My annual rite is that I post my 53-man roster prediction the day training camp opens. I actually already posted one in early June, though, as a bit of a guide to OTAs. With only one official roster move and another that seems to be coming (adding TE DeMarco Cosby), I don't see a reason to do another full-fledged projection but will instead highlight what I see as the key things to watch.
First, though, here is that roster prediction:
QB: Nathan Enderle, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jake Locker
RB/FB: Shonn Greene, Chris Johnson, Quinn Johnson, Jalen Parmele
WR: Kenny Britt, Justin Hunter, Marc Mariani, Kevin Walter, Damian Williams, Kendall Wright
TE: Craig Stevens, Taylor Thompson, Delanie Walker
OL: Andy Levitre, Mike Otto, Michael Roos, Brian Schwenke, David Stewart, Byron Stingily, Rob Turner, Fernando Velasco, Chance Warmack
DL: Jurrell Casey, Keyunta Dawson, Lavar Edwards, Sammie Lee Hill, Antonio Johnson, Mike Martin, Derrick Morgan, Ropati Pitoitua, Kamerion Wimbley
LB: Akeem Ayers, Zach Brown, Moise Fokou, Zaviar Gooden, Greg Jones, Colin McCarthy, Tim Shaw
CB: Jason McCourty, Coty Sensabaugh, Alterraun Verner, Khalid Wooten, Blidi Wreh-Wilson
S: Michael Griffin, Robert Johnson, Bernard Pollard, George Wilson
ST: Rob Bironas, Beau Brinkley, Brett Kern
After the jump, the key questions that will likely affect who actually does make the final 53.
When I did this prediction last year, I believe I got 46 out of 54 right. Of the 8 players I missed, 7 went on injured reserve and weren't available to be on the 53. Who, if anybody, will be this year's equivalent of Eugene Amano, Leger Douzable, and Marc Mariani?
2. The second backups on the offensive line, both tackle and inside
Byron Stingily does not seem like a lock, but the Barry Richardson signing reflected a need to make sure they got through OTAs able to practice. Is there a challenge for Stingily's job? Mike Otto is a lead-pipe lock in my book.
Whichever of Schwenke or Velasco does not start at center (Schwenke in my view) will be one of the backup interior linemen. My assumption had been that Turner was a lock for the other one, but after watching him in detail I'm not so sure. If Warmack gets hurt, what would they do at right guard? I don't think Turner is that guy. Velasco at RG and Schwenke or Turner at center, perhaps? Do they like Chris Spencer or Kasey Studdard more than I do and think they should? Or is there a tackle like Stingily they think could play inside if need be?
A vitally important question, to be sure, but something to watch in preseason games. With Locker's injury history, I think they keep 3, though if they want a roster spot elsewhere I believe Enderle is still eligible for the practice squad.
4. Return man
Darius Reynaud or Marc Mariani? My opinion on this is unchanged-I think on par they're roughly as good, with the current NFL making Reynaud's slightly better punt return skills a touch more valuable. I think Mariani, though, could play a minor but useful role on offense while the evidence from late last season indicates Dowell Loggains didn't value Reyanud's skills on offense.
5. Veteran wide receiver
I've made what I think of Nate Washington's chances and likely role fairly clear. The Titans could decide they're fine with his type of receiver and paying $4.2 million for 25 catches and insurance. Walter's creaky back could prove his undoing and make me wrong. If he chooses to sign with the Titans, Donald Jones will be in the mix.
6. Defensive line depth
Casey, Edwards, HIll, Martin, Morgan, and Wimbley are the locks, but which players they keep beyond that is an open question in part because we're not surely exactly what they'll want their D-linemen to do. If you have any of those six off, I'm telling you you're wrong and feeling pretty good about it. Beyond that, I can see the case for and against basically everybody.
7. The defensive back bubble
I feel pretty good about McCourty, Sensabaugh, Verner, and Wreh-Wilson sticking at corner, plus Griffin, RoJo, Pollard, and Wilson on the roster at safety. I think this could be Tommie Campbell's last chance, with Wooten challenging him. Do they like one of the other safeties like Al Afalava, Markelle Martin (if he's actually finally healthy), Daimion Stafford, or Tracy Wilson enough? I don't see even a backup free safety in that group, in case why're wondering why I feel good about Robert Johnson's chances.
8. The surprises
Every team has them. Sometimes they make the roster, like DaJohn Harris did last year. Sometimes they're just fun to watch in the preseason, like Tramon Douglas was in the past. After what he did Tuesday, it'd be cool to see Tig Willard be that player.
I'll be starting the positional analyses soon, where I'll dive into more detail about what to expect from every position group.