AFC West: 2012 NFL Training Camp

If Brandon Flowers is going to be ready to play for the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener against the Atlanta Falcons in 20 days, the standout cornerback is going to have to make progress.

According to the Kansas City Star, it doesn’t appear that Flowers has made progress as of Monday. The paper reported Flowers' left foot was in a walking boot. Flowers hasn’t practice since July 31, and has been seeing specialists.

If Flowers is going to be ready to play in less than three weeks, he is going to have to get on the practice field soon. That he is in a walking boot now is not exactly a sign of progress.

The Chiefs are going to need Flowers, especially with starting safety Kendrick Lewis dealing with a shoulder injury, and star pass-rusher Tamba Hali suspended for the Atlanta game for violating the NFL’s substance abuse policy.

Again, the fact that Flowers is in a walking boot doesn’t mean he will not be able to play in 20 days, but it isn’t great news.

Dwayne Bowe rejoins Chiefs

August, 17, 2012
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The Kansas City Chiefs just announced that receiver Dwayne Bowe has signed his franchise tender and thus ended his holdout.

That is a smart move by Bowe and tremendous news for the Chiefs. I will be back later with more thoughts on this situation.

High praise for Rolando McClain

August, 17, 2012
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One of the players who could most benefit from Dennis Allen becoming the Oakland Raiders head coach is middle linebacker Rolando McClain.

McClain
McClain
McClain, the No. 8 overall pick in the 2010, is entering a critical point in his career. McClain, who could potentially face league discipline stemming from an ongoing assault case in Alabama that occurred last season, needs to make strides both on and off the field.

While he has had his moments, McClain has made a lot of on-field mistakes, and he hasn’t made the impact he has been expected to make. One of Allen’s biggest jobs is making McClain a consistently productive player in 2012.

In a radio interview, Allen pointed out McClain as a player who has had a strong training camp.

“A guy I think that has been exceptional has been Rolando McClain,” Allen said. “He’s been a guy that has done everything we have asked him to do. He’s smart. He understands the defense and the concepts we are trying to run, and if he continues to improve the way he has been improving and continues to fit within the scheme the way he has done so far, I would expect him to have a good year.”

Allen doesn’t strike me as a coach who pumps up players just for the sake of doing it. So, his comments might be a good sign of things to come for a player who desperately needs to improve.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. – Kevin Boss has no problem being trendy.

The Kansas City Chiefs are the latest team to join the two-tight-end frenzy and Boss is a key to the equation. Shortly after he was a salary-cap dump in Oakland, the Chiefs snapped up Boss to pair with promising youngster Tony Moeaki.

The New England Patriots made the multiple-tight-end set popular and it’s no surprise the Chiefs are adopting the idea. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli came from the Patriots organization, so it’s no shock the Chiefs are going to use the double-tight-end set extensively.

Boss can’t wait.

“There are a lot of weapons on this offense and I think Tony and myself add to it,” Boss said. “It can create mismatches and really get things going.”

Moeaki and Boss are similar players. Both are big targets with soft hands. Both players can stretch the field and both are solid blockers.

“I think we work well together,” Boss said. “I like to think we can both help this team.”
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- When the Denver Broncos were pursuing Peyton Manning, it seemed like Brady Quinn could be the perfect backup for Manning.

Quinn
Quinn made it through the Tim Tebow experience in Denver, so backing up Manning would be a snap. Teams like to have backups who are similar in scheme to their starter and Quinn is a pocket passer like Manning.

While he was open to the idea of backing up Manning, Quinn decided he had to worry about his career before Manning’s move. Thus, two days before Manning rocked the sports world by deciding to go to with Denver over Tennessee and San Francisco, Quinn signed with Kansas City.

“You can’t base your career decision on other people’s decision,” Quinn said. “I liked Denver, but (Manning) was still considering a couple other teams and I did what I felt was best for me … I’m glad I did. I’m really happy here.”

Quinn has a comfort level in Kansas City. He has reunited with both head coach Romeo Crennel and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. He played for both coaches in Cleveland.

Quinn is battling Ricky Stanzi to be the Chiefs’ backup. Quinn has led a slight edge in the battle.

“It’s fun being a quarterback here,” Quinn said. “It’s so fun to throw to all the weapons here.”
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- If I had to judge an early winner in the Dwayne Bowe-Kansas City Chiefs standoff, it would have to be the team.

Why?

