Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Titans Roster Prediction

With the start of training camp last Thursday, I believe, and the showing of Camp Insider on NFL Network tonight (repeated tomorrow at 7 PM CT, in case you're interested), it's time to take a look at who might make the final roster cuts. Note that I have no inside knowledge as to how things will shake out. Note that this will almost certainly not be the final roster; indeed, a lot can change in the month before the season begins, particularly with zero of the four preseason games yet played. I should also note that when I did this analysis, I did not have cap numbers available, and those will undoubtedly play a role in some of the cuts. That said, here is a position by position look.

If for no other reason than it'll probably be the place with the fewest surprises, I'll start with the defensive linemen. The official roster shows 8 defensive ends and 6 defensive tackles currently on the team. Taking a look at who's there, I would expect 8 of those 14 players to make the season roster. Those 8 are Kyle Vanden Bosch, Travis LaBoy, Antwan Odom, Bo Schobel, Albert Haynesworth, Rien Long, Jared Clauss, and Randy Starks. That's seven guys who were on the team last year, plus Vanden Bosch, who was probably the biggest free agent signing. Six of those (all but Haynesworth) were drafted last season, and all of them played last year; I don't see any surprise cuts, and I expect everybody to make the team.

Heading away from the line of scrimmage on the defensive side, next comes linebacker. The Titans have 11 linebackers in camp. Locks to make the team are Ken Amato, Rocky Boiman, Keith Bulluck, Brad Kassell, and Peter Sirmon. Other returning linebackers are Rob Reynolds, cody Spencer, and Rocky Calmus. My guess is that no more than 2 of those 3 will make the team, except as a special teams player. The odd man out, as much as it pains me to say it, is likely Rocky Calmus. If he could stay healthy, he'd be the starting middle linebacker. Alas, that's proved way too much of a challenge thus far in his NFL career. He'd likely be a valuable guy on special teams, but you need to stay healthy there, too. Call it the first surprise cut.

Next out is the secondary. The Titans have 9 cornerbacks and 7 safeties in camp. I would expect 8 to make the team and probably 1 more on the practice squad. Given that between players from last year's roster and this year's draft picks, there are 11 players on the roster, this is probably one of the toughest places to make cuts. I also don't have a good idea of just who's better than who, which makes it even tougher. The best shots of making the team belong to Tony Beckham, Andre Woolfolk, Tank Williams, Donnie Nickey, Lamont Thompson, and Vincent Fuller. That's 6. If/when Pacman Jones signs, he'll be number 7. That leaves Michael Waddell, Rich Gardner, Justin Sandy, and Reynaldo Hill. If no more than 2 of those make the team, I'd expect them to be Reynaldo Hill on the roster and Justin Sandy on the practice squad. I don't really have a good explanation, and I guess I put Sandy on the practice squad because he went to Northern Iowa, while Hill (a) went to Florida, where he likely got better coaching, and (b) was a draft pick, albeit a 7th-rounder (the endowment effect, y'know).

Flipping over to the same progression on the offensive side of the ball, the offensive line rivals the secondary as one of the toughest places to make cuts. Not surprising, since they didn't cut the entire offensive line, then drafted three tackles this year. Sorry, five undrafted free agents, I don't think you have a shot. The returning starters are Justin Hartwig, Benji Olson, Zach Piller, and Brad Hopkins. The Titans, I think, only carried 7 offensive lineman at the start of last season; after last year's injury difficulties, I think they'll carry more. Call it 8 on the roster, and 1 more on the practice squad. That leaves 4-5 slots open. Jacob Bell is a lock, given how he filled in at guard last year. Second round pick Michael Roos will likely see some of the time at right tackle, as they groom him to inherit Brad Hopkins' slot as starting left tackle Week 1 of 2006. I would also expect them to carry a backup center; that will likely be Eugene Amano again, though it might be former Miami Hurricane Joel Rodriguez. I would also expect draft pick David Stewart out of Mississippi State to make the roster, because of his experience playing both guard and tackle. Finally, draft pick Daniel Loper will make the practice squad. The odd man out in that case would be Todd Williams, which hurts. Williams has such an inspiring story, going from homeless on the streets to All-American at Florida State, that you want to see him succeed. Still, I think the only way he makes the team without an injury to Hopkins is if he's by far the best right tackle, and given the lack of confidence they showed in him when Miller and Hopkins were out last season, I don't see that happening. Sorry, Todd.

As for the man under center, the top guys are clearly Steve McNair and Billy Volek. Whoever will be the third quarterback is less clearcut; they'd like for one of the three other guys in camp right now to win the job. Pencil in Gino Guidugli right now, but don't press too hard. Shane Boyd or Jason White could easily end up carrying the clipboard, or they could repeat last year and sign a one or two-year veteran who is released by another team.

Next, becauase it's easiest, I'll do tight ends. I expect them to carry three, as they have in the past. Those three will eventually be Erron Kinney, Ben Troupe, and Bo Scaife, in all probability. Right now, though, word is that Troupe will be out until October, so they'll need one until then. I expect that to be one of the two undrafted free agents currently in camp, and would give the edge to Gregg Guenther. At 6'8" 255#, he has good size, and he had the advantage of playing for Norm Chow at USC.

Next up is running backs. They have five running backs and three fullbacks in camp. Running backs Travis Henry and Chris Brown and fullback Troy Fleming are all locks to make the team. Beyond that, I have no idea. Damien Nash will likely make the team, since they used a draft pick on him. Joe Smith and Jarrett Payton both did really well in NFL Europe, and Robert Douglas has apparently impressed in camp. If they take five backs, I'd look for Nash and Smith to be in, while Payton is on the outside. Sorry, Jarrett, I don't care if you have the same first name as my best friend in elementary school, but you've probably maxxed out. Robert Douglas might have a shot at the practice squad, or even the team, depending on how Chow will run his offense at the NFL level, but my tentative conclusion is that he's out.

Ok, wide receivers. This might be easy: Drew Bennett and Tyrone Calico are the only returners, plus Courtney Roby, Brandon Jones, and Roydell Williams were draft picks. That's five, and they may well only carry five. If they do carry six, I have no idea who makes the team. I guess I'll pick Earvin Johnson, if only because he has a ready-made nickname.

Ok, special teamers. Ken Amato, referenced above, will be the long-snapper and Craig Hentrich will be the punter. They also need a placekicker; of the two in camp, I'd guess Ola Kimrin has the edge, but I wouldn't be surprised for Gary Anderson to end up with the job again, so he can continue with his quest to be the first full-time kicker ever not to try a field goal length greater than his age in a season.

If I managed to count correctly, I believe that's the full 53 man roster, with five practice squad players. I don't believe I've made any hugely radical predictions, and it seems likely every year there's somebody who comes out of nowhere to make the team, as Drew Bennett did a couple years ago. I also did not take into account the inevitable future injuries, or indeed any present ones, aside from Ben Troupe under tight ends.

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