AFC West: Atari Bigby

The San Diego Chargers continue to make cuts, as they have jettisoned safety Atari Bigby.

This move is not a big surprise. Bigby, who had 79 tackles last season, was not considered a top starter. The Chargers probably will be able to easily find a replacement. In-house candidates Darrell Stuckey and Brandon Taylor are possibilities. One potential replacement could be former Arizona safety Adrian Wilson, who was cut Friday. Former Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt is now on San Diego’s staff.

On Thursday, San Diego cut linebacker Takeo Spikes. The Chargers also will likely cut defensive tackle Antonio Garay and left tackle Jared Gaither.

As for free agency, don’t be surprised if the team shows interest in Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers. He was in Indianapolis with new San Diego general manager Tom Telesco. The team will let starting cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Quentin Jammer test the market.

Chargers safety Bigby on I.R.

November, 27, 2012
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UPDATE: The Chargers put Bigby on the injured reserve Tuesday. They re-signed linebacker Bront Bird. He just completed a four-game NFL suspension.

U-T San Diego reports Chargers starting safety Atari Bigby will miss 3-5 weeks with a groin injury he suffered Sunday. There are five weeks left in the season. Rookie Brandon Taylor is expected to play a lot during this time. This is a great opportunity for a player the Chargers hope becomes a starter soon.

Bigby was quality free-agent pickup this season. He has fit in on a solid defense and he is the second leading tackler on San Diego’s roster.

In other AFC West news:

The Eagles cut pass-rusher Jason Babin. He is a viable pass-rusher for a 4-3 defensive team. Oakland badly needs a pass-rusher. But, at 3-8, I’m not sure Oakland would find it important to claim him and take on his contract. Denver could use Babin off the bench to spark an already outstanding pass-rush and it could be interested as well.

The Chargers will likely have another local television blackout for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati. Last Sunday’s loss to Baltimore was blacked out as well. The Chargers need to sell about 12,000 tickets for a sellout.
Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel told reporters Wednesday that coach Romeo Crennel has been around the offense more now that he's relinquished his title as defensive coordinator to linebackers coach Garry Gibbs.

“He’s been in our meetings a lot more this week," Cassel said. "I’ve seen him around and that’s been a little bit different from the first half of the season so far.”

Crennel clearly feels like he needs to be around the offense more. It will it matter for the 1-7 Chiefs? We will see.

In other AFC West news:

San Diego linebacker Antwan Barnes didn’t practice Wednesday with a hamstring problem. Left tackle Jared Gaither (groin), defensive end Corey Liuget (hamstring) and safely Atari Bigby (quad) were all limited Wednesday for San Diego.

Kansas City defensive end Glenn Dorsey is not practicing and I wouldn’t expect him to play at Pittsburgh on Monday night. He re-injured his calf at San Diego last week. It previously kept him out for several weeks.

CBSSports.com counts Detroit, Miami and Arizona among the teams interested in cornerback Stanford Routt, who was cut by Kansas City on Monday.

Moving on: San Diego Chargers

October, 29, 2012
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Here are some areas the San Diego Chargers need to focus on after a 7-6 loss at Cleveland on Sunday:

Recap: You have any fancy words for awful? Things are really, really bad for the Chargers. They have lost three straight games and losing to an outfit like the Browns shows how dire things are for the 3-4 Chargers. They are still very much in the thick of the AFC West race, but this team doesn’t have a lot to be excited about right now.

Biggest area to fix: Sloppiness. Yes, the game was played in bad weather, but the Chargers made one mistake after another. A Ryan Mathews fumble, a Robert Meachem dropped touchdown and an Atari Bigby dropped interception that would have been a touchdown were all examples of a team that is not mentally right.

Biggest area to build on: Look, it’s hard to find shine for this team right now. But anytime a defense holds an NFL offense to seven points, it is a positive. The problem is, the Chargers could only muster six points.