Because the Chiefs are moving along business as usual as the receiver continues to stay away. In my first day around the Chiefs this summer, I haven’t gotten the sense that they are overly fretting about Bowe's absence. The focus is on hosting the Atlanta Falcons on Sept. 9 -- not on Bowe’s whereabouts.

The offense is learning the system of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll, and it is apparently learning it quickly and successfully. The first-team offense scored two touchdowns in two possessions in the preseason opener, a 27-17 victory over Arizona on Friday, and all three offensive units performed well in the game.

Second-year receiver Jon Baldwin has been a camp star; fellow veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper have been model professionals. All are clicking with quarterback Matt Cassel, as are young slot receivers Dexter McCluster and Devon Wylie.

Coach Romeo Crennel has said often that he is only worrying about the players who are in camp. I believe that. I don’t get the feeling Crennel and Daboll are pulling their hair out at night because Bowe is not ready to sign his franchise tender.

Don’t get me wrong, I know the Chiefs would prefer to have Bowe in camp. He’s a talented player and he’d make the offense better. But they aren’t waiting for him.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Chiefs feel the same way about Bowe’s holdout as I do. It’s pointless. There really isn’t much to be gained for Bowe, who can’t sign a new deal until after the season.

He has to perform well in 2012 if he is going to get a new deal, whether it’s from the Chiefs or from another team in unrestricted free agency (if the Chiefs don’t franchise him again if they can't agree on an extension).

The longer Bowe -- who is expected to show up shortly before the start of the regular season -- waits to report, the more difficult it will be for him to have a great season. He has had issues with coming into camp in shape before and it is going to take him time to get into football shape. Plus, he has to learn Daboll’s style. But if Bowe ends his holdout soon, he has a chance to be a major factor come Week 1.

If not, his chances of making an impact early in the season will dissipate quickly -- and that means if he heads to free agency next year, he will have more dings on a resume that already has a few blotches.

While Bowe is risking future earning,s the Chiefs refuse to stand around and wait for him.
Dwayne Bowe might be in Kansas City, but he isn’t with the Chiefs.

The city was abuzz when the holdout receiver arrived on Friday afternoon. There was even a report that Bowe ended his holdout.

That has not happened.

In a conference call with reporters Saturday, a day after an impressive 27-17 preseason win against visiting Arizona -- Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel said he has no update on Bowe.

“It’s just been mentioned that there was a spotting of him, but I have no knowledge,” Crennel said. “No one has told me anything, so if he reports to camp, that will be the first time I see him. We’ll go about business as we need to."

Crennel was asked when he expects Bowe to report. Crennel has no earthly idea. For what it’s worth, it has been widely reported that Bowe will likely report to the Chiefs in early September. The team opens the season Sept. 9.

“I don’t know when it’s going to happen,” Crennel said. “I haven’t had any conversations or anything like that. The way it is, Dwayne can wait until the season starts if he chooses to. It’s kind of up to him. He will report when he wants to, or when he and his people decide they’re ready to come. But in the meantime, I’m going to work with the guys I have here.”

Friday’s fiasco serves as a good lesson. Bowe being in Kansas City meant nothing as far as his reporting goes. He will report when he wants to report, and until then, everything else is simply speculation.

In other AFC West news:

The shoulder injury suffered by Oakland tight end Brandon Myers is reportedly not serious.

Oakland’s game against Dallas will be shown on local television. It will be broadcast on ESPN.

Oakland receiver Duke Calhoun suffered what Oakland coach Dennis Allen said might be a “significant” knee injury Saturday. He had an outside chance of making the team.

U-T San Diego is reporting that the Chargers have cut quarterback Kevin O’Connell. That means backup quarterback Charlie Whitehurst is recovered from a knee injury.
SAN DIEGO -- With the outside perception of the San Diego Chargers taking a major tumble, the team, which for so long was built from the inside, changed philosophy in 2012 in a last attempt to keep that proverbial Super Bowl window from slamming shut and causing major upheaval in the organization.

After two playoff-less seasons and a reprieve from ownership, San Diego general manager A.J. Smith made an uncharacteristically heavy play in free agency. Taking advantage of one of the deepest classes in history, the Chargers nabbed more than a dozen free agents to infuse new life into a roster that was still talented but no longer arguably the stoutest in the NFL.

“I love what they have done around here,” said safety Eric Weddle, one of the Chargers' homegrown mainstays. “We hit the lowest of the lows the past two years by not making the playoffs. Getting new blood in here has helped.”

