AFC West: Green Bay Packers

ESPN’s Ed Werder said the Packers are fielding calls about some tight ends because of a surplus there. Werder reports young Brandon Bostick is drawing interest.

Oakland is extremely inexperienced at the position and there is no clear-cut favorite to land the job, especially with David Ausberry hurt. Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie came from Green Bay and has a good relationship with the team’s brass. The problem with adding another young tight end in Oakland is, well, they have plenty of young tight ends. They need an experienced veteran at the spot.

In other AFC West notes:

In an Insider piece, KC Joyner doesn’t think taking San Diego tight end Antonio Gates in a fantasy draft would be wise. I’m no fantasy maven, but I buy that theory. Gates is 33 and aging rapidly. I think he will help the Chargers this year, but with Ladarius Green coming on, I think Gates’ playing time could potentially lessen.

In another fantasy look , Oakland running back Darren McFadden and San Diego’s Ryan Mathews don’t get much love, either. Because both players are so injury prone, I can understand.
There are a few Green Bay connections in the AFC West with Reggie McKenzie becoming the general manager in Oakland last year and John Dorsey taking over in Kansas City earlier this year.

Both men came from Green Bay. Naturally, when a Green Bay player becomes available, both Oakland and Kansas City are initially connected. It is no different in the case of middle linebacker Desmond Bishop. He was cut by the Packers on Monday and will be a free agent. Even though he is coming off a major hamstring injury, Bishop, 29, goes to the head of the class of available free agents.

He was an inside linebacker in Green Bay’s 3-4 defense. However, scouts believe he can play middle linebacker in a traditional 4-3 defense. It has already been reported that Minnesota, which runs a 4-3, is interested in Bishop.

I’ve been asked often if McKenzie or Dorsey would be interested in Bishop.

The first place we should look is Kansas City because they run a 3-4. It all comes down to if the team is comfortable with fourth-round pick Nico Johnson starting. I think they are. But if Dorsey has a good feel for Bishop, perhaps there could be some interest. Dorsey has done a strong job of flipping over stones this offseason. So, I wouldn’t be shocked if he at least thought about adding Bishop.

Linebacker is one of the deepest areas on Oakland’s roster. The team has raved about free-agent addition Nick Roach who will play at middle linebacker. With limited resources and more pressing needs, I’m not sure Bishop would be an easy fit in Oakland. He is from the Bay Area and I’m sure he’d be interested in returning, though.

As for the other two teams in the AFC West, San Diego is set at starters and Denver, which runs a 4-3, is excited about Nate Irving in the middle and it has depth there.

Jared Gaither doubtful for Monday

October, 13, 2012
It is likely San Diego left tackle Jared Gaither will be out again Monday night in a crucial game against Denver.

Gaither didn’t practice Saturday because of a groin injury he suffered late last week in New Orleans. He is listed as doubtful on the injury report. Gaither didn’t practice all week. Expect undrafted rookie Mike Harris to replace Gaither again. Harris played for Gaither in the preseason and for the first three games of the season when Gaither had a back injury,

Predictably, Harris had his up-and-downs. The Chargers are much better off with Gaither playing, but it seems like the Chargers will have to deal with Denver’s strong pass rush without him.

San Diego receivers Malcom Floyd (groin) and Eddie Royal hamstring) are questionable to face Denver. Floyd practiced fully Saturday, while Royal was limited.

Meanwhile, Denver left tackle Ryan Clady practiced fully Saturday and is listed as probable to play Monday. He missed Friday’s practice with a tweaked hamstring. It seems like guard Chris Kuper is ready to go as well. He has been out with a broken forearm. Denver coach John Fox said Kuper made “great progress’ in practice this week. Kuper played a few snaps on special teams last week as he was eased back into action.
The following are three things to watch for during the San Diego Chargers home game against the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night. The game will be telecast on ESPN. Kickoff is set for 8 p.m.

1. Offensive line: This unit is vital to San Diego’s hopes. Injuries made a mess of the line last year, though it improved down the stretch. The 2011 season showed San Diego that it needed better depth on the line, and the team thinks that was accomplished during the offseason -- making this an important night for the entire unit.

