, Woodside is on the team, and the final 53.
Look around the league at the current back up situations of every team, and you’ll be hard pressed to find someone that checks all the boxes like Woodside does for this team/offense. If it’s Woodside vs a Veteran, then it’s Woodside vs:
- Matt Barkley (who he beat out)
- Josh Johnson
- Tim Boyle
- Kevin Hogan (who he beat out)
- Bryce Perkins
- Skylar Thompson
- Sean Mannion
- Davis Webb
- Brock Purdy
- Ryan Griffin
There is one intriguing name that would be an upgrade worth discounting the offensive familiarity, if he becomes available, and it’s not a sexy name, but it’s Mason Rudolph. With the money spent on Mitchell Trubisky, and the draft capital spent on Kenny Pickett, Mason Rudolph would be the odd man out if they chose to cut him.
However, teams will be falling over themselves to try and sign Rudolph to upgrade their back up quarterback spot, so I doubt this would be the place he’d end up.
In the end, the table is set for this team to keep three quarterbacks, and I’d bet it’s going to be Woodside at that spot.
Running Backs (4)
- Derrick Henry
- Dontrell Hilliard
- Hassan Haskins
- Tory Carter
Call a Travel Agent: Trenton Cannon
See you on the Practice Squad: Julius Chestnut
This is about as easy as it gets. I think the top-4 are locked in, and there’s no real reason to keep anyone to be a 5th running back.
Trenton Cannon, like I have said all along, bring nothing of value to this team. Even special teams contributions are lacking. He missed the game versus Tampa Bay, and really did anyone notice? With other options at kick returner that also do other things for this team, I don’t see any way he makes it to the final-53, barring injury to another player.
I know people have fallen in love with what Julius Chestnut has done during games, but ultimately he’s just a duplicate to the other guys. Sure he can catch, but so can Hilliard and Haskins. Sure, he moves well enough for a bigger back to force some tackles and create some plays, but so can Henry and Haskins. Nothing against Chestnut, but he just won’t make the final cut, but he will be on this team’s practice squad.
Wide Receiver (6)
- Robert Woods
- Nick Westbrook-Ikhine
- Treylon Burks
- Kyle Philips
- Racey McMath
- Dez Fitzpatrick
Saying Goodbye to Old Friends: Mason Kinsey, Cody Hollister
Saying Goodbye to New Friends: Reggie Roberson
Much like the running back room, this one is pretty easy with who the top 6 are. I think there is a debate to be had that they may only end up keeping five, but I think for insurance purposes they will keep six on the final 53.
If they only keep five, then obviously Dez Fitzpatrick isn’t making it. However, as I wrote earlier this week, I think he has done enough, and shown enough for this team to keep him around.
I can already hear the village idiots gathering around my house with torches, ready to burn my house down. They’re here because I have to break the news that their beloved false idol, Mason Kinsey, isn’t making this team. He isn’t even a poor man’s Kyle Philips, he’s a poor man’s Alex Bachman. (Look it up)
Him and Cody Hollister are forever the practice squad guys. It’s just plain as day for 98% of the fans, media, and all of the staff.
I loved the UDFA signing of Reggie Roberson, and thought if he stayed healthy he could possibly make the back end of this roster. Unfortunately, he’s a late bloomer, but I do think there’s enough potential there that if he flashes again, that he can be on this practice squad.
This is a position I wouldn’t rule out an addition being made after cuts go through. They won’t be some major name or contributor, but I could see someone being brought in after the initial final cuts, and then the Titans putting Fitzpatrick on the practice squad.
Tight End (3)
- Austin Hooper
- Chig Okonkwo
- Geoff Swaim
What do I do with you: Tommy Hudson
Didn’t even realize they were on the team until researching this article: David Wells, Thomas Odukoya
I just don’t know how to feel about Tommy Hudson and him being on this team. He’s actually the player I go back and forth on the most. We all know this staff, for whatever reason, likes this truck pulling, hospitalVIP patient, as a player, but is he worth a roster spot?