Among the veterans San Diego brought in were running backs Le'Ron McClain and Ronnie Brown, receivers Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal, linebacker Jarret Johnson and defensive tackle Aubrayo Franklin.

“The thing about the new guys is they all love football,” San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers said. “They love it. We need guys like that here. … It gives us a new start. Those guys won’t worry about the past. They weren’t here for the slow starts or the six-game losing streak last year. It’s all a new start.”

If this cleansing of the roster doesn’t work, the next restructuring will likely occur up top with the firing of coach Norv Turner and possibly Smith. Yet, in a season of new beginnings, spirits are high.

“I think we can be special,” Weddle said. “There’s still a lot of talent here, with a bunch of new talent. … People may not be expecting much from us this year because we haven’t done anything, so that’s fair. But it’s kind of nice to be under the radar for once.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeRyan Mathews
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireThe Chargers aim to lean even more heavily on running back Ryan Mathews this season.
1. Ryan Mathews' workload: Outside of Rivers, there is likely not a more important player in this camp than Mathews. The Chargers all know if Mathews flourishes in his third NFL season, the team will have a strong chance to be successful. Mathews, the No. 12 overall pick in 2010, had a solid second season as he ran for 1,091 yards and averaged a terrific 4.9 yards per carry. This year, the Chargers want to see Mathews become consistent and stay healthy. He will likely be given the chance to to carry the ball 25 times a game, catch several balls out of the backfield and be a factor on third down and in short yardage. This camp is designed to get him prepared for a heavy workload. From what I saw and heard, it seems like Mathews might be up to the task.

“He’s working hard,” Rivers said. “Ryan knows what is expected of him.”

2. Sparking the defense: While the offense in San Diego needs some tweaks, the bigger fixes are necessary on defense, where former linebackers coach John Pagano is in charge of fixing a unit that fell apart last season. He replaces Greg Manusky, who was fired after one season on the job. The biggest issue -- it is a major point of emphasis in camp -- is getting off the field on third down. San Diego was last in the NFL in third-down defense in 2011. It gave up a first down on 49.2 percent of all third downs -- according to ESPN Stats & Information, the worst percentage in the NFL since the 1995 Cleveland Browns. The Chargers have added several pieces to the defense and it has a chance to be much more active -- particularly on passing downs, when No. 1 pick Melvin Ingram will be given a chance to make an instant impact as a pass-rusher.

3. Protect the quarterback: The San Diego offensive line was in shambles for much of last season, and it was a big reason why Rivers struggled for the first 10 games. Mainly due to poor health, San Diego used 13 offensive linemen last season -- literally taking players off the street at one point in November. With Jared Gaither, claimed off waivers from Kansas City, solidifying the left tackle spot, the unit improved dramatically late in the season. Gaither was re-signed and is being counted on to protect Rivers’ blind side. The steady Tyronne Green takes over for the departed Kris Dielman. Green has fared well when he's had to play. If this unit remains in good health, it should protect Rivers well. If not, trouble could persist. So far, the unit looks good in camp.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

The passing game looks to be top-notch. After a sloppy start to last season, Rivers finished 2011 strong. He has looked good in camp, and has an interesting group of receivers. Yes, standout Vincent Jackson is gone, but the Chargers have an ensemble group that includes Malcom Floyd, free-agent signees Meachem (New Orleans) and Royal (Denver) and second-year player Vincent Brown. Together, this group should offer Rivers plenty of help.

“We like what we have there,” Turner said. “We like all the pieces. We think we can get some things done in the passing game.”

If the Rivers-led passing attack is back at an elite level, the Chargers will be a threat to win every game. When Rivers is on, San Diego has a chance to score every time the offense hits the field.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

The Chargers must prove they are totally past their doldrums. The team feels good about itself, but it does every summer. We will not know if San Diego is out of its funk until it’s out.

Yes, the depth looks good, but will it be enough if injuries pile up for a fourth consecutive year? Yes, cutting down on turnovers is a point of emphasis in camp, but once the season starts, will the hard work pay off or will the killer interceptions and fumbles continue?

It has gotten to the point where we can’t trust this team until it shows it is has indeed rebounded.

