ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – Emmanuel Sanders’ first training camp with the Denver Broncos hasn’t exactly gone the way he hoped it would.

The wide receiver, one of the marquee signings the team made in free agency, has had an on-again, off-again type of camp schedule because of a thigh injury he suffered in an Aug. 4 practice. He has missed several practices since, including just before and just after playing 20 plays on offense in the preseason opener, and his status is still questionable for Saturday’s preseason game against the Houston Texans.

Thursday, the third of three practices against the Houston Texans this week, was Sanders’ first day back on the practice field since Aug. 14.

[+] EnlargeEmmanuel Sanders
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsEmmanuel Sanders is hoping to get some more work with Peyton Manning in a preseason game setting.
“The quad injury feels good,’’ Sanders said. “Felt really good (Thursday). I didn’t have a problem with it, so I’m extremely happy about that, of course. Good to be out here with my guys practicing, just getting better, and gaining chemistry with Peyton (Manning). It’s looking good right now. Hopefully I’ll be playing on Saturday, but I’m not going to give it 100 percent right now. I’m going to go talk to the trainers and we’re going to take it day by day.’’

Whether or not Sanders plays Saturday will be decided at a Friday night staff meeting. Sanders’ status, as well as all of the playing-time decisions, will be outlined at that meeting.

Broncos head coach John Fox said the work this week against the Texans, because of the intensity, will have an impact on how much the starters play Saturday night. Starters typically play into the third quarter of the third preseason game, but Fox has said he might adjust that, given all of the competitive snaps the two teams had this week in team drills.

Saturday's game will also represent the last preseason playing time for most of the regulars, as they are routinely held out of the last preseason game. On Sanders, Fox said the Broncos liked what they saw Thursday, and despite Sanders’ hope that he will play, the decision won’t be made until Friday evening.

“Yeah we will … evaluate him (Friday),’’ Fox said. “We just have a short workout in the morning and we will meet (Friday) night and determine whether he goes or not.’’

The Broncos will take into account the fact that Sanders played in those 20 plays against the Seattle Seahawks and then missed practice time the following week.

“It’s been frustrating, but at the same time, it’s not anything major,’’ Sanders said. “I’m blessed to play this game and I had a minor setback. … What I’ve been talking to (Manning) about is -- and he’s been talking to me about it -- is that the starters usually don’t play in the fourth preseason game and this is important because I haven’t caught a pass in a game from him. We don’t want to go into the regular season with me not catching a pass from him in a game. So this game is extremely pivotal, and hopefully I’ll be out there playing.’’

For the Broncos, keeping Sanders on the field for practice in the next two weeks, as they gear up for the regular season, will be more important than sending him out for a smattering of plays Saturday night. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase said this week that Sanders’ work in the offseason, including a trip with Manning and the other front-line Broncos pass catchers to Duke for workouts, should keep the timing between Sanders and Manning where it needs to be.

Sanders said Manning did text him Wednesday night to say “he would like me to be out here practicing.’’

“At the end of the day, if I feel good, I’m going to play,’’ Sanders said. “ … Right now I don’t feel like I’m putting myself at any kind of risk of any kind of injury. It feels really good and I’m optimistic that I’ll be playing Saturday.’’
SAN DIEGO – Through three weeks of preseason games, the San Diego Chargers have the worst run defense in the league, giving up 5.58 rushing yards per play.

Yes, preseason games are not always a good measure of what will happen during the regular season, but San Diego’s inability stop the run continues a disturbing trend from last season, when the Chargers allowed 4.6 rushing yards per play, No. 27 in the league.

The Chargers allowed 243 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns by quarterbacks in a 41-14 loss at Seattle last week.

The Chargers haven’t been much better defending the pass. Through two preseason games, opposing quarterbacks have posted a 92.3 passer rating. The Chargers have just four sacks in two games.

Those humbling numbers have San Diego players looking for a rebound performance against a pretty good offense when they face the San Francisco 49ers on the road Sunday.

“We’re still trying to find our identity for 2014, and make sure we don’t stink this season up,” Chargers defensive tackle Corey Liuget said. “We want to make sure that we come out and play well, and do what we love to do, which is play football and play defense.”