2. Defense has to get off the field: A major point of emphasis during Chargers camp has been third-down defense. And for good reason: San Diego was the worst in the NFL on third down last season, allowing opposing offenses to score a first down on 49.2 percent of all third-down situations. That was the worst mark in the NFL in 16 years. We will see if the first two weeks of the John Pagano regime on defense have helped in this crucial area.

3. The rookies: The Chargers are thrilled about their rookie class, particularly first-round pick Melvin Ingram (pass-rusher), second-round pick Kendall Reyes (defensive end) and third-round pick Brandon Taylor (safety). The group has been terrific in camp; let’s see how the players react in a game environment. The team is counting on Ingram and Reyes to play a lot this season, so this will be a good first test.
D.J. Williams is not done fighting his NFL six game NFL ban.

CBS Sports reported that Williams has appealed the dismissal of his preliminary injunction. On Thursday, a federal judge dismissed Williams’ complaint filed against the NFL. The league suspended Williams earlier this year for using a banned substance.

Williams contended that the league violated protocol in collecting urine samples. Williams also faces a trial for drunk driving in August. It was his second arrest for drunk driving since 2005. He could face additional NFL discipline if convicted in that case.

The Broncos have been operating as if Williams will be lost for a lengthy period of time. Wesley Woodyard, Nate Irving and rookie Danny Trevathan will compete for playing time in Williams' absence.

In other AFC West news:

It looks like the Chiefs may be hosting the Arizona Cardinals this summer for a joint training camp practice.

AFC West notes

March, 21, 2012
AM ET reports Jacksonville will be strong players for Tim Tebow in the trade market. Jacksonville is his hometown and new Jacksonville owner Shahid Khan has said he would have drafted Tebow in the 2010 draft.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter has reported Jacksonville, Green Bay, Miami and the Jets all have interest in Tebow. ESPN’s Chris Mortensen said a deal could be done Wednesday or Thursday.

As expected, Colts’ tight end Jaocb Tamme and center Jeff Saturday are set to visit the Broncos. Both played with new Denver quarterback Peyton Manning in Indianapolis.

UT San Diego reports Kansas City running back Jackie Battle has left his visit with the Chargers without a contract. The Chargers are considering four players to replace Mike Tolbert as the backup running back. Meanwhile, the paper is reporting defensive lineman Luis Castillo has been offered a contract to return. He has also visited the Chiefs and New England.

The Denver Post reports the Broncos are working to get a deal done with defensive tackle Brodrick Bunkley. He is a priority in Denver and I think re-signing him is a must. New Orleans is in on Bunkley as well.

The market for Oakland running back Michael Bush -- the best available free agent in the AFC West in my mind -- continues to plod along.
INDIANAPOLIS -- Reggie McKenzie’s former boss believes the Oakland Raiders are in great shape moving forward with McKenzie taking over as general manager.

“I think they got a gem,” Green Bay general manager Ted Thompson said Friday at the NFL combine. “Reggie and I are really good friends, so I’m very biased in my answer here, but ... he is a really good man. And the people there in [Oakland’s] building, in that organization, are going to appreciate the fact that he is a really good guy. Again, he is part of that group of people that I was referring to that we have always patterned what we do after the training we received from Ron Wolf. And I think that combination, plus the fact that Ron has a history with the Oakland Raiders and that sort of thing, I think that’s the way he’ll go about it. And he’ll do a good job.”

Wolf was part of the group that recommended McKenzie to the Raiders. McKenzie is in charge of the team as it changes course after the October death of owner Al Davis.

Raiders sign troubled former Packer

February, 16, 2012
Reggie McKenzie’s first signing of a former Green Bay Packer as the general manager of the Oakland Raiders shows he is willing to give a player with a checkered past a second chance.

The Raiders announced the signing of cornerback Brandon Underwood on Thursday. Underwood did not play in 2011 after he was cut by Green Bay – where McKenzie was an executive – last September after he was arrested for the second time in his professional career. He pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of soliciting a prostitute in a June 2010 incident at a resort cabin in Lake Delton, Wis., after two women alleged that he sexually assaulted them. He was arrested after a June 2011 incident in which his wife accused him of domestic violence; he later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge.

