AFC West: Brian Dawkins

Denver intelligence report

August, 30, 2012
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We received our NFL team-by-team preview pages for every NFL team Thursday.

In the next hour, I will post our AFC West intelligence in alphabetical order, starting new with Denver. Here is Denver’s team page:

Five things you need to know about the Broncos:

1. All-in on Manning: To a person in this organization, everyone is on board with the Peyton Manning Experience. The confidence in Denver is sky-high. The Broncos went through a difficult time toward the end of the Mike Shanahan era and during the disastrous 23-month Josh McDaniels era. But with the combination of respected second-year coach John Fox and Manning, there is an air of professionalism and expectation in Denver that has been unmatched for years.

2. The Broncos feel focused on defense: The Broncos made defensive progress last year in Fox's first season as coach and in Dennis Allen's first season as a defensive coordinator. Denver went from No. 32 in the NFL in defense in 2010-11 to No. 20 last season. Some would think the loss of Allen to Oakland as head coach would be a negative for the Broncos, especially because the Broncos are now on their seventh defensive coordinator in seven years. However, that is not the case because Fox brought in former Jacksonville head coach Jack Del Rio to replace Allen. Del Rio was Fox's defensive coordinator in Carolina 10 years ago. The Broncos respect and like Allen. He did a good job in Denver. But the Broncos are very comfortable with the Fox-Del Rio defensive leadership. They don't feel like they took a step backward.

3. Great locker room: The Broncos saw one of the great leaders in NFL history retire when safety Brian Dawkins hung 'em up in the offseason. However, the Broncos actually will have more leadership this season. Of course, Manning brings a priceless amount of leadership to the offense. There's not a better offensive leader in the game. On defense, Denver signed linebacker Keith Brooking and safety Jim Leonhard. Both are role players, but both have strong leadership capabilities. The defense was already in good shape with cornerback Champ Bailey leading the group. But Brooking and Leonhard give Denver an abundance of leadership -- and you can never have enough.

4. Hillman a key: The Broncos expect rookie running back Ronnie Hillman to be a big part of the offense. The third-round pick is explosive and can help in the running and receiving games. Fox has compared Hillman to a Reggie Bush or Darren Sproles-type player. He should be a good complement to the more rugged Willis McGahee. Expect Manning to try to utilize Hillman often out of the backfield.

5. Middle of defense is vital: The Broncos are strong on the edges of the defense. But they must show they are improved in the middle -- at defensive tackle, middle linebacker and safety. Denver is confident it has improved in those areas. It better have, because that's where stopping the run starts. The Broncos will be fine in pass coverage, but the defense will wear down if the run defense isn't solidified.
Keith Brooking would like to end his NFL career the way he started it -- in the Super Bowl.

This time, though, he’s on John Elway’s side instead of against him. Making a run at the Super Bowl was one of the reasons the 15-season veteran said he signed with the Broncos. Brookings was a rookie with Atlanta in 1998 when Elway quarterbacked Denver to a win over the Falcons in the Super Bowl. Elway is now the leader of the Broncos and he made the decision to sign Brookings.

“That’s the first thing I mentioned to Elway,” Brookings said Monday. “That’s the first time I’ve seen him since then pretty close up. I mentioned that to him first thing today, I was like ‘By the way I haven’t forgotten '98.'"

Denver hopes Brookings can help them get to the same point. Brookings, 37, will provide reserve help at middle and weakside linebacker. I think this signing is solid.

Brooking is a tremendous leader in the mold of recently retired safety Brian Dawkins, so he will provide value. He can spell the starter and help in some situations. He is good insurance for the six-game suspension of weakside linebacker D.J. Williams to start the season.
As part of their front office and scouting restructuring, the Oakland Raiders have formally announced several new appointments.

Here are new positions, in alphabetical order, as relayed by the team: Teddy Atlas, scouting coordinator; Calvin Branch, college scout; Joey Clinkscales, director of player personnel; Zack Crockett, college scout; Tom Delaney, director of football administration; Shaun Herock, director of college scouting; Von Hutchins, pro scout; Brad Kaplan, college scout; Larry Marmie, pro scout; Mickey Marvin, college scout; David McCloughan, college scout; Raleigh McKenzie, college scout, Trey Scott, college scout; and Dane Vandernat, pro scout.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Chiefs will visit with former Miami safety Yeremiah Bell. The Chiefs are looking for depth at the spot. They recently visited with veteran safety O.J. Atogwe.

The Rams signed two AFC West players Tuesday when they inked Kansas City free-agent tackle Barry Richardson and former Denver linebacker Mario Haggan. Neither was in his former team’s plans.

