Tennessee Titans 53-man roster analysis

Now that the Titans have made the cuts to get down to 53, it’s time to take a look at the shape of the roster, what spots might be ripe for upgrading, and how it compares to the Titans’ roster in season past.

First, let’s take a look at the positional distribution of the Titans as they stand right now, before any waiver wire-type additions, with the number of players at the position kept last year in parentheses:

QB: 3 (3)
RB/FB: 5 (4)
TE: 3 (3)
WR: 4+1 (5)
OL: 9 (10)
DE: 5 (3 + 2 DL)
DT: 5 (4)
LB: 7 (7)
CB: 5 (4 + 1 DB)
S: 4+1 (4)
Special Teams: 3 (3)

Overall, the Titans appear to be heavy at running back, keeping four halfbacks plus a fullback, and in the defensive line, keeping five ends and five tackles, making up for the space at wide receiver and on the offensive line. Kenny Britt off his Week 1 suspension will remedy the numbers at WR, but the Titans do seem to be light on the offensive line.

Here’s how the roster shakes out.

QB: Matt Hasselbeck, Jake Locker, Rusty Smith
Projected Depth Chart: Locker, Hasselbeck, Smith
Analysis: There was some thought Rusty could be gone. I never bought into that, and some fine throws early in the season quelled most of the doubters. Some thought Hasselbeck could be a goner if/when Locker won the starting job, but I never bought into that idea either. The questions here weren’t about who was going to make the 53-man.

RB/FB: Jamie Harper, Chris Johnson, Darius Reynaud, Javon Ringer; Quinn Johnson (FB)
Projected Depth Chart: C. Johnson, Ringer, Reynaud, Harper; Q. Johnson
Analysis: Reynaud is listed as third on the depth chart not so much because I think the Titans really like him as a running back better than Harper than because his hold on the returner jobs will likely leave him active every week, while Harper may have trouble getting into the lineup. Despite his limitations, Ringer fills a valuable niche role.

At fullback, I regularly find Quinn Johnson a difficult watch, but the Titans have consistently showed signs they like him. As I noted in the cutdown thread, I’d like to see the Titans try to add Jacob Hester, a proficient special teams player and a guy who can be moderately productive with the ball in his hands.

TE: Jared Cook, Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson
Projected Depth Chart: Stevens, Cook, Thompson
Analysis: Once the Titans drafted Thompson, the players at the position were pretty clear to me, and the Grahams, Cameron and Daniel, indeed departed as I expected. The projected depth chart is also kind of meaningless, as Cook and Stevens play slightly different roles in the offense.

WR: Kenny Britt (suspended), Lavelle Hawkins, Nate Washington, Damian Williams, Kendall Wright
Projected Depth Chart: Washington, Hawkins; (Britt,) Wright, Williams
Analysis: With Marc Mariani going on injured reserve and Britt suspended, it just became a question of whether the Titans would use another body here. Chris Palmer talked this offseason about using five or even six wide receivers in a game, and I thought there was a real possibility somebody was going to steal a job. It never happened, though, and the Titans go into Week 1 very light at the position. Even with Jared Cook playing a lot in the slot or even flexed out wide, any injury here in practice this week probably forces the Titans to make a roster move.

OL: Leroy Harris, Steve Hutchinson, Troy Kropog, Kevin Matthews, Mike Otto, Michael Roos, David Stewart, Byron Stingily, Fernando Velasco
Projected Depth Chart: Roos, Otto, Kropog; Hutchinson, Matthews; Velasco, Matthews; Harris, Matthews; Stewart, Stingily
Analysis: The Titans kept 10 at the position last year, but only for the opening week, and went with 9 most of the rest of the way. They’re at 9 right now, but my expectation is Troy Kropog is on the team because of Mike Otto’s injury. As soon as Otto is healthy, he’s gone. Considering the Titans need a roster spot for Kenny Britt after Sunday’s game against the Patriots and Otto’s recovery seems to be proceeding apace, I’d expect the former fourth-round pick to be cut then.

With Ryan Durand going on injured reserve, the Titans are thin on the interior offensive line. It wouldn’t surprise me to see them add another interior offensive linemen, either off the waiver wire or a veteran after Week 1. I’m not expecting that veteran to be Dan Koppen, though, even if the Titans did visit with him in April. If they do, then they need another roster space from somewhere else.

