It’s day one of training camp and there’s so much to look forward to. But for a chunk of this roster, their roster spots are safe. Locked up and secure. Another chunk are longshots, even though I abhor the term “camp bodies,” we know a list of names who have very little odds of making the 53 man roster. Then there’s a group, this group, right in the middle. The bubble players. Some are more “bubbly” than others but all these players could find themselves on or off the roster Week One. It’ll largely depend on what happens the next month.
So let’s break them down.
Eli Rogers/Ryan Switzer: Probably the two biggest names on the list. It’s fair to debate which one has a more secure roster spot and each guy has a case to make. Rogers is the better receiver who has produced when given the chance while Switzer was the Steelers’ kick and punt returner last year, bringing uncommon value to the organization.
It’s almost certain at least one of the two makes it but the other may be odd man out. That would require keeping six receivers, possible but not guaranteed, and there’s plenty of competition. If Diontae Spencer balls out in camp as a return man, Switzer may be in danger. If Johnny Holton shows immense value on coverage teams and as a vertical threat on offense, Rogers could lose his spot. Like I wrote the other day, a fluid situation for an uncertain position group.
Jerald Hawkins/Zach Banner: Seven of the potential nine roster spots along the o-line are locked up. And it’s nearly a given the team won’t keep two tackles to round out spots 8 and 9. Hawkins has talent and shown it when healthy but that health has been fleeting. He may see time at guard to not only help his versatility, and by extension, his roster chances, but with all the tackle options who need reps.
Guys like Banner, a surprise add to the 53 man roster in 2018 though he didn’t log a snap. It’s hard to see his path and losing OL coach Mike Munchak may hurt, not having him in his corner, but he’s gotten his weight down and played more to the talent of the 4th round selection he was as opposed to the talent that quickly got him cut in Indy just three years ago.
Daniel McCullers: Big Dan is probably of the “inside-looking-out” camp but his spot is always far from guaranteed. The team seems to like him a lot but there’s going to be a point where the team decides it’s been long enough and they move on. To his credit, he had a successful camp last season and his best regular season, even if that bar was super low, but he’ll have to do the same this August.
Lavon Hooks: And Hooks is one of those “outside-looking-in” situations. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride, he’s spent several years on the practice squad. The 6th defensive line spot is semi-open, he’ll compete with rookie Isaiah Buggs, but Hooks will need a spectacular camp to get over that hump.
Tyler Matakevich: Personally, I don’t think his roster spot is in much danger. If I was Kevin Colbert, his spot would be considered a virtual lock. But he is a #4 inside linebacker and those jobs are rarely considered “safe.” He’s a core special teamer, one of the best and most productive in the league but this front office loaded up on linebackers at the end of the draft like they were at a flea market collecting NASCAR shot glasses. Like his odds but there’s competition breathing down his neck.
Artie Burns: Burns appears set to be paid his $800K roster bonus but that won’t guarantee his spot. At best, he’s the #6 corner when you’re fleshing out a 53 man roster which makes his odds already “bubbly.” His summers have always been impressive, I wish I could say the same about his fall performances, which may give the front office enough confidence to carry him for one more year.
Jordan Dangerfield: Like Matakevich, I do like Dangerfield’s odds of making the roster given his veteran experience and lack of safety depth. But if someone emerges behind him, like Kameron Kelly, could make this a much more interesting battle. His spot has never been safe, constantly having to scratch and claw his way to earn some respect.
Brian Allen: I don’t know if it’s a fall from grace but Allen went from tantalizing talent to “oh yeah, he’s still on the roster, isn’t he?” He struggled last preseason and found himself off the 53 man roster, signed to the practice squad and called back up mid-way through the year. He’ll have to make a big turnaround, and fast, if he wants to make the roster. Not optimistic that happens.