Recently retired Denver safety Brian Dawkins will appear on ESPN’s "NFL Live" on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

UPDATE: As expected, the Raiders signed fullback Owen Schmitt.

He played for Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Seattle. He is a hard-nosed player, who has a chance to make the team. Restricted free-agent Marcel Reece is and still will be the starter. He has yet to report to the team. Perhaps this minor heat will persuade Reece to join the team.
Brian Dawkins will be remembered as one of the few strong moves of the Josh McDaniels era in Denver.

Dawkins was signed by McDaniels on the first day of free agency in 2009. It was McDaniels’ first major move in Denver and it worked out well.

Just as he was in Philadelphia, Dawkins instantly became Denver’s spirited and vocal leader. He was the most respected player in Denver’s locker room for the past three years.

Monday, as expected, he announced his retirement. On the field, this move really won’t impact the Broncos. Dawkins is 38 and he had a serious neck injury last season. The Broncos didn’t expect him to be back.

When they brought him back for the 2011 season, the in-house thinking was that it would be for one more year. The Broncos drafted Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter last year and signed Mike Adams as a free agent this year. They could draft another safety in the mid-rounds this week.

The Broncos had moved on from Dawkins.

Still, he will be remembered for his impact and zeal he brought to Denver.

Dawkins will very likely end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and he deserves to be inducted. Ultimately, Dawkins will be remembered for his special 13-year stay with the Eagles. But there is no doubt he made an impact in Denver.
Denver coach John Fox just released a statement on the retirement of Denver safety Brian Dawkins. I will be back soon with some thoughts on Dawkins leaving the game.

Here is Fox’s statement:

“Brian Dawkins is one of the best to ever play the game, a future Hall of Famer who changed the way his position is played. In many ways, he helped my job as a coach with his great leadership and preparation. He brought so much to the table, and was such an enormous asset to our football team.

“His contributions go far beyond the wins, interceptions, sacks and Pro Bowls he accumulated during his career. Brian is the definition of class, and is what you want in a leader. I know our players, coaches, fans and so many within the National Football League feel the same way.

“I competed against Brian for many years with the Giants and coached him once in the Pro Bowl, but to be around him every day for a season was truly special. I’m not sure there was a more respected guy in our building than Brian. He knows defense, he knows football, and he knows what it takes to win. I’ve got the utmost admiration for him as both a player and person.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege to coach Brian. Although I will miss the positive impact he had on our team, I congratulate Brian on a tremendous career, and wish him and his family all the best going forward.”
The Broncos’ first foray into free agency wasn’t the big hit they were waiting for, but it does fill a hole in Denver.

The Broncos agreed to a two-year deal with Cleveland safety Mike Adams, who fills Denver’s need for a veteran safety.

Adams has a chance to start for Denver. He played 77 percent of the defensive snaps for the Browns last season. With Brian Dawkins likely not returning -- Denver isn't expected to bring him back if he doesn’t retire -- Adams gives the Broncos much-needed experience at safety.

The team drafted Rahim Moore and Quinton Carter last season. Moore began the season as a starter, but he regressed. By the end of the season, Carter was by far the better player. The team still has hopes for Moore, but Adams offers insurance if either youngster struggles.

In other AFC West safety news:

Steve Gregory, formerly of San Diego, agreed to terms with New England. Gregory was an injury replacement for Bob Sanders last year. Gregory is probably a bit underrated, and his departure will have the Chargers looking for a partner for Eric Weddle early in the upcoming NFL draft.

Alabama’s Mark Barron and Notre Dame’s Harrison Smith are possibilities for the Chargers in the draft.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports the Washington Redskins have landed safety Brandon Meriweather.

Denver is looking for a veteran safety with Brian Dawkins considering retirement. Meriweather did visit with Denver. The Broncos also visited with Cleveland’s Mike Adams.

Schefter reports former Seattle cornerback Marcus Trufant will visit the Broncos on Friday.

The Broncos have otherwise been quiet in free agency -- despite having $38 million in cap room -- as they wait for Peyton Manning to make a decision.

Meanwhile, San Diego's four-year deal with left tackle Jared Gaither includes an $8 million signing bonus. His 2012 contract is fully guaranteed.

AFC West defensive backs news

March, 13, 2012
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Denver will visit with Chicago free-agent safety Brandon Meriweather and Kansas City cornerback Brandon Carr will visit the Dallas Cowboys.

