AFC West: Beanie Wells

The Denver Broncos’ release of linebacker D.J. Williams was merely a formality. It has been a foregone conclusion that Williams was on his way out in Denver.

Williams, a first-round pick in 2004, simply wore out his welcome. He was suspended for a total of nine games in 2012, and when he returned, he was merely a backup.

Wesley Woodyard received the chance to play full time thanks to Williams’ suspension. Williams had a solid overall career in Denver, but he had too many off–field problems for it be worthwhile to keep him.

Williams, 30, will likely get some interest around the league. Williams is very versatile, so he can play virtually any linebacker spot and could probably start for the next couple of years. A potential landing spot could be Oakland, because the Raiders need a linebacker and Williams played for Oakland coach Dennis Allen when Allen was the Broncos’ defensive coordinator in 2011. Also, Williams is from the Bay Area and could be interested in a return.

Denver also cut quarterback Caleb Hanie. Denver saved $6 million by cutting Williams and $1.5 million in cutting Hanie. The Broncos are still trying to cut back Elvis Dumervil's pay. If Dumervil doesn’t agree -- and he has been hesitating -- the pass-rusher could be released.

As for as Hanie goes, his release was expected. He was the No. 3 quarterback. The Broncos like second-year quarterback Brock Osweiler as Peyton Manning’s backup. Expect Denver to add a young, cheap No. 3 quarterback.

In other AFC West notes:

The Chiefs are reportedly interested in Seattle’s Jason Jones. He’d probably play inside in a 3-4 defense and be a rotational player.

Beanie Wells, cut by Arizona on Monday, fits the Chargers' mold for a running back. But I’m not sure we’d see a Ken Whisenhunt-Wells reunion.
Random thoughts on San Diego’s 34-31 win at Arizona on Saturday night:

For the first time in the preseason, the Chargers’ starters struggled. The first two preseason games were a lark. Saturday night, the Chargers were punched in the face a few times.

The San Diego defense, which played without Antonio Garay, Shaun Phillips and Larry English, was hit hard at times. It gave up an 80-yard pass play for a touchdown. Arizona starting quarterback Kevin Kolb threw for 205 yards and Arizona starting running back Beanie Wells had 63 yards rushing.

The Cardinals took a 17-3 lead with starters from both teams in the game. The Cardinals led 24-17 at the half.

San Diego’s offense struggled early. Quarterback Philip Rivers, who was nearly flawless in the first two games, threw an interception that was returned 34 yards for a score by rookie Patrick Peterson. The San Diego first-team offense did improve as the game went on. Rivers ended up throwing for 198 yards and two touchdowns on 18-of-28 passing. Starting receivers Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd both came up with some big plays.

Rivers said after the game that it was good for San Diego to experience some difficulty in the preseason after the easy start. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I don’t put much stock in the preseason. It’s all about getting situational experience. This game will benefit the Chargers.

Rookie Ryan Mathews showed his explosiveness with a 48-yard run. He finished with 69 yards on 10 carries.

Young inside linebacker Donald Butler continued his strong summer with five tackles.

Defensive lineman Vaughn Martin had a sack. He had two sacks last week.

Backup quarterback Billy Volek showed his worth by taking his team on the game-winning 90-yard drive. While the Chargers don’t want to think about playing without Rivers, they know they have one of the NFL’s best backups in Volek.

An interesting development occurred in our Stock Watch feature Tuesday.

While Denver rookie tailback Knowshon Moreno took a nosedive and appeared on the falling list, Arizona rookie running back Beanie Wells was rising.

It’s a tough time for Moreno. The fact that Wells is coming on strong doesn’t make it easier for him.

Denver considered drafting both running backs in April. It chose Moreno over Wells, taking the Georgia product with the No. 12 pick. Arizona took Wells with the No. 31 pick. Denver decided to go with Moreno because it thought he was a better all-around threat and he could be a game breaker.

While it’s early, Moreno hasn’t done much, especially in recent games. He was held to 42 yards on 19 carries against Oakland. The Raiders, who had the No. 30 run defense in the NFL, totally bottled up Moreno.

Moreno has just two runs over 20 yards in 224 carries and he hasn’t been good in short-yardage situations. He hasn’t been a total bust by any means. He does lead the AFC West with 879 yards. But he has not improved late in the season and he has not been explosive.

Wells, though, is heating up. The Ohio State product has 706 yards and is averaging 4.6 yards a carry compared to Moreno’s 3.9 per carry average.

It’s too early to say Denver made a mistake in selecting Moreno over Wells. But as the Stock Watch indicates, the two are going in different directions as the season winds down.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

ENGLEWOOD, Co. -- So much for all of those pressing defensive needs in Denver.

That's what the No. 18 pick is going to be.

In one of the early shockers of the draft, Denver took Georgia running Knowshon Moreno with the No. 12 pick. It wouldn't have been a huge shock if the Broncos took Moreno or Ohio State's Beanie Wells with the No. 18 if things fell into place.

But at No. 12?

With defensive players Brian Orakpo, Robert Ayers and Malcolm Jenkins all available, the Broncos turned to offense. The Broncos had the No. 2 overall offense last season and they were 29th on defense.

Moreno is the fourth running back added since Josh McDaniels took over in Denver. The Broncos signed veteran running backs Correll Buckhalter, J.J. Arrington and LaMont Jordan.