Added middle linebacker Donald Butler: “I’m ready to get back on the field after that debacle that we showed on Friday. It will be good to get back out there for some live reps.”

Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano boiled down his team’s issues on defense to two things that need improvement: tackling and pressuring the quarterback.

“Those are two things that we didn’t do a great job of last year,” Pagano said. “I thought we did better late in the year, and that really changed for us. Getting the guys back healthy late in the year was big, but it’s just going out and making sure that we're fundamentally sound and playing with incredible effort.

“But those two things are things that we need to do better as a defense.”

Injury update: defensive end Lawrence Guy (shoulder), linebacker Manti Te'o (foot), defensive end Sean Lissemore (ankle), receiver Vincent Brown (calf), cornerback Marcus Cromartie (unknown) and safety Jahleel Addae (hamstring) did not practice on Thursday. Running back Kerwynn Williams (unknown) returned to practice after missing Monday and Tuesday’s workouts. Offensive lineman Jeromey Clary (shoulder/hip) remains on the physically unable to perform list. ... Chargers kicker Nick Novak turned 33 years old on Thursday.
SAN DIEGO – Asked if he had any issues with the field conditions at the San Francisco 49ers' new home, Levi's Stadium, San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy said he had no concerns about his players taking the field on Sunday.

McCoy said his organization has been in contact with the 49ers, and that they've been assured the field will be fine and ready to go for the scheduled kickoff of 4 p.m. ET. The 49ers worked to re-sod the field at the new stadium on Thursday -- day after a public workout was cut short and moved to the regular practice fields because players were slipping.

"We take a look at every field when we go on the road," McCoy said "Players bring a number of shoes every time we go on the road. We're going to go into our normal, pregame routine of everybody walking through the field to make sure they have the right cleats on. It's no different than any other game we're playing."

Chargers linebacker Andrew Gachkar said he's taking the same approach as McCoy in terms of the field conditions. He'll bring a couple different cleats and test them out beforehand during pregame workouts to make sure he has the best footing possible.

"Honestly, I'm not concerned about it at all," Gachkar said. "The field will be the field. It will be ready. They've got to play on the same field we do."

Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano says he has more pressing concerns than the new turf at Levi's Stadium.

"There has been no discussion," Pagano said. "When we get there we will make sure we run around. Any type of new surface that you are going to you want to bring enough amount of cleats to be able to check the surface.

"I got to worry about stopping that offense. That is the most important thing."
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Maybe it’s a good thing that Thursday was the last day the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans practiced together this week.

Already a bit of an experiment with the two teams electing to go against each other so deep in the preseason, the squads have tried to keep a lid on their emotions through the week as to avoid any injury risk.

[+] EnlargeRyan Clady
AP Photo/Jack DempseyDespite a few tussles with the Houston Texans, Ryan Clady and the Broncos say they benefited from this week's joint practices.
But after a rather uneventful first day of work on Tuesday, a smattering of push-and-shove things broke out in Wednesday’s practice. And Thursday it all boiled over a bit with a two-team sized scrum that included some wild punches thrown in the middle of the last extended skirmish.

"I wasn’t looking at punches or anything," Broncos coach John Fox said. "It just gets that way because they are all very competitive people."

"I don’t really know what happened to be honest with you," Broncos tight end Jacob Tamme said. "I kind of ran down there late to try and help our guys out. Everything kind of got calmed down relatively quickly, so I don’t even know what happened. That stuff is going to happen every once in a while when you have two good, competitive teams."

Initially, in a team drill it was Broncos left guard Orlando Franklin and Texans defensive end J.J. Watt who had some words to go with a push or two. A bit later several Broncos players said it was the Texans' D.J. Swearinger in the middle of things as Broncos running back Montee Ball also reacted harshly after getting pushed in the crowd.

Players from both sidelines then ran to the group and there were some wild swings at that point. After some initial difficulty in getting the teams separated, the coaches were eventually able to move on with practice, but not without a smaller flare up.

As it had been Wednesday, the emotions seemed highest when the Broncos' offense and the Texans' defense were matched up.

Broncos left tackle Ryan Clady said some of the Broncos' younger players had asked what it would be like to practice against another team.