What to watch for: San Diego doesn’t have much time to feel sorry for itself. It hosts Kansas City on Thursday night. If the Chargers have any designs of showing it can be a playoff team, it must beat the Chiefs. Yes, we said the same things going into the Cleveland game.

Wrap-up: Browns 7, Chargers 6

October, 28, 2012
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A look at a bad day in bad weather for the nose-diving Chargers:

What it means: This was the Chargers' third straight loss. While blowing double-digit leads in the past two games to New Orleans and Denver hurt the Chargers enormously, this defeat offers its own pain. This was a winnable game against a poor team. Yet the Chargers -- who perhaps still haven’t gotten over seeing Denver score 35 unanswered points in the second half in Week 6 -- were completely flat Sunday. Yes, they can dig out of it, but this team is so down right now, a revival may be difficult.

Game-winning drive stalled: On their final drive of the game, the Chargers moved the ball well into Cleveland territory with their sights on winning the game on Nick Novak’s third field goal. However, the Chargers’ hopes ended following four straight incomplete passes by Philip Rivers.

Mathews fails again: In the end, San Diego running back Ryan Mathews had a nice day as he had 95 yards rushing on 24 carries. However, Mathews’ fumbling problem caught up to him again early in the game. Mathews has to find a way to stop fumbling. It is hurting his team. Mathews wasn’t the only Charger to fail, though. Robert Meachem dropped a potential touchdown and Atari Bigby dropped a potential interception return for a score. This was a team failure.

What’s next: The Chargers will try to bounce back at home Thursday against Kansas City. I envision many empty seats at Qualcomm Stadium.
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.
Weekend mail call:

Brad Seraphin from San Diego wants to know if I think San Diego Chargers linebacker Jonas Mouton will contribute this season after missing most of his rookie year with a shoulder injury.

Bill Williamson: He is a player the Chargers are excited about. I think he may be first looked at as a special teamer. The second-round pick last year missed a lot of time, so he is still learning. The future might be bright, but he is still a work in progress.

Derek from Oakland wants to know if I think Oakland Raiders safety Mike Mitchell is a bust.

BW: Bust is a harsh word. He surely was overdrafted. Al Davis stunned the league when he took Mitchell out of Ohio with the No. 47 pick in the 2009 draft. Many NFL teams had him rated as an undrafted free agent. There is no doubt he belongs in the league, but he wasn’t worthy of a second-round pick. He looks to be a career rotational guy and as a special teamer. He does have value, but he was overdrafted.

Michael from Sacramento wants to know what to expect from safety Atari Bigby in San Diego.

BW: I know the Chargers are really excited about him. They think he is going to be a good partner for Eric Weddle. Bigby, a free agent pickup from the Green Bay Packers, is a solid pro who knows how to play the game. The Chargers drafted LSU’s Brandon Taylor in the third round and they like him. But they are comfortable right now with Bigby.
Here are some highlights of our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

Chad from Denver: Hey Bill, looking forward to seeing you at Broncos camp again. The Broncos have been criticized by some for not addressing their DT position, even Derek Wolfe is projected more as a power end. Is this an indication they feel good about a player like Sealver Siliga, who they have developed on their practice squad?

Bill Williamson: I think Wolfe will bounce back and forth. I think the unit is going to be OK, It's not great, but it's OK. There is some depth there. Bannan and Warren will help. As for Siliga, I hate relying on unproven players, but he has looked good so far. But he has to show it in the preseason. Ben Garland is someone to watch. Again, there are no great anchors here, but there are enough capable bodies.

Kansas City

Tae from Dallas: With everyone bashing Cassel, what will he need to do in order to have a "successful" season?

BW: He has to work with what he has, not turn the ball over and rely on his running game ... and get to the playoffs.

Oakland

Johnny from RI: Bill, do you think the Raiders change to the WCO is less about Palmer and more about surrounding cast, including Pryor? Do you think Palmer's knee will hold up to the needed mobility to run this offense effectively?