I know he plays special teams, when he’s healthy, but we can say that about a ton of guys that are roster locks already. Is he really needed for that? I think ultimately that’s why I am going with three final answer.
I may waiver on next week’s article after the third preseason game, but if I do it’s going to be a veteran. OJ Howard comes to mind. He signed with the Bills this offseason, but right now he is TE4 over there. Wouldn’t Howard as TE4 be better than Hudson? Yeah absolutely.
I know people are all about “Titans will be playing more two TE-sets!!” Right, I am sure it will go from 21% of plays to possibly like 25% of plays, and if it even tops out at 30%, if injuries happen is Hudson the guy you even want in? I just don’t see it.
Offensive Line (9)
- Taylor Lewan
- Aaron Brewer
- Ben Jones
- Nate Davis
- Dillon Radunz
- Jamarco Jones (but his seat is very, very warm)
- Corey Levin
- Jordan Roos
Could be a surprise guy to take someone’s spot on the final 53: Xavier Newman-Johnson
Take an off-planet shuttle: Willie Wright, Christian DiLauro, Andrew Rupcich
Sticking around on the Practice Squad: Hayden Howerton, Jalen McKenzie
This one is a little tougher as the days go on. I go back and forth between 8 spots, and 9 spots. The reason being is that I am not sold on Jamarco Jones making this team right now. Especially if Radunz truly moves into the LG battle, and NPF wins the RT spot.
Look at it this way, if NPF wins RT, and Brewer secures the Lg spot, then Radunz would be guy that could play three positions on the offensive line in an injury situation, whereas Jones, who didn’t log a snap versus Tampa. Jones has been wholly unimpressive since putting on a Titans jersey. He hasn’t even come close to truly threatening Aaron Brewer’s claim to the guard spot.
In all honesty, if Jones is cut, and they still keep 9, I could see it being Xavier Newman-Johnson. An UDFA signing out of Baylor, XNJ has taken 72 reps at C, LG, and a few at RG. Out of the 72 he has played 45 pass blocking snaps, and has only allowed two total pressures, and those were hurries.
I still think bringing in a veteran swing tackle would make sense, but not sure who that is at the moment. It just better not be “Sloppy Fart” Bobby Hart.
Defensive Line (5)
- Jeffery Simmons
- Denico Autry
- Teair Tart
- NaQuan Jones
- DeMarcus Walker
In a Lurch: Big Murch, Sam Okuayinonu
Still Fighting: Da’Shawn Hand, Jayden Peevy, Kevin Strong
This to me is pretty set in stone, and has been for months. I think guys like Da’Shawn Hand, Jayden Peevy, and Kevin Strong can make the staff second guess keeping just five, but when you add in the versatility of Rashad Weaver, it just doesn’t make sense.
There is the lingering question of why hasn’t Denico Autry practiced all camp? Is it just he’s and old fella and they’re letting him have lots of time off, or is there an injury we aren’t aware of yet? There is a possibility that they keep the five they listed, put Autry on an injury list after final cuts, and then promote one of the other guys to the 53.
However in the end they’re keeping some sort of 5 once finals cuts announced, and maybe just four are actually active on gameday.
Outside Linebacker (5)
- Bud Dupree
- Harold Landry
- Rashad Weaver
- Ola Odeniyi
- David Anenih
I do my best Oprah impression: You get a spot, and YOU get a spot, and YOU get a spot!
Inside Linebacker (5)
- Zach Cunningham
- David Long
- Monty Rice
- Chance Campbell
- Dylan Cole
Did himself a favor: Joe Jones
The Doctor is not In: Jack Gibbens
The back end of this position group is very fluid. As of this writing Monty Rice and Dylan Cole have been absent for most of training camp with injuries, and I am not sure of their status. Kind of like Autry, where these players make the initial-53 and then put on a injury list and they bring up other guys.
However, if everyone is healthy these are your starting five. Chance Campbell has lived up to the task of his unexpected burden of responsibility at the position. Cole has shown he’s a valuable special teams member.