Underwood was a sixth-round pick of the Packers in 2009. He played mostly on special teams in Green Bay. He will likely have a difficult time making the Raiders’ 53-man roster. However, the Raiders are very thin at cornerback, so Underwood may get his chance. He is probably the first of several cornerbacks Oakland signs before training camp.

In other AFC West news:

The Raiders have reportedly parted ways with longtime team spokesman John Herrera. It is another indication of the changes following the death last October of team owner Al Davis, of whom Herrera was a close ally.

Insider In an Insider piece, Todd McShay explains why Georgia Tech receiver Stephen Hill may be a good fit for Denver.
Dennis Allen’s lengthy search for a defensive coordinator in Oakland marches on.

The focus is now on Green Bay cornerback coach Joe Whitt Jr. His name emerged late Wednesday and it became even more relevant in the search when reported Thursday that Greg Manusky -- fired as the Chargers’ defensive coordinator last month -- became the coordinator in Indianapolis on Thursday. He interviewed with Allen on Tuesday. Talks broke down late Wednesday and the Colts emerged.

Allen, formerly the Broncos’ defensive coordinator, has been having trouble securing a candidate. He was denied permission to talk to several candidates. The search winds its way to Whitt, who worked in Green Bay with new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie. Thus, the Green Bay coaching connection may finally develop in Oakland.

Whitt may be considered a risky choice since he is a position coach and is just 33. Normally, you’d like to see a candidate with more experience. But McKenzie clearly saw something in him and relayed it to Allen. Whitt was well respected by his players in Green Bay.

"Trust me," Green Bay cornerback Tramon Williams once told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "The guy knows his stuff. He will be a coordinator or a something one day. I don't know exactly when it's going to be, but I think he's definitely going to have one of those upper spots."

We’ll see where his candidacy goes, but Allen may be running out of options, so perhaps Whitt will emerge as the guy.

Honestly, I don’t think the Raiders should be too broken up over it not working out with Manusky. I know folks in San Diego would have loved to have seen Manusky stay in the division. His one-year stint as defensive coordinator there was a disaster.

Meanwhile, the Oakland Tribune reports assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski will remain on the staff and work in some capacity with new offensive line coach Frank Pollack. Good move. Wisniewski is well respected and he did a nice job last year.
Earlier Wednesday, I had a chance to catch up with San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers to discuss him being a finalist for the NFL Man of the Year award.

We also had a chance to talk about a current league issue that Rivers was involved in Sunday. Tuesday, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers caused a stir when he said he was embarrassed for some of his NFC teammates because of the lack of effort they displayed in a 59-41 AFC win Sunday in the Pro Bowl.

Rodgers wasn’t the only person to question some of the players' efforts Sunday. The crowd in Honolulu booed some of the early-game play.

Rivers was one of the quarterbacks for the victorious AFC team. He said he understands some of the complaints and he thinks the competitive nature of the game has appeared to decline some over the past 10 years.

Still, Rivers said the Pro Bowl dispute presents a “fine line” and he thinks the current format is attractive to some players.

“In general, maybe the whole week should be up for discussion,” said Rivers, who would like to see the skill challenges be part of the weekly festivities again. “But I know there are guys in the game whose contracts may be up and they don’t want to get hurt and things like that. Still, we have to think of the fans and try to stay true to the game and not make a joke or a mockery out of the game.”

Rivers did say he thought the AFC “cranked it up in the second half” and he was impressed by the efforts of several of his teammates, including San Diego teammate Vincent Jackson and Miami receiver Brandon Marshall (who was named the game’s MVP) for giving strong efforts.

Still, Rivers also said he’s not sure the Pro Bowl will ever see the intensity of a regular-season NFL game.

“Again, it’s the fine line,” Rivers said. “You want to see effort, but if those big ole boys like Jared Allen or Justin Smith kept coming hard at me, I might be like 'easy, slow down, slow down' (laughing). … In the end, I think it can be adjusted some, but it’s a great week for everyone involved and it’s a positive experience for the fans over in Hawaii.”
Maybe the Green Bay Way will prevail in Oakland after all.