BW: It all starts with the starting quarterback and Allen's decision to hire Knapp is no different. Allen told me in an interview that he thought Knapp and Palmer would be a perfect pair and that's one of the reasons why he hired Knapp.

San Diego

Charger boy from San Diego: What’s the news on safety Brandon Taylor is he going to contribute and how does he look in practice?

BW: He is a player to watch. I think he has a chance to be a stand out. Right now, though, the Chargers like free-agent pickup Atari Bigby as a starter. Taylor should get some playing time and he should play on special teams. But I expect Bigby to start this year. He has impressed the team this spring.
We continue to do our positional rankings with a deep secondary group:

1. Champ Bailey, Denver: The future Hall of Famer continues to play at a high level.

2. Eric Berry, Kansas City: I expect him to be a star after injuring his knee in Week 1 last year.

3. Eric Weddle, San Diego: Weddle is becoming a premier playmaker.

4. Brandon Flowers, Kansas City: One of the better cornerbacks in the NFL. An unheralded standout.

5. Tyvon Branch, Oakland: He is a tackle machine. The Raiders will do what it takes to keep him for the long run.

6. Stanford Routt, Kansas City: Now that he is a No. 2 cornerback again, expect his play to increase.

7. Tracy Porter, Denver: The Broncos think they got a steal in free agency.

8. Quentin Jammer, San Diego: The Chargers need a bounce-back season from Jammer.

9. Michael Huff, Oakland: He makes a lot of plays and he gives up a lot of plays.

10. Antoine Cason, San Diego: A solid No. 2 corner.

11. Kendrick Lewis, Kansas City: Many scouts think he has a real future.

12. Michael Adams, Denver: He should be a solid addition to a solid secondary.

13. Ronald Bartell, Oakland: The Raiders have to hope his neck issues are a thing of the past.

14. Atari Bigby, San Diego: The Chargers like what they see from this veteran so far.

15. Drayton Florence, Denver: He brings solid experience to the nickel position.

16. Shawntae Spencer, Oakland: Let’s see if he can fend off the youngsters for the starting gig.

17. Quinton Carter, Denver: I think the safety has a real future.

18. Javier Arenas, Kansas City: There’s a place in this terrific secondary for Arenas.

19. Chris Harris, Denver: The undrafted free-agent find in 2011 is a fine player.

20. Matt Giordano, Oakland: He’s limited, but he can make some plays in a pinch.

21. Mike Mitchell, Oakland: I would like to see this former second-round pick make more of an impact.

22. Brandon Taylor, San Diego: The Chargers may have something in this third-round pick.

23. Rahim Moore, Denver: He has to regain his confidence after a shaky rookie year.

24. Marcus Gilchrist, San Diego: He has potential, but he’s still learning.

25. Darrell Stuckey, San Diego: He will have to compete for playing time.

26. Chimdi Chekwa, Oakland: I think he could push Spencer for a starting spot.

27. Jalil Brown, Kansas City: He has some potential.

28. DeMarcus Van Dyke, Oakland: he has to show he is more than just fast.

29. DeQuan Menzie, Kansas City: Late-round pick knows how to play the game.
Maybe I am just too harsh.

Or maybe, just maybe, all four AFC West teams must hope and pray their starting quarterbacks don’t get hurt.

This week, our blog network participated in a project ranking the confidence rating on a scale of 1 to 100, with 100 being the most confident. The complete NFL poll is here. I don’t have much confidence in any of the AFC West backup quarterbacks, who are all new to their teams this season.

The highest rating I gave was to Oakland and Kansas City, with a rating of 35. I gave Denver a 30 and San Diego a 15. All four teams were in the bottom nine of the NFL, and San Diego was the second lowest in the NFL.

I stand by my rankings. I love the starters in the AFC West, but they must stay healthy or their teams will be in trouble.