"People ask me -- because a lot of guys have never practiced against other teams – [if] there are going to be fights," Clady said. "It’s kind of the nature of the game. When it’s not your actual teammate, you’re going to want to lash out and fight. It’s one of those things that you have to prepare for it, and hopefully it’s not too bad that you have to end practice or something."

Fox said, in general, he believed the work had been beneficial and that he would do it again. It was the first time Fox’s team has practiced against another team in training camp since he has been a head coach -- a nine-year tenure in Carolina and now in his fourth year in Denver.

"I enjoyed it -- right now my feeling is yes," Fox said. "Whether or not that comes to fruition, who knows."

It will be easier in the future for the Broncos to have another team practice at their complex. The current $35 million construction project at the team’s facility includes an indoor practice complex that will have its own full locker room and full training room facilities for another team to use beyond what the Broncos have for their own team.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos' depth at wide receiver has been tested thus far in the preseason.

Emmanuel Sanders was back in practice Thursday after being held out of both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s workout. He has missed several days of practice since suffering a thigh injury shortly after training camp opened.

Jordan Norwood suffered a season-ending knee injury in Wednesday’s practice, and Wes Welker was excused, for personal reasons, Thursday, which was also the third and last day of the Broncos’ combined practices with the Houston Texans. It meant Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Andre Caldwell and rookie Cody Latimer got plenty of work with the starters.

And depending on how many snaps the Broncos elect to give Thomas and Sanders in Saturday’s preseason game with the Texans, Caldwell and Latimer could get some premium playing time.

“We’ll meet [Friday] night. … We’ve already talked about coming into this week, it’s more reps, more intense reps this week might affect a little less playing time with the starters,’’ Broncos coach John Fox said.

The Broncos will have to consider some additional options at the position as well because of Norwood’s injury. Norwood, who tore his left ACL in Wednesday’s practice and will miss the season, had positioned himself to make the final 53 as the team’s sixth receiver as well as a punt returner.

The fifth-year pro, who has started just four career games, was also poised to get a smattering of snaps with one of the league 's most high-powered offense, or as he said earlier in camp “everything you could ask for as a receiver.’’

The Broncos are expected to move him to injured reserve in the coming days, but had not yet done so as of Thursday afternoon. It also means the team is still on the hunt for a punt returner where Norwood had distanced himself from most of the others who have auditioned for the job.

“Very disappointed for him, very disappointed for us selfishly," Fox said. "Jordan has worked very hard, had a very good opportunity to make our football team, make us better. So, I know he’s very disappointed, as we are.’’

As far as Saturday’s game, the Broncos might tread lightly with Sanders. After missing some practice time before the team’s preseason opener, Sanders played 20 snaps against the Seattle Seahawks only to miss practice time the following week as well as the preseason game in San Francisco last weekend. Thursday marked the first time he has been on the practice field this week, and the Broncos will have a light practice Friday morning.

Welker, too, is expected to be back with the team this weekend, but he might he held out as well.

“Get [Welker] back, see what state of mind he’s in, see where he’s at in the gameplan and go from there,’’ Fox said.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- There are times when Denver Broncos head coach John Fox is fond of telling his team it’s “better to undersell and overproduce."

And after a couple of preseason games when the Broncos produced plenty against the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers -- two of the NFC’s expected power brokers in the coming season -- they have spent the past few days this week working the undersell. And working it hard.

[+] EnlargePeyton Manning
Cary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning and the Broncos' quarterbacks have looked good during their first two preseason games.
After a Tuesday practice against the Houston Texans, quarterback Peyton Manning said the team’s offense “stunk" and that the Texans "did their jobs a lot better than we did."

And after Wednesday’s practice, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said “nobody is patting themselves on the back."

The Broncos will have the third, and final, practice against the Texans on Thursday. The two teams will then face each other Saturday in Sports Authority Field at Mile High in the third preseason game for both teams. No team in the league is surrendering fewer points than the Broncos this preseason -- 8.0 per game after the eighth preseason shutout in franchise history Sunday -- and the team is eighth in the league in scoring at 28.0 point per game.

Manning has thrown all of five incompletions, and Denver's three quarterbacks have passer ratings of 116.9 (Zac Dysert), 106.8 (Manning) and 97.1 (Brock Osweiler).