There is no doubt Moreno will become the featured back in Denver. It is also clear Denver will be a running offense in the post-Jay Cutler era. With quarterback Kyle Orton, acquired in the in the Cutler trade, the likely starter, Denver will try to pound the football and control the clock. That would both take pressure off of Orton and off of the rebuilding done.

Moreno is a good pick for Denver, but it was still unexpected that early in the draft.

AFC West draft questions

April, 24, 2009
4/24/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

On the eve of the NFL draft, here is an AFC West primer as we prepare for a busy weekend:

Will Kansas City trade down? The Chiefs have the No. 3 overall pick. The team would likely be interested in trading down for cost reasons. Many teams would probably want to move down but not many want to move up into the top five. If the Chiefs don't move down, they will likely take Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry. But that's the safe pick. New Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli likes to make splashes. So, his first draft move in Kansas City may not be by the book.

 
  Jody Gomez/US Presswire
  Will former USC QB Mark Sanchez fall to Denver at No. 12?

When will Denver take its quarterback? Denver will surely take a quarterback to begin the post-Jay Cutler era, but the question is when. The Broncos' workout with USC's Mark Sanchez this week was intriguing. If Sanchez is available at No. 12, Denver may be tempted to jump on him. Still, it is new Denver coach Josh McDaniels' tendency to take a quarterback in the late rounds because that's the way New England does it. McDaniels had success with late-round quarterbacks Tom Brady and Matt Cassel. McDaniels was enamored with quarterback Kevin O'Connell last year and New England took him in the third round. If Sanchez is not the guy in Denver, perhaps lower-round prospects such as Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, Texas A&M's Stephen McGee, Louisville's Hunter Cantwell or Michigan State's Brian Hoyer will be McDaniels' next project.

With Tony Gonzalez traded to Atlanta, will the Chiefs continue to trade veterans? If Kansas City is going to part with Brian Waters, Larry Johnson or Glenn Dorsey, it will likely be this weekend. I think Waters may be the most likely to go. Here's a deal I think would work: Waters to Buffalo for receiver/returner Roscoe Parrish. Buffalo has shopped Parrish. He'd fit in with the Chiefs, as would Waters in Buffalo.

Will the Chargers pick up a second-round choice? It will not be a surprise if the Chargers move down from the No. 16 pick. The idea would be to choose lower in the first round and pick up a second-rounder in the process. The Chargers don't currently have a second-round pick. If the Chargers manage to get a second-rounder, I could see them getting a defensive player in the first round and hoping a running back such as Connecticut's Donald Brown is available in the second round. He could be a bargain pickup and a future successor to LaDainian Tomlinson.

Will these names end up in the AFC West? Look for these names in the first round: Michael Crabtree, B.J. Raji, Rey Maualuga and Tyson Jackson. I'm predicting at least one of these four players will end up in the AFC West. All four players are being looked at by multiple teams in the division. Crabtree, a receiver from Texas Tech, could end up in Kansas City or Oakland. Raji, a defensive tackle from Boston College, could end up in any of the four AFC West cities (although it would be a shock if he fell to San Diego). Maualuga could be drafted by Denver or San Diego. Jackson could be taken by Kansas City (he'd be a huge reach at No. 3, though), Denver or San Diego.

Will the Raiders break their unlucky 7 streak? The Raiders have the No. 7 pick for the third time since 2005. The number hasn't been kind to Oakland. In 2005, Oakland traded the pick for Randy Moss, who was sent to New England two years later for a fourth-rounder. The next year, Oakland bypassed Cutler (despite a need for a quarterback) and took Michael Huff. Huff has moved from cornerback to safety in the NFL and has yet to make an impact.

Will the 3-4 defense rule the draft? With Denver and Kansas City transitioning to the scheme and San Diego already using it, expect this to be a trend this weekend. Players who fit the 3-4 scheme aren't easy to find, but it will be a goal of both Denver and Kansas City to try to find the correct pieces this weekend. Denver could benefit from Aaron Maybin and Brian Orakpo falling down the draft board if Raji and Jackson rise up it. All four players will fit the 3-4.

 Crabtree
 Maclin

Does Oakland like Crabtree or Maclin? I believe the Raiders want to take a receiver with their top pick. If Crabtree and Missouri's Jeremy Maclin are both on the board, it will be interesting to see how it plays out. Some people think Crabtree will be the choice, while others think Maclin will be the guy. Crabtree is considered to be a more complete player, but Maclin is a speedster. Crabtree has been compared to Larry Fitzgerald, whom the Raiders bypassed five years ago in favor of offensive lineman Robert Gallery with the No. 2 pick. Maclin has been compared to Cliff Branch, who was a star for the Raiders in the 1970s and 1980s.

Will San Diego take a standout defender? While the Chargers could use a running back and an offensive lineman, their greatest needs are on defense. Here are some names to keep an eye on: Maualuga, Jackson, Ohio State cornerback (he'd be a safety in San Diego) Malcolm Jenkins and Maybin. If Maybin, who could be a top-10 pick, is available, he would be a great fit in San Diego. With linebacker Shawne Merriman returning from a knee injury and Ron Rivera in control of the defense from the start of the season, the Chargers may be a top defender away from fielding an elite defense.

Could Chris "Beanie" Wells be headed to the AFC West? While it may be a mild surprise, it wouldn't be a shock if either San Diego or Denver (at No. 18) takes the Ohio State running back. It would be a luxury addition in both cities, but adding Wells could shake up the division offensively.

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