I think while the team likes Jack Gibbens and Joe Jones, they know that both should easily clear waivers to be able to be placed on the practice squad.
- Kristian Fulton
- Caleb Farley
- Roger McCreary
- Elijah Molden
- Chris Jackson
Can replace Chris Jackson easily: Greg Mabin
Just on the Outside: Tre Avery
Not so swell: Tre Swilling
I consider him a Safety: Lonnie Johnson, Jr
In three of four seasons under Mike Vrabel, the final 53-man roster has consisted of the team only keeping five cornerbacks. I think this team gets back to basics with the multitude of players that are so versatile on this defense.
I think the final cornerback spot can either go Chris Jackson or Greg Mabin, but I think they like Chris Jackson overall in spite of his poor preseason showing versus the Ravens. The question becomes much like Autry and Rice, does Jackson make the team but is placed on some injured list, and Mabin is promoted.
Tre Avery and Tre Swilling are ultimately just guys. They’re a pipe dream to make this roster, and it’s nothing against them, I think they will end up finding their way back at practices here again next year, but they’re just camp bodies, and unfortunate fodder for roster cuts.
Like I said Lonnie Johnson for the purposes of this exercise I consider a safety, even though he’s more hybrid than anything.
- Kevin Byard
- Amani Hooker
- Theo Jackson
- Lonnie Johnson, Jr.
- Tyree Gillespie
First Wave in, Last Wave Out: A.J. Moore
Nice Guy. Nice Try.: Adrian Colbert, Joshua Kalu
I do not care that A.J. Moore was brought in with the first wave of free agents, and he’s a former Texan who got paid more money than Dane Cruikshank. This team doesn’t care how much you get paid, you have to produce, and he stinks. This is an easy cut, that is really meaningless in the big scheme of things.
The reason it’s meaningless is because the Titans made several moves at safety over the last week and a half that have seemingly paid off. Lonnie Johnson is a versatile player, with supposed attitude issues, who seems, after one preseason game, ready to make an impact and is in a good head space.
His rookie year was spent under Anthony Midget so he has some familiarity and connection to the staff. Tyree Gillespie also had a good outing after being traded from the Raiders to the Titans. I think his spot is secure.
Adrian Colbert and Joshua Kalu, have been very good in the preseason but ultimately their counterparts have proven to be just a tad bit better and, or more versatile.
- Randy Bullock
- Morgan Cox
- Ryan Stonehouse
The Titans are in quite a pickle: Brett Kern
Ughhhh, I have no clue what to do with this punter situation, and ultimately the Colts losing their starting Punter to injury makes this all the more difficult. Ultimately, if you’re a Titans fan, wouldn’t you want Kern to be the guy to goto the Colts with his age, and possibility of falling off at any moment like previous years?
I really wish Kern would retire, take his money owed, and ride off into the sunset as to let Ryan Stonehouse take the mantle of MVPunter 2.0. Either way, I think the Titans are in quite the pickle with this punter situation, because whoever is cut, more than likely is going to end up on the Colts or possibly another team with a dire punter situation, because although Stonehouse is just a rookie punter, he has shown an enviously powerful leg that another team would surely claim off waivers.
The thing with cutting Kern is that he wouldn’t have to go through waivers, so he immediately becomes a free agent and can freely negotiate with any team. I still think there is a small outside chance the Titans keep two punters possibly on the initial 53, but at the expense of someone like David Anenih or Dylan Cole, who would then go to the practice squad.
Practice Squad (16)
- Tre Avery
- Tre Swilling
- Greg Mabin
- Jack Gibbens
- Joe Jones
- Xavier Newman-Johnson
- Hayden Howerton
- Jalen McKenzie
- Mason Kinsey
- Cody Hollister
- Reggie Roberson
- Julius Chestnut
- Joshua Kalu
- Adrian Colbert
- Da’Shawn Hand
- Jayden Peevy
Who’s out? Who’s in? Leave your comments about the 53-man roster below!