When the Oakland Raiders hired longtime Green Bay executive Reggie McKenzie to take over as general manager this month, it was expected that they would become the East Bay Packers. But McKenzie changed that perception quickly when he bypassed several former Green Bay cohorts in favor of Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

Yet, in comments made to the San Francisco Chronicle on Monday after Allen’s introductory news conference, McKenzie showed that he, indeed, will build his team from the Green Bay model.

During and after the news conference, McKenzie talked about how important it is for the general manager and the coach to work together. McKenzie said he and Allen will be a team. During his time in Green Bay, McKenzie watched similar partnerships.

“Fortunately, I come from a situation in my 18 years where most of those years that’s where we excelled. You know, when coach Holmgren and Ron Wolf, watching them work together, and then piecing it together how we did that… and they were always in communication. They were always in each other’s office. And I saw how it’s supposed to be done.

“Up until the end, with coach McCarthy and Ted Thompson, how their relationship was. It was never things forced on the other. And it was always the right hand knew what the left hand was doing. They were in communication. And I think that’s vital.”

McKenzie is a bright guy. He saw how important the relationship with the coach is for someone in his role. It has produced championships in Green Bay, and McKenzie is clearly looking to duplicate it with his own partnership, even though Allen doesn’t have Green Bay ties.
Don’t be surprised if the Oakland Raiders continue to pick from the AFC West as they add to their coaching staff.

One name to keep an eye on for Oakland’s defensive coordinator job is Kansas City defensive backs coach Emmitt Thomas. The former Chiefs star defensive back is very close with new Oakland coach Dennis Allen. They worked together for several years in Atlanta and Thomas served as Allen’s mentor.

Thomas, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, has been a defensive coordinator for three different teams. Thomas, 68, was last a coordinator in Minnesota, in 2001. He has been the Chiefs’ secondary coach since 2010.

Thomas also has ties to new Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie. Thomas was Green Bay’s defensive coordinator in 1999 when McKenzie was an executive. Allen, who was hired by the Raiders this week after being Denver’s defensive coordinator in 2011, will likely have a major role in the Raiders’ defense. However, he will want a trusted assistant to run the defense and Thomas could be that man.

Meanwhile, Mike Sherman could potentially be on Allen’s list as offensive coordinator. Sherman was last Texas A&M’s head coach and Allen is a former standout at Texas A&M. Sherman is also a former head coach of the Packers and has strong ties to McKenzie.

If Allen were to want to pursue Sherman, though, he may have to act quickly. He is interviewing in Miami for the same job. Finding an offensive coordinator may not be pressing for Allen because incumbent Al Saunders is expected to be a strong candidate. Saunders is owed money for the 2012 season and he is familiar with the Raiders’ personnel, so keeping him in place may ultimately be what Allen decides to do.
Dennis AllenRon Chenoy/US PresswireThe Oakland Raiders are looking to Dennis Allen to revitalize their struggling franchise.
Reggie McKenzie just took a big risk.

Al Davis would be proud.

In his first move as the late Davis’ replacement at the helm of the Oakland Raiders, McKenzie, a longtime lieutenant in Green Bay, made a hire few could have guessed two weeks ago when he fired coach Hue Jackson after an 8-8 season. That man is Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

Allen was hired despite having just one year experience as a coordinator and has no previous ties with McKenzie. At 39, Allen is the youngest active head coach in the NFL.

A former Raiders linebacker, McKenzie -- who was recommended to Oakland owner Mark Davis (Al Davis’ son) by former Oakland and Green Bay executives Ron Wolf and Ken Herock -- was expected to stick to his Green Bay roots. Packers assistant Winston Moss and Dom Capers were reportedly candidates, but it was Allen who emerged after an active 14-day search. McKenzie centered his search on Allen in the past day or so. An agreement was made after Allen was interviewed a second time Tuesday.

Allen is the first Raiders head coach who is a defensive specialist since Al Davis hired a 32-year-old John Madden in 1969. While Al Davis was partial to offensive minds, he certainly wasn’t afraid to hire a young coach and he no doubt would have saluted McKenzie for sticking to his gut and hiring the coach who he thought was the most impressive. This isn't the first time a hot-shot Denver assistant has become the Raiders’ head coach, either. Al Davis hired Denver assistant Mike Shanahan in 1988.

