Titans' final 53-man roster includes three quarterbacks
Eight days from now, the Titans and first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt will open the season (@ Kansas City) trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 -- and first postseason victory since 2003.
QB Charlie Whitehurst (above), who only has three TD passes and four NFL starts to his credit (since 2006), will begin the season as the Titans' No. 2 passer -- ahead of rookie Zach Mettenberger.
Don McPeak / USA TODAY Sports
By Greg Pogue
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Like the other 31 NFL teams on Saturday, the Titans trimmed their final roster to 53 players.
Eight days from now, this grouping led by first-year coach Ken Whisenhunt, will open the season (@ Kansas City) trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2008 -- and first postseason victory since 2003.
Here's a positional look at who made the final cut:
WHO STAYS: Fourth-year QB Jake Locker (a first-round pick from 2011) has another chance to become the franchise quarterback. Since being named a starter in 2013, he has missed 14 starts for various injuries.
Veteran Charlie Whitehurst, even with nominal playing experience and an injured finger on his passing hand, is still the No. 2. Sixth-round pick Zach Mettenberger had an intriguing preseason and is positioning to be the quarterback of the future, should Locker not return in 2015.
WHO STAYS: Running back-by-committee will replace Chris Johnson (now of the Jets), who was released for salary implications during the spring. Powerful Shonn Greene looks healthy after missing much of last year, on the heels of consecutive 1,000-yard seasons with the Jets.
WHO GOES: The Titans are hoping to get versatile and talented undrafted free-agent rookie Antonio Andrews, the NCAA record holder for total offense over the last two years at Western Kentucky, signed to their 10-man development squad.
If not, he'll be in the league somewhere.
WHO STAYS: The top trio of emerging star Kendall Wright, trusty veteran Nate Washington and big-play receiver Justin Hunter has been set in stone.
Second-year Michael Preston had the No. 4 job to keep and did, while dependable veteran Derek Hagan, out of football last season, has shown he's still got it on the field, along with inherent leadership qualities.
WHO GOES: Popular fourth-year Titan Marc Mariana was trying to make the team as a return specialist, with receiving skills that earned him the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2011. But he missed the last two years with separate injuries.
Like Hagan, veteran Brian Robiskie, a journeyman trying to make his fifth team in eight years, is still good enough to find a roster elsewhere.
WHO STAYS: The starting line has been set from left to right with veterans Michael Roos and Andy Levitre at tackle and guard, respectively.
Second-year Brian Schwenke at center and Chance Warmack at right guard are there for the long haul, while former Ravens tackle Michael Oher was signed to man right tackle. First-round pick Taylor Lewan, a future stalwart at left tackle, has looked the part of longtime player up front.
WHO GOES: While it doesn't count as a roster deduction, nine-year solid veteran David Stewart retired, making way for the Titans to sign Oher and draft Lewan. The return of veteran backups Chris Spencer on the inside and Byron Stingily on the outside made all other offensive line cuts predictable.
WHO STAYS: With the change to a 3-4 alignment from the former basic 4-3 set, a lot of returning players found themselves trying to prove they belonged in the new philosophy. Third-year Jurrell Casey, an emerging star who was second among NFL tackles in sacks last year, was a no-brainer.
He was rewarded this week with a new contract worth $36 million over four years, including $20.5 million guaranteed. Veterans Ropati Pitoitua at end and Sammie Hill at nose guard are good fits. Newcomer DaQuan Jones, the fifth-round pick out of Penn State, was drafted for this defense.
WHO GOES: Veteran nose tackle Antonio Johnson was placed on injured reserve for the season, while the Titans traded Lavar Edwards to the Cowboys for an undisclosed future draft pick.
WHO STAYS: In the new 3-4, veteran defensive ends Derrick Morgan and Kamerion Wimbley moved to outside linebacker and are listed as starters. Veteran Shaun Phillips, who played nine years as OLB for the Chargers, is in the mix on one side, while underachieving but still-promising Akeem Ayers is on the other.
Veteran Wesley Woodyard, a tackling machine the last six years for the Broncos, anchors the middle alongside very talented, but often frustrating Zach Brown. Fifth-round draft pick Avery Williamson is waiting in the wings.
WHO STAYS: While sixth-year Jason McCourty is established as one of the more underrated cornerbacks in the league, the battle to replace departed Pro Bowler Alterraun Verner on the other side was finally won by third-year Coty Sensabaugh. He trumped second-year Blidi Wreh-Wilson, who'll see plenty of time at nickel back.
WHO GOES: This time last year, Tommie Campbell barely lost the starting job to Verner, who parlayed a career year into a big contract with the Bucs. A year later, Campbell has been sent packing, still trying to match his athletic skills with needed football acumen.
WHO STAYS: When veteran Rob Bironas, the fourth-most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, was released last spring, it opened a search for a new kicker that wasn't decided until this week.
Winning the battle over Maikon Bonani was Travis Coons. Punter Brett Kern is one of the league's best. McCluster and Washington are listed as returners on punts and kicks, respectively.
WHO GOES: Bonani, a native Brazilian, didn't make the Titans after being in camp last year. Then there's Mariani, formerly one of the best return specialists in the league. He'll find a roster soon.