So, what’s up with all of the dark clouds? Why no smiley face stickers?

“It’s preseason, you want to get your work in, get everybody on the same page and get ready for the season," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. “It’s all about getting ready for Indianapolis in that first game and going week to week from there. You want to play like you can in those preseason games, but lots of teams do great things in the preseason and don’t do it in the regular season; we want to be a team that does great things in the regular season."

Manning called it “staying even-keeled" and “keeping a humble attitude about it."

That, in many ways, comes from Manning, which is exactly what Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway wanted when the Broncos signed him in 2012. Or, as running back Montee Ball put it:

“He’s one of the captains, but he is the captain, whatever he says we’ve got to listen to. He’s been in this situation plenty of times and he understands how the game goes."

So, that’s how the Broncos will approached their final two preseason games, in the we-haven't-done-anything-yet mode. Even this week’s, ordinarily a game when the team’s starters would play into the third quarter, will likely be played with a little different approach.

With the Broncos and Texans having worked for three days -- Wednesday’s practice was in full pads -- the Broncos are expected to dial back some of their starters in Saturday’s game, perhaps even Manning.

Asked if this week’s work would affect some players’ playing time in Saturday’s game, Fox said he would take the practices with the Texans into account when he decides who plays and how much.

Gase added the Broncos still have to make some tough calls on a crowded depth chart, especially when it comes to some of the team’s younger players.

“I know a lot of you guys, nobody wants us to play the third and fourth preseason game," Gase said. “But we need to get better, there’s a lot of things we need to work on, we’re focused on ... we need to start a game against (the Texans) and we need the fourth one to figure out who’s going to shake out and be on this roster."
ALAMEDA, Calif. – The Oakland Raiders have concluded their final price before playing at Green Bay on Friday night, and coach Dennis Allen said the team has not decided if rookie Derek Carr will play.

Carr suffered an injury to his ribs and a concussion Friday night in a victory over Detroit. He practiced some the past three days. Carr has been upbeat and lucid. Still, Allen said the Raiders will be cautious with their second-round pick.

If Carr can’t play, Matt McGloin will spell starter Matt Schaub. Schaub is expected to play into the second half.

In other Raiders notes:
  • Fullback Marcel Reece practiced fully for the second straight day. He is dealing with a foot injury he suffered against the Lions. It is not known if he will play Friday. Both Reece, who was wearing a walking boot after practice Wednesday, and Allen said they do not think the injury will linger.
  • Second-year cornerback DJ Hayden worked on the side on Tuesday. The Raiders have to decide next week if they are going put him on the physically unable to perform list to start the season. If so, he’d miss at least the first six weeks of the season.
  • The Raiders re-signed kicker Kevin Goessling. He was previously cut. Jeremy Deering was waived/injured. Obviously, with Sebastian Janikowski, Goessling has no chance to make the 53-man roster.
  • Allen said both TJ Carrie and Denarius Moore are vying for the punt-return job, while Latavius Murray and Kory Sheets are trying to win the kick-return job.
  • Receiver Brice Butler has not been cleared from a concussion yet.
  • Allen said receiver Andre Holmes needs to work on his consistency.

Broncos, Texans heat up practice

August, 20, 2014
Aug 20
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- As the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans gathered on the two sidelines for the last period of Wednesday’s practice, they had played nice up until that point.

There had been very little back-and-forth with any real edge to it in almost two full practices, almost no pushing and no skirmishes. Then the final period of Wednesday's workout dissolved into plenty of pushing, a lot of jawing and after the final play of practice it had all escalated far enough both teams had gathered in one mass, poised for more.

Coaches for both teams finally got the two sides separated, no punches were thrown and things cooled down quickly. Several players chatted after practice and Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning went over to introduce himself to Texans rookie quarterback Tom Savage.

"Just a little jawing, that was typical," Broncos head coach John Fox said.

With the regular season just three weeks away, Fox has talked about the importance of players handling themselves and their emotions during the practices with the Texans this week. It isn’t common for two teams to work together this late in the preseason and neither side wants to risk an injury in a practice-field fight.

Broncos cornerback Aqib Talib was particularly heated after a run-play scrum that ended with Broncos linebacker Brandon Marshall and Texans running back Arian Foster exchanging words with some bonus finger pointing.