In other AFC West news:
  • The Chargers are hopeful veteran free-agent safety Atari Bigby can fill a gaping hole on their defense.
  • The Chargers signed former University of San Diego tight end/fullback Patrick Doyle. He tried out for the team last month. At best, he could be a practice-squad candidate this year.
  • Former Denver linebacker Nate Webster was sentenced to 12 years in prison in Ohio. He was convicted of having sex with a minor.

AFC West free-agency assessment

March, 29, 2012
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AFC Assessments: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Denver Broncos

Key additions: QB Peyton Manning, CB Tracy Porter, TE Joel Dreessen, TE Jacob Tamme, S Mike Adams, QB Caleb Hanie, WR Andre Caldwell.

Key losses: DT Brodrick Bunkley, WR, Eddie Royal, TE Daniel Fells, QB Tim Tebow, QB Brady Quinn, TE Dante Rosario.

Did they get better? The Broncos added Manning and that move changes the course of the entire division. Denver is instantly the favorite to win the AFC West again because of this addition. Yes, there are risks as the 36-year-old Manning missed the entire 2011 season with a neck injury that required several surgeries. Denver is convinced Manning is fully recovered and has been cleared to play.

If the 2012 Manning is anything like the Manning we last saw, Denver will be in good shape and the offense will be dangerous. The key is on defense. It has improved greatly and the Porter and Adams additions should help, even while losing Bunkley will hurt. Overall, this team made huge strides in the offseason.

What’s next: Denver’s biggest need areas are at defensive tackle (the Broncos may need two), running back, safety, receiver and linebacker. However, much of that need is for depth purposes.

Denver’s only true glaring hole is at defensive tackle. Expect the Broncos to use their No. 25 pick on the position. I wouldn’t be surprised if the team’s second-round pick is used on a running back unless the Broncos like one of the remaining veterans on the market.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key additions: CB Stanford Routt, RT Eric Winston, RB Peyton Hillis, TE Kevin Boss, QB Brady Quinn.

Key losses: CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, FB Le'Ron McClain, LB Demorrio Williams.

Did they get better? Had it not been for the Manning blockbuster, everybody would be taking about what the Chiefs did. I think the Chiefs’ work in free agency was among the best five in the NFL.

Instead of giving quarterback Matt Cassel serious competition, the Chiefs further committed to him by giving him some strong pieces on offense. Hillis will team with Jamaal Charles to make a dangerous running tandem. Winston is one of the league’s better right tackles and Boss and Tony Moeaki will give opposing defenses fits in double tight end sets. This will be a varied offense that will have many weapons. The Chiefs are solid on defense and Routt is a veteran who is comparable to Carr, but more experienced and is less expensive.

What’s next: The Chiefs could use a nose tackle, help at inside linebacker, secondary depth and offensive line depth. They will get a good player with the 11th pick and I think they will try to solidify the middle of the defensive line with someone like Memphis’ Dontari Poe. If the Chiefs can add an impact defender with that pick, it will complete an outstanding offseason.

Oakland Raiders

Key additions: G Mike Brisiel, CB Ron Bartell, CB Shawntae Spencer, CB Pat Lee.

Key losses: LB Kamerion Wimbley, RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, CB Stanford Routt, TE Kevin Boss, DT John Henderson, RB Rock Cartwright, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, CB Chris Johnson.

Did they get better? It’s difficult to argue this team improved. Just look at all the losses. It’s a pure fact of numbers, Oakland lost much more than it brought in. This team has more questions than it did at the end of last season and it has more holes. With limited cap space and the fact Oakland doesn’t pick in the draft until No. 95, the Raiders will have a difficult time adding any more impact players. Depth can be an issue.

I understand why this has happened. The new Oakland regime had to get things in order, and sometimes, before a team can make major steps forward as an organization, it may have to take a step back. There is still a lot of talent in Oakland, but it is clear the other three teams made more impactful additions.

What’s next: Oakland will be challenged to find impact players, but it will need to add depth at several places after finding a starting outside linebacker. Oakland needs depth at linebacker, the secondary, offensive line, running back and at quarterback. I think we will see Oakland be patient and add at spots all the way up into the season.