DE: Keyunta Dawson, Pannel Egboh, Derrick Morgan, Scott Solomon, Kamerion Wimbley
Projected Depth Chart: Morgan, Egboh, Solomon; Wimbley, Dawson
Analysis: The roster spots in question here were Solomon and Dawson’s, and the player they depended on was Dave Ball. With Ball’s concussion forcing him to injured reserve, the Titans ended up not having to choose between them. I haven’t yet seen Week 4, but Dawson basically was Wimbley’s backup in the preseason. Solomon was the third-string LDE, and I’m not expecting much from him this year. Depending on how things shake out, this may be a position where the Titans could cut somebody loose, Egboh or Solomon, if they need a roster spot elsewhere.

DT: Jurrell Casey, DaJohn Harris, Karl Klug, Sen’Derrick Marks, Mike Martin
Projected Depth Chart: Marks, Klug, Harris; Casey, Martin
Analysis: As I noted in the cutdown day post, letting go of Zach Clayton really surprised me. I wasn’t a huge fan of his, and frankly thought he was a bit of a waste of a roster spot last year. The Titans seemed to feel differently, keeping him around and regularly playing him with the second team in the preseason. They must have seen enough of what they liked from Harris, though, that they kept him instead of Clayton. The other four names were chalk. I’m not convinced Harris sticks around for the whole year; one possibility may be they kept him out of the initial round of cuts, letting other teams make claims and form their practice squad, and will try to pass him through waivers at a later date.

LB: Akeem Ayers, Patrick Bailey, Zach Brown, Zac Diles, Colin McCarthy, Tim Shaw, Will Witherspoon
Projected Depth Chart: Ayers, Bailey; McCarthy, Shaw, Diles; Witherspoon, Brown 
Analysis: Six chalky names, plus Diles, who adds some experience to a linebacking corps that has three first- or second-year players likely to play major roles. Frankly, I’ve spent too much time watching Diles to particularly rate him as a defensive player. He probably exercised his vested veteran rights after he was cut last year, though, so if the Titans need his roster space, it shouldn’t cost them anything.

CB: Tommie Campbell, Jason McCourty, Ryan Mouton, Coty Sensabaugh, Alterraun Verner
Projected Depth Chart: McCourty, Mouton; Verner, Campbell, Sensabaugh; nickel: Verner, Mouton, Sensabaugh
Analysis: Another position where the depth chart is a bit of a myth; if McCourty goes down, I expect Campbell to start, but unless and until that happens I expect Campbell to play outside and Verner to shift into the slot. Mouton stuck around over Chris Hawkins because he’s the backup slot corner. I’m not expecting much from Sensabaugh early in the season. If I’m wrong and he develops quickly, Mouton’s roster spot could be at risk.

S: Al Afalava, Jordan Babineaux, Michael Griffin, Robert Johnson, Markelle Martin (Reserve/PUP)
Projected Deph Chart:  Babineaux, Afalava (Martin); Griffin, Johnson
Analysis: Depth charts remain mythical constructs; Johnson fits more of a free safety mold but is close to Babineaux as the second-best safety on the team. Does he go behind Griffin or Babs? Afalava is an interesting player who got a couple snaps in the Ruby package when Babineaux was out; my guess is still Babs, Griffin, and Johnson are the three safeties who line up in that Week 1. Afalava is one of the spots I would identify as “potentially upgradeable if the right player comes available,” but of course the Titans haven’t believed in that sort of roster churn.

Special Teams: K Rob Bironas, LS Beau Brinkely, P Brett Kern
Projected Depth Chart: Bironas, Kern; Kern, Bironas; Brinkley, Velasco; Reynaud, Williams; Reynaud, Williams
Analysis: With just one kicker, one punter, and one long-snapper on the roster, the locks here were chalk. My best guess is Darius Reynaud holds both returner jobs and Damian Williams is his backup at both. Per the unofficial depth chart, Hasselbeck is the backup holder to Kern. Expect no changes here unless Brinkley starts snapping erratically.

And, just, because,
Projected Week 1 Inactives: Al Afalava, Zac Diles, Jamie Harper, DaJohn Harris, Mike Otto, Scott Solomon, Rusty Smith

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