Shortly after the practice, Broncos safety T.J. Ward took to Twitter to offer:

"The heat goin up at practice. I love the competition! Let's get it!"

The two teams will have three practices in all against each other this week, but Wednesday’s was scheduled to be only one in full pads. Things were tense early as well when, in one-on-one drills Texans defensive end J.J. Watt powered around Broncos tackle Chris Clark and Clark shoved Watt’s helmet off at the end of the play.

Watt took exception and said as much, and Clark gave Watt a shove. To which Watt, after a long stare, jogged away offering, "Don’t get mad when you get beat."

All in all, however, players from both sides seemed happy to be practicing against another team rather than simply another week of pushing on each other.

"It’s competitive, it’s great," Talib said. "We’re all here to work, we know that. Things get intense, they’re going hard, we’re going hard. But we’re all here to work."
KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Some thoughts and observations on Wednesday’s Kansas City Chiefs practice:
  • Coach Andy Reid moved up the start of practice three hours because of extreme heat in Kansas City. The Chiefs were obviously gearing down in preparation for Saturday night’s preseason game against the Minnesota Vikings at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs didn’t wear full pads and practice was conducted at something less than full speed. Evidently it wasn’t close enough to the speed Reid was looking for because at one point he interrupted practice to yell, “This isn’t a walk-through."
  • Reid said the starters would play into the third quarter against the Vikings and that Tyler Bray would be the first quarterback in the game after Alex Smith.
  • The Chiefs may not have a lot of starters to play into the third quarter. The list of players not practicing included running backs Jamaal Charles (foot) and De’Anthony Thomas (hamstring), wide receivers Dwayne Bowe (quad) and Junior Hemingway (hip), linebacker Joe Mays (wrist) and safety Eric Berry (heel). Nickel back Chris Owens left practice with a knee injury. As cautious as the Chiefs tend to be with injuries this time of year, don’t expect any of these players on the field on Saturday night.
  • The Chiefs continued to feature young wide receiver Frankie Hammond Jr. He was again the starter in Bowe’s place and also was the first punt returner in line in Thomas’ absence.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo -- Denver Broncos wide receiver Jordan Norwood, who was making a significant push to make the roster as a sixth wide receiver, suffered a knee injury in Wednesday’s practice and will miss the remainder of the season.

Norwood was taken for an MRI exam early Wednesday afternoon and the results confirmed the Broncos’ preliminary exams -- that Norwood had torn his left ACL. Norwood had four catches for 54 yards and a touchdown in the Broncos' two preseason games combined.

He had received a smattering of snaps with the starters on offense in practice of late and had been one of the team's primary punt returners. Norwood, who has made four starts over his previous four NFL seasons, had positioned himself to be in the mix when the Broncos make their roster cuts to get to 53 players following their final preseason game.

"They'll be tests run. We'll kind of play it by ear until we know something meaningful," said Broncos head coach John Fox.

Norwood was injured in a red zone drill when he battled Houston Texans cornerback Brandon Harris for the ball in the back left corner of the end zone. The two players jumped for the pass and Norwood landed somewhat awkwardly.

The Broncos and Texans were in the second of three days' worth of practices together before the two teams play Saturday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High.

Also Wednesday the Broncos again held wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders out of practice with a thigh injury. Sanders has not practiced since last Thursday and did not play this past weekend against the San Francisco 49ers.

Sanders did do so some work with strength and conditioning coaches off to the side.

"We're just getting that quad back to 100 percent," Fox said.

Running back Montee Ball, who returned to practice Tuesday, did more in Wednesday's workout, taking part in individual drills as well as some work in 7-on-7 with the starters.

The Broncos also held cornerback Kayvon Webster (ankle), tight end Virgil Green (calf), tight end Gerell Robinson (knee, ankle) and linebacker Jamar Chaney (hamstring) out of practice.
The Oakland Raiders are one of seven NFL teams worth less than $1 billion in Forbes Magazine’s annual NFL financial value rankings.

According to the magazine, the Raiders are worth $970 million. There are four NFL teams ranked less. But $970 million? Sounds pretty good to me, whether it's the low-end of the league are not.