There is no doubt Allen has a chance to be a strong coach. He is regarded as one of the better young defensive minds in the NFL, and he had instant success in Denver while earning the respect of the Broncos’ defensive players.

Denver was ranked last in the NFL in almost every defensive category following the 2010 season. After Allen took over, the unit improved immensely in 2011 and the defensive resurgence was a big reason why Denver advanced to the playoffs after a 4-12 record in the previous season.

Prior to the start of the season, Allen talked about what he liked from his new players in Denver, and I'm sure he will have the same approach in Oakland.

“I think they’re trying to play fast,” Allen said. “I think they’re trying to play physical, and at the end of the day I’ve tried to preach to them, we’ve preached as a coaching staff, that it’s not really about the X’s and O’s but it’s about the way we go out there and play the game. That’s what we’re trying to do, and I think the guys are buying in and believing in it and trying to do that.”

Allen ran a 4-3 defense in Denver, and the Raiders could stay with the 4-3, as well. Oakland has a talented defense, but it sagged badly down the stretch as the Raiders lost four of their final five games. The Raiders gave up way too many big plays. Fixing that issue will be one of Allen’s top priorities, along with solving the Raiders’ penalty problems. Oakland set NFL record for penalties and penalty yardage in 2011.

He will also be expected to provide stability where the three past Oakland coaches -- Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable and Jackson -- could not. All three of those men created their own distractions at one point.

Allen has a reputation for being hard-working and for stability, as does McKenzie. The dysfunction at the top of the organization must end in Oakland. The Raiders have not been to the postseason since 2002 -- tied for the second-longest streak in the NFL.

In McKenzie and Allen, the Raiders have two young, hungry leaders. But there are risks. Allen, who was New Orleans’ secondary coach before getting the Denver job, is fairly inexperienced, and if it doesn’t work, people will question why McKenzie didn’t go for a more experienced coach or hire somebody he is more familiar with.

But give McKenzie credit going out of his comfort zone and hiring the man he felt best about. Al Davis certainly wouldn’t have had a problem with that.
Earlier Tuesday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen reported the Oakland Raiders are focusing on Denver defensive coordinator Dennis Allen.

They reported that the team and Allen are trying to take the final steps to making Allen the Raiders’ coach. They reported that candidates Marty Mornhinweg and Mike Tice were told Oakland is going in another direction.

Later Tuesday, CSN Bay Area reported the Raiders are considering Allen, Green Bay linebackers coach Winston Moss and a mystery candidate. The report said New Orleans offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael has also been told he not be the head coach in Oakland.

Other candidates named for the job are former Miami interim coach Todd Bowles, Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. However, McCoy backed out of his interview in Oakland to concentrate on a second interview in Miami. He did not get that job.

I know what many of you may be thinking when you read the “mystery” candidate? It is Jon Gruden? I know many Oakland fans would want nothing more to see Gruden head back to Oakland. But I’d still characterize that chance as a long shot. I heard Tuesday former Baltimore coach Brian Billick would be interested to returning to the sideline if the right job opened. However, it is not clear if Oakland would have interest.

The bottom line is, these report are indications that Oakland’s 14-day search may be winding down.

UPDATE: CSN Bay Area is reporting that Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie said Allen is not a “lock” for the job. But by reading McKenzie’s comments, it is clear Allen has an opportunity to nail down this job.

Report: Capers on Raiders' list

January, 22, 2012
Here’s the run of Green Bay assistants in play in Oakland.

Earlier Sunday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Green Bay linebackers coach Winston Moss has interviewed for the Raiders’ head-coaching job. Now, CBS’ Charlie Casserly reports the Raiders have asked permission to talk to Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers.

New Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie was hired from Green Bay, where he was an executive, earlier this month. There are several other candidates for the job. McKenzie is expected to make the hire in the next seven to 10 days, Casserly said.

Schefter reported Philadelphia offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg may be one of the favorites for the job. He worked in Green Bay with McKenzie in the 1990s and he is a former head coach in Detroit.

In other AFC West news:

Former Oakland coach Hue Jackson is reportedly a candidate to be the quarterbacks coach in Arizona.

San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is a finalist for the NFL Man of the Year award. The prestigious award will be given Feb. 4.