San Diego Chargers

Key additions: WR Robert Meachem, LB Jarret Johnson, WR Eddie Royal, FB Le’Ron McClain, QB Charlie Whitehurst, S Atari Bigby, TE Dante Rosario, LB Demorrio Williams

Key losses: WR Vincent Jackson, RB Mike Tolbert, G Kris Dielman, S Steve Gregory, QB Billy Volek.

Did they get better? I’ve talked to a lot of scouts who believe the Chargers improved. The truth is they lost two good players in Jackson and Tolbert and so did not improve as much as Denver and Kansas City did. But the Chargers did get creative and added a lot of pieces for the price it would have cost to keep Jackson. They also retained key offensive linemen Nick Hardwick and Jared Gaither. Meachem and Royal give quarterback Philip Rivers some interesting weapons.

Johnson will help the defense and he will make it tougher. The Chargers may have gotten a little deeper while losing some star power.

What’s next: The Chargers still haven’t addressed their greatest need outside of keeping its offensive line intact. San Diego will no doubt use its No. 18 pick on the best available pass-rusher to help Johnson is not a great pass-rusher.

Other needs include a big backup running back, offensive line depth and some more depth in all layers of the defense.

San Diego news and notes

March, 16, 2012
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Now we know why the Chargers brought back Charlie Whitehurst.

The San Diego Union-Tribune is reporting that the Chargers (who signed safety Atari Bigby on Friday night) cut longtime No. 2 quarterback Billy Volek. Whitehurst will now back up starter Philip Rivers. The paper reported the Chargers saved $750,000 in roster bonus by cutting Volek.

Denver, Kansas City and Oakland are all looking for a backup and the experienced Volek could interest all three.

Two years ago, San Diego traded Whitehurst, then its No. 3 quarterback, to Seattle in a deal that moved the Chargers up 20 spots in the second round of the 2011 draft. San Diego also received a third-round pick last season. Seattle had hoped Whitehurst was their quarterback of the future. Whitehurst started four games, threw 155 passes and had three touchdowns in Seattle.

Meanwhile, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Chargers signed Bigby, who formerly played for Green Bay and, most recently, Seattle. The six-year veteran has started 35 NFL games. The Chargers would like to draft a safety soon, but Bigby will be in the rotation. He replaces Steve Gregory, who signed with New England.

Meanwhile, San Diego running back Mike Tolbert is visiting another team Saturday and there is strong chance he will sign there. The Chargers could turn to Kansas City’s Jackie Battle as a backup if Tolbert leaves. Tolbert has also visited the Chiefs.
Occasionally, us blog networkers come together and have a brainstorming session.

This week, we pitched ideas about the best bets from our receptive divisions on the restricted free agent market. The following are some restricted free agents who could fit in the AFC West:

Denver

Rob Sims, guard, Seattle, fourth-round tender: He weighs 312 pounds. Denver wants to get bigger on the interior line.

Marcus Spears, defensive end, Dallas, second-round tender: He’d be a solid addition at end in Denver’s 3-4 scheme.

Kansas City

Atari Bigby, safety, Green Bay, second-round tender: Bigby is solid and the Chiefs, who have two second-round picks, need help at safety.

Domenik Hixon, receiver/returner, New York Giants, second-round tender: He could help Kansas City on offense and special teams.

Leon Washington, running back, returner, New York Jets, second-round tender: If healthy, he could be a nice fit.

Oakland

Barry Cofield, defensive tackle, New York Giants, second-round tender: He’d reunite former Giants line coach Mike Waufle in Oakland. I like this fit.

Troy Smith, quarterback, Baltimore, fifth-round tender: He is likely going to be on the move. Why not reunite him with Hue Jackson in Oakland and throw him in the quarterback competition?

San Diego

Jerious Norwood, running back, Atlanta, second-round tender: He has big talent. San Diego needs a running back badly. The only hitch is the Chargers may rather use their second-round pick on a player from a deep rookie running back class.

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