Of course, Oakland owner Mark Davis would like to see that total increase and a sure-fire way it would increase is if the Raiders get a new stadium -- one that Davis so desperately wants. The Raiders are having trouble trying to execute a new stadium in Oakland and have been connected to possible moves to Los Angeles and San Antonio.

If the Raiders move to Los Angeles and get a new stadium, expect their value to skyrocket to the top of the league.

In other Raiders notes:

In an Insider piece, Mike Sando ranks Raiders' second-year linebacker Sio Moore at No. 30 on his 50 breakout players for this season. Insider

Former Oakland defensive end Lamarr Houston -- who signed with Chicago for five years, $35 million with the Bears this offseason -- is No. 80 on ESPN's top 100 defensive players list. Two defensive ends the Raiders signed to short-term deals, LaMarr Woodley (99) and Justin Tuck (89), also made the list.
SAN DIEGO -- Keenan Allen knows he's not sneaking up on anyone this season.

As a rookie selected in the third round of the 2013 draft by the San Diego Chargers, last season was supposed to be a developmental year for the Cal product. But season-ending injuries to Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd thrust Allen into the starting lineup.

Allen responded by finishing with 71 receptions for 1,046 yards and eight touchdowns, developing into the go-to receiver on the perimeter for Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers.

Because of that effort, Allen debuts at No. 75 on this year's ESPN's #NFLRank list.

"I just want to build off of last year, help my team as much as I can out there and try and lead us," said Allen, when asked about what he'd like to accomplish in his second season.

Rivers said Allen's ability to understand the entire offense and his role in it helps the big receiver play fast. Along with that, at 6-foot-2 and 211 pounds, Allen has the short-area quickness to consistently create separation.

"What he does that makes him so good is he's very creative with his releases and his moves at the top of his routes, and yet he's very subtle," Rivers said.

Allen was targeted 107 times in 2013, the second-most behind tight end Antonio Gates (113) on San Diego's roster. In 2014, expect Allen to receive a similar amount of looks.

He'll have the added benefit of having Floyd back on the field. At 6-5 and 235 pounds, defenses will have to account for Floyd on the perimeter, along with Gates in the middle of the field.

"It's great," said Allen, when asked about having Floyd back. "It's going to take a lot of pressure off of me, along with Antonio Gates. I had a great year last year, so I'm guessing I'm going to get a lot of attention. But with Malcom out there, they're not going to really be able to double me up."

Further, NFL receivers often experience their biggest growth in development between their first and second seasons. Allen said he's worked on his speed and added a few pounds to build on what he accomplished as a rookie.

"I really attacked my speed," Allen said. "I'm just trying to get quicker off the ball and be that deep threat."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Continuity on the offensive line was a struggle for the Oakland Raiders last season. Thus far this preseason, the Raiders have worked with the same offensive line and it has helped build a chemistry that was missing in 2013.

The coaching staff thinks that can be a difference-maker.

“It’s been very encouraging. A year ago in the second preseason game, we had made three changes into the second preseason game,” Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Tuesday. “When you have five guys working together and the communication that’s required to play up front, it helps everybody involved.

“It helps the running backs. It helps the quarterbacks. That group in particular, because they all have to be in conjunction with one another. They all have to be on the same page. Besides the fact that we’ve stayed healthy there, they’re also really a veteran group of guys. That’s been a bonus for us, as well.”

If it stays healthy, the unit led by center Stefen Wisniewski and new left tackle Donald Penn, can be a centerpiece of the team, coach Dennis Allen believes.

“I think any time you can put the same group out there for as many reps as they’ve been able to get through the offseason and through training camp has been a positive,” Allen said. “I think that group is beginning to jell together as a unit. I think they’re playing with confidence and I think that’s going to be a position that I think is going to be one of the strengths of our football team.”

I know from my experience of covering the Raiders from 2008-2013, continuity and depth on the offensive line were major sticking points. If this unit can stay healthy and grow together, it could help the Raiders improve pretty quickly.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- What the Denver Broncos and Houston Texans are doing this week is rare and, in the end, took at least some risk-reward analysis before the two teams agreed to do it.