OBSERVATION DECK

    [+] EnlargeEddie Royal
    AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziReceiver Eddie Royal, an offseason pickup, appears to have clicked with Chargers QB Philip Rivers.
  • Tight end Antonio Gates is turning heads on a daily basis. After dealing with foot-related injuries for four years, Gates is finally completely healthy. He’s slimmed down and he is making a lot of plays. If his health remains, the 32-year-old should make a huge impact.
  • Denver might have lost interest in Royal, but there is a place for him San Diego. Expect Royal to get a lot of work. He has impressed the coaching staff this summer and I expect him to be as favorite a target for Rivers during the season as he has been this summer.
  • The Chargers love what they see in Johnson. He is tough, smart and excellent against the run. They think he can bump the defense up a notch.
  • Linebacker Donald Butler looks good after a strong 2011 season, which was essentially his rookie season because he was injured in 2010. He is just another fascinating young defensive piece on this team.
  • Undrafted rookie quarterback Jarrett Lee looks like a keeper. He got extra work because of a knee injury to Charlie Whitehurst. I could see Lee making this roster. The Chargers were burned last year when they tried to sneak undrafted rookie quarterback Scott Tolzien onto the practice squad; he was claimed by San Francisco. If Lee continues to impress, I think the Chargers will find room for him on the 53-man roster. They need to develop a young quarterback at some point and Lee might be it.

  • The Nate Kaeding-Nick Novak battle at kicker will go down to the wire. If Kaeding stays healthy and kicks well in the preseason, he should win the job.
  • The Chargers love the skill level of Meachem. Perhaps he was lost in the shuffle of the dynamic offensive weaponry in New Orleans. He’ll get his shot in San Diego.
  • The Chargers are pumped about McClain, a free-agent pickup from Kansas City. He will play a lot and should be in the mix for some carries. They like the veteran stability he brings to the offense.
  • Center David Molk, a seventh-round pick, is getting some second-team reps. He may have a future.
  • The Chargers are very happy with pre-camp signings Franklin and running back/special-teamer Jackie Battle. Though they both signed late, I see them both being contributors.
  • Keep an eye on ex-Chief Demorrio Williams. The linebacker has been a camp stud, boasting terrific speed. The Chargers like him in coverage.
  • The Chargers will keep their eyes open for help at certain positions, including cornerback and offensive line, as the summer progresses.
  • Third-round pick Brandon Taylor, a safety, might not make an instant impact, but Taylor has impressed and will get some valuable time behind veteran pickup Atari Bigby, who himself has been outstanding this summer.

  • Brown has been getting looks as the third-down back and will be an occasional Wildcat threat.
  • Running back Curtis Brinkley flashed talent at times last season, but because of the logjam at running back, he is a long shot to make the team.

  • Rookie tight end Ladarius Green has nice receiving skills. I can see him making an impact behind Gates and Dante Rosario (a very nice backup). Green, a fourth-round pick, needs to learn to block at an NFL level, but he has terrific hands and natural size.
  • Undrafted rookie tackle Mike Harris has taken advantage of an early camp injury to Gaither, getting some reps with the first team. The UCLA product has a chance to make the team. Rivers has joked that Harris has gotten more first-team reps than any undrafted rookie tackle in the history of the NFL.

Mike Goodson out of hospital

August, 8, 2012
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The Oakland Raiders sent out a statement Tuesday night, saying running back Mike Goodson passed tests, was released from the hospital and was sent back to the team’s training camp in Napa, Calif.

Goodson, the backup to Darren McFadden, was sent to the hospital in an ambulance after a helmet-to-helmet hit during Tuesday’s practice. Here is the team’s statement:

The Raiders received encouraging news Tuesday night from doctors treating Mike Goodson, who left the practice field with a neck injury, with movement in his extremities, during the team’s training-camp practice. Goodson’s CT scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test were negative. He has returned to the team’s training-camp headquarters at the Napa Valley Marriott.

Agent: Mike Goodson doing well

August, 7, 2012
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The agent for injured Oakland running back Mike Goodson passed along word that his client is doing fine Tuesday evening. Agent Kennard McGuire said Goodson was put on a stretcher and was taken to a hospital in an ambulance as a precaution.

“I commend the Raiders for responding in the manner in which they did,” McGuire wrote in a text message. “Mike is alert and moving his extremities. The team and Mike are taking the proper precautions.”

Goodson apparently was hurt after a helmet-to-helmet hit by linebacker Philip Wheeler. After practice, Oakland coach Dennis Allen said Goodson had a neck injury, but he did not know the severity of it.

McGuire’s comments are very encouraging. I’m sure the exact diagnosis and timetable for Goodson will be known in the coming days. But right now, things look very encouraging.

