Along with the rest of the NFL, the Tennessee Titans trimmed their roster from 90 to 53 players on Saturday. Here were the biggest surprises.
RB Jeremy McNichols: OUT
Prior to the start of the preseason, I commented that one of the Titans running backs on the roster bubble needed to do something substantial to separate themselves from the pack.
McNichols did just that. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t enough to keep him on the Titans’ roster to begin the regular season.
The Titans made the choice to move on from McNichols despite his strong showings in the team’s first three preseason games. He ran for 108 yards on 26 carries for a good average of 4.2 yards per carry.
He also made a highlight-reel play against the Patriots, impressively flipping into the end zone for a touchdown on a 15-yard pass from Ryan Tannehill.
The decision for the Titans to keep just three running backs (Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis and David Fluellen) isn’t all that surprising. That’s been their M.O. for a few years now.
Fluellen also always figured to be ahead of McNichols on the depth chart. The coaching staff loves him, and he reshaped his body during the offseason to allow himself to play fullback.
WR Kalif Raymond: IN
The first time that Raymond stood out to me was at the end of May during Organized Team Activities (OTAs). He was visibly quick, fast, and very good with change of direction.
His flashes in OTAs continued into Training Camp. Raymond made a lot of plays when the pads were on and showed a good ability to separate.
In the preseason, Raymond’s solid performance continued. He racked up a whopping 204 receiving yards on 13 catches to go along with a 45-yard haul in Thursday night’s game against the Bears.
Ultimately, Raymond’s performance made the Titans feel so comfortable in him that they were willing to trade Taywan Taylor (more on that to come) to make room for Raymond on the roster.
In addition to the good performances he turned in, Raymond was also likely helped by his versatility. He can return both punts and kickoffs, something that he practiced constantly throughout Training Camp.
MORE on Raymond: How Kalif Raymond’s Mental Strength Earned Him a Roster Spot
WR Taywan Taylor: TRADED
The Titans traded Taylor to the Cleveland Browns in exchange for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.
After a dismal start to the preseason with multiple drops in the Titans’ first game, Taylor did rebound nicely. He put in some extra effort after practice over the following couple of weeks, and he did his job effectively for the remainder of the preseason.
However, all the effort ultimately wasn’t enough for the Titans to want to keep him around.
Taylor was pretty clearly outplayed during Training Camp and the preseason by Kalif Raymond, and the Titans did the right thing by keeping Raymond over him. They also did well in getting some compensation out of Taylor, rather than just cutting him.
The former third-round pick could never master consistency during his stint with the Titans, which lasted just over two years. He struggled to track deep balls in the air, a major red flag for a receiver who’s characterized as a “deep threat.”
Maybe playing for the Browns and QB Baker Mayfield will allow him to develop some stability.
MORE on Taylor: Reaction to Taywan Taylor Being Traded to Cleveland
C/G Corey Levin: OUT
This was probably the biggest shocker from the Titans on cutdown day. Levin still had two years left on his rookie deal, and he seemed to have a quality preseason and Training Camp.
Levin was a part of the Titans’ constant shuffling at the right guard spot over the last month. One of the combinations that they tried out was putting Levin at center and moving starter Ben Jones over to right guard.
Additionally, Levin had some game experience with the Titans. When the team benched left guard Quinton Spain during a game last season, they slid Jones over to his spot and put Levin at center.
This is a peculiar move. The Titans seemed to really like Levin, and it looked like he was a valuable member of their interior offensive line depth.
Instead, they elected to keep Jamil Douglas and David Quessenberry.
RB Daylin Dawkins: IN
This one was another shocker, mainly because of how well Jeremy McNichols played during the preseason.
Dawkins went nuts in the Titans’ fourth preseason game, totaling 148 yards from scrimmage and catching two touchdowns including the game-winner. It looks like that effort was enough to push him over the edge.
The Titans have some familiarity with Dawkins, which also probably helped his case. He started last season on the practice squad and ultimately made it onto the roster by season’s end.
He will probably begin this season as a healthy scratch, and he may not last on the roster for too long. But at least for now, he will remain in the building and on the team.
Cover image: Bill Streicher/USA Today