No, it's not rare that they'll have three days' worth of practices against each other before they play a preseason game Saturday night in Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Teams have done it plenty through the years, the Texans are the sixth team the Broncos have practiced against since 1996.

But the Broncos and Texans are doing this in the days leading up to the third preseason game for both teams and just three weeks before the regular-season opener. And that takes at least some thought as the two teams try to balance the benefits of getting the work in they want without exposing everyone involved to unnecessary injury risk.

"I think we did a pretty good job -- both teams -- of respecting each other, but still having an intense practice and getting after it," said Broncos tight end Julius Thomas following Tuesday's practice. "So I expect more of the same (Wednesday).”

The two teams will practice together again Wednesday and Thursday. Originally the plan had been for the two teams to practice in full gear both Tuesday and Wednesday, but after the Broncos had played on Sunday afternoon with the Texans having played on Saturday an adjustment was made.

The players worked in shells, helmets and shorts Tuesday and are now expected to work in full pads in Wednesday's practice.

"We decided to go shorts today because we were a day behind them as far as the recovery," said Broncos head coach John Fox. "I thought it went well. ... I think it's a good look, new faces for the players. There are new schemes both offensively and defensively and even in the kicking game. All in all, I think it was a good first day."

It was also a departure of sorts for Fox, who did not practice against another team in training camp at any point in his nine-season tenure as the Carolina Panthers head coach. Fox said Tuesday the last time he had worked against another team in camp was in 2001, when he was the New York Giants defensive coordinator.

Fox believes the proximity of the work, on the calendar, to the opener could also help his team and that the Broncos, despite having finished their two-a-day practice schedule of the preseason, still have a training camp mindset going.

"Camp is camp, late or early," Fox said. "These guys will tell you they get paid to practice and they would play the games for nothing. I think they did good work. I think it's a good time actually because you've been banging on the same guys for three weeks -- besides the preseason games -- but I think getting someone different is good."

For their part the players behaved Tuesday. Though some words were exchanged at times, especially in a late two-minute drill, there were no major scuffles in the two-hour workout and the teams will not tackle players to the ground in any of the workouts.

Fox and Texans head coach Bill O'Brien had discussed how the practices would be conducted and both expressed confidence the work could get done without any unnecessary conflicts. That, in the end, the benefits simply outweighed any potential downside.

"I know it is great work ... especially when we put on the pads (Wednesday) to get more of a real look in person as far as with the pads," said Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning. "Receivers benefit from going against different corners every day. I think there's a benefit.”

"It's the same thing we do every day," Fox said. "We are going to take the approach that we are going to treat the Houston Texans just like we treat our own team and we expect the same from them. I don't foresee any problems."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- As the Oakland Raiders prepare for the regular season, a key for starting quarterback Matt Schaub is continuing to work on his decision making, offensive coordinator Greg Olson said Tuesday.

"I wasn't around Matt Schaub in Houston. From what I see on tape, I think he's similar to what he has been and what he is. Kind of like they say, he is what he is. I haven't seen significant loss of arm strength in the time that he's been here," Olson said. "To me, the biggest thing with Matt is the decision making. After the last season, is he making the right decisions? ... I think his confidence is up. We haven't seen, throughout training camp, a bunch of ill-fated decisions so that's been a plus."

Schaub was replaced last season in Houston after a rash of interceptions. Schaub will start and perhaps play in the third quarter Friday night at Green Bay. The starting quarterback often plays little if any in the final preseason game, so this may be the last rehearsal for Schaub before their Sept. 7 opener at the New York Jets.

In other Raiders notes:
  • Raiders coach Dennis Allen said there has been strong competition at receiver this camp and the unit could be deep.
  • Allen is looking for another tight end to stand out. Tackle Khalif Barnes could play in some tight end scenarios, very likely in running situations.
  • The Raiders still haven't made a decision on whether rookie quarterback Derek Carr will play Friday, but I got the feeling barring a setback we will likely see him after Schaub on Friday night. He was cleared to practice on a limited basis Monday after getting a concussion Friday night against Detroit. Carr was very lucid and in good spirits Tuesday in the locker room.
  • Raiders defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said he is enjoying the veteran approach new cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown have brought with them. He said both players recognize and address their mistakes quickly.
  • Olson lauded the power of rookie guard Gabe Jackson.