In other AFC West notes:
  • Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer recommended Terrell Owens to Seattle coach Pete Carroll. Palmer and Owens played together in Cincinnati.
  • Kansas City receiver Jon Baldwin reportedly had a terrific day as the Chiefs practiced with the Cardinals on Tuesday. Baldwin has been outstanding in training camp and the No. 26 overall pick of the 2011 draft should be a starter even when Dwayne Bowe reports.
The scariest moment of the training camp season in the AFC West has occurred at the Raiders’ camp Tuesday afternoon.

According to several reports from media members on site, promising backup running back Mike Goodson was taken off the field on a stretcher and taken away in an ambulance. Goodson was reportedly injured after what appeared to be a helmet-to-helmet hit by linebacker Phillip Wheeler.

Media members on site reported that they saw Goodson move his legs, which, of course, is a good sign. Practice resumed after Goodson was taken off the field.

“This is football, things are going to happen,” Dennis Allen told reporters after Tuesday’s practice. “We don't want it to happen, but this is football.”

Goodson, acquired in a trade from Carolina earlier this year, was having an excellent camp. Out of respect to Goodson and the situation, I will save any speculation of what Oakland will do at the position after more details are known.

Update: Allen said Goodson has a neck injury, but he doesn’t know the severity of the injury, according to the Contra Costa Times. Goodson’s sister tweeted that Goodson is “doing fine as of now.”

Update: Allen said Goodson has feelings in his extremities, which is a very good sign.
ESPN.com's Jeffri Chadiha believes the Chiefs are making a mistake with the Dwayne Bowe holdout.

I agree with Chadiha that the Chiefs’ offense will suffer without Bowe. But I think this holdout is on Bowe. This season is critical to him getting a huge contract in 2013, whether it’s from the Chiefs or another team. Bowe needs to get back to work. That’s the bottom line.

It has been reported often that Bowe will likely report shortly before the start of the regular season. I can see that, but there are some risks involved. After missing the entire offseason and then all of training camp, Bowe would be putting himself at risk of suffering muscle injuries. How many times have we’ve seen a player holdout from camp and then tweak a hamstring?

Also, the Chiefs are running new offense. It’s going to take Bowe time to get comfortable in Brian Daboll’s offense. The longer time for Bowe to get comfortable likely will mean the less productive he is in the season. The less productive he is in the season means the less money he will make in the offseason.

Again, this holdout makes no sense, and Bowe has to realize that and re-join his team.

Injured Chiefs taking big step

August, 6, 2012
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The Kansas City Chiefs' ACL Club is making big strides.

Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel told reporters safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki will play Friday against Arizona in the team’s preseason opener. All three tore an ACL in their knees last September and were lost for the season.

All three are obviously doing well and making strides. If not, they wouldn’t be playing Friday. I don’t expect any of the players to play extensively Friday, but it is an important step that they are playing.

Meanwhile, I will be traveling for the next several hours. Please check back later for updates from around the division.

Melvin Ingram earns high praise

August, 4, 2012
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SAN DIEGO – Who better to ask about the hot-shot new pass-rusher in town than the quarterback?

Philip Rivers knows a few things about what it takes to be a dominant pass-rusher. So I went to him for the book on Chargers’ first-round pick Melvin Ingram.

“He’s explosive,” Rivers said without hesitation. “What stands out to me is he’s a football player. He played all over the place at South Carolina and he has been doing that here. He looks comfortable. You can tell he belongs. I’m glad we got him.”

After practice Friday, as he collected his thoughts after his first full week of NFL training camp, I got a chance to catch up with Ingram. I told about Rivers’ praise. Ingram beamed.

“That’s what motivates me,” Ingram said. “It’s great to hear that the leaders on this team are excited about me and what they expect me to do. It motivates to go be a dominant player."

As long as he gets to watch it from afar, I’m sure Rivers is all for it.

Chargers practice notes

August, 3, 2012
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SAN DIEGO – As expected, the team worked on the Wildcat some Friday. The Chargers will likely use it from time to time now that they have Ronnie Brown, the running back whom Miami used effectively in the formation, on the roster. San Diego coach Norv Turner said the team could use the formation three or four times a game depending on the opponent.
  • The Chargers hosted some replacement referees supplied by the league Friday, and are to work with replacements Saturday during their practice at Qualcomm Stadium. The regular officials are locked out due to a contract dispute with the league. Turner said the league has a “great plan” for the situation and believes everything will work out fine. What else is the guy supposed to say?
  • Linebacker Antwan Barnes got banged up, but he ended up being fine.
  • The San Diego receivers had a pretty nice day Friday as they showed their depth.

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