NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's not too late to change Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Mularkey's mind on several tight position battles, most notably wide receiver, heading into Thursday's preseason finale at Kansas City.
Five receiver spots (Rishard Matthews, Corey Davis, Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe) are virtually locks barring a last-minute trade, but there's likely one spot remaining with three top Titans contenders: veteran Harry Douglas, returner Eric Weems and third-year speedster Tre McBride. There's an outside shot the Titans could keep seven receivers or just do five, but six is the most likely scenario given current roster structure and past routine.
Douglas, Weems and McBride each have a compelling case to make the Titans' 53-man roster. Let's examine the arguments for and against each receiver:
For Harry Douglas: Yes, the soon-to-be 33-year-old receiver is still in the NFL and he's proven important to the Titans receiver core. Mularkey called him "invaluable" toward the end of training camp and told every receiver to follow his lead. He brings energy and leadership to an otherwise laid-back receiver room. Douglas has taken some reps with the starters and had more receiving yards last season (210) than Weems (148) over the past four seasons or McBride ever (8).
Against Harry Douglas: Mularkey referred to special teams in nearly every question relating to roster cutdown day. The Titans have occasionally used Douglas as an emergency kick returner, but the other two options would have bigger special teams roles. Not many teams have the luxury of a sixth receiver who doesn't play special teams. Douglas also has the biggest contract of the three, due $1.75 million with the potential to make another $1.75 million in incentives.
For Eric Weems: Douglas' biggest weakness is Weems' biggest strength. The Titans signed the 32-year-old because of his special teams acumen, which lines up directly with Mularkey's biggest desire for his sixth receiver. Weems provides a reliable veteran option as a kick returner, backup punt returner and tackler in coverage phases.
Against Eric Weems: There's little to no chance he'll have an impact as a receiver this season. Rookie Adoree' Jackson has already been named the Titans' starting punt returner and he's competing with Weems for the starting kick returner job. It will be hard for Weems to make the roster without winning at least one return job. And like Douglas, Weems' upside is limited.
For Tre McBride: Titans receiver coach Frisman Jackson named McBride and Darius Jennings as the two who have positively surprised him since training camp began. McBride may be the Titans fastest receiver, providing a deep threat for an offense without many. He can contribute on special teams as a gunner and a kick returner. He's been the most productive in preseason with six catches for 101 yards. He makes about half of Weems' pay and a third of Douglas' pay.
Against Tre McBride: Praise of McBride always comes with the caveat that he needs to be more consistent. That's frustrating for coaches to deal with in a third-year player who clearly has the talent to play in the NFL. He dropped an easy touchdown pass against Carolina. He's neither the best special teams player nor the player with the most intangibles in this group.
Final word on the competition: If it's all about special teams, Weems is the man. If it's about upside and a balance between receiver play and special teams, McBride's got a good shot. If leadership and experience win out, Douglas could hang around again.
"It's a good problem to have," Frisman Jackson said. "I've been on the other side before where you can't find guys that are worth making it. I'm glad I'm on the other end of it now."