Meriweather was cut by New England last season. He played in 11 games and had four starts for the Bears. I don’t think he would be an overly expensive pickup for Denver is he signs. The Broncos are looking for a veteran safety with Brian Dawkins considering retirement.

Dallas has been considered a top landing spot for Carr. There is little chance he will return to the Chiefs. The Chiefs signed former Oakland cornerback Stanford Routt last month.

AFC West team needs

March, 9, 2012
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Michael BushKelley L Cox/US PresswireRaiders running back Michael Bush could be a good fit for the rival Broncos.
Offseason movement starts Tuesday, when the free-agent signing period begins. Let’s take a look at the top needs of each team in the AFC West in free agency and in the draft:

Denver Broncos

1. Defensive line: The Broncos could use a stout defensive tackle even if Brodrick Bunkley returns. They need a tone setter. Denver hasn’t taken a defensive tackle in the first round since 1997 when it selected Trevor Pryce. Perhaps this is the time that streak ends.

Possible fits: The Dolphins' Paul Soliai, Memphis’ Dontari Poe, Mississippi State's Fletcher Cox, Michigan State's Jerel Worthy.

2. Secondary: Denver is too old at cornerback and too young at safety, especially with Brian Dawkins likely not returning. I think the Broncos will look to add to their secondary.

Possible fits: The Redskins' LaRon Landry, Boise State’s George Iloka, Alabama's Dre Kirkpatrick.

3. Running back: The Broncos want to add a running back to pair with Willis McGahee and will address this need either in free agency or early in the draft.

Possible fits: The Raiders' Michael Bush, the Chargers' Mike Tolbert, University of Miami's Lamar Miller, Virginia Tech's David Wilson, Boise State's Doug Martin.

Scouts Inc. take: "I also think that they need a lot of secondary help overall. I also think they really need a QB, but that is probably a discussion for a different day."
-- Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc.

Kansas City Chiefs

1. Offensive line: The Chiefs need a tackle. If they go for a left tackle, they can move Branden Albert to right tackle or they can get one. They might also be interested in a guard.

Possible fits: The Saints’ Carl Nicks, the Dolphins' Vernon Carey, the Eagles' King Dunlap, Stanford's Jonathan Martin, Iowa's Riley Reiff.

2. Nose tackle: The Chiefs have the makings of a strong defense, but they are missing a nasty nose tackle. They need to find one this offseason.

Possible fits: The Dolphins' Kendall Langford, the Ravens' Cory Redding, Soliai, Cox or Poe

3. Inside linebacker: The Chiefs could use one more standout linebacker to flourish in Romeo Crennel’s 3-4 defense.

Possible fits: Boston College's Luke Kuechly, Alabama's Dont'a Hightower

Scouts Inc. take: "Right tackle is far and away their biggest need. I would say nose tackle is second."
-- Matt Williamson

Oakland Raiders

1. Cornerback: The Raiders currently don’t have any starting-quality cornerbacks on the roster.

Possible fits: The Saints' Tracy Porter, the 49ers' Carlos Rogers, the Cardinals' Richard Marshall, the Jaguars' William Middleton, Vanderbilt's Casey Hayward.

2. Linebacker: I get the sense that the new Oakland regime would like to find at least one new starter. I think they can get a cornerstone linebacker who can set the tone for the defense.

Possible fits: The Vikings' Erin Henderson, the Seahawks' Leroy Hill, the Bengals' Manny Lawson, West Virginia's Bruce Irvin.

3. Offensive line: The Raiders' offensive line is a work in progress and they may be looking for at least one new
starter.

Possible fits: Texans' center Chris Myers, Texans' guard Mike Brisiel, Miami of Ohio's Brandon Brooks.

Scouts Inc. take: "Cornerback is far and away their biggest need. I would put right tackle and interior offensive line second."
-- Matt Williamson.

San Diego Chargers

1. Linebacker: The Chargers desperately need a game-changing linebacker. It will be a top priority in the first round of the draft and in free agency.

Possible fits: The Texans' Mario Williams, Alabama’s Courtney Upshaw, USC's Nick Perry, Illinois' Whitney Mercilus.

2. Defensive line: The Chargers like youngsters Corey Liuget, Vaughn Martin and Cam Thomas, but could use a stud veteran in the middle.

Possible fits: The Seahawks' Red Bryant, Redding, Soliai, Washington’s Alameda Ta'amu.

3. Offensive line: The Chargers may have to make wholesale changes on the line because of Kris Dielman's retirement, and because center Nick Hardwick and left tackle Jared Gaither will be free agents.

Possible fits: Nicks, Carey, Stanford’s Martin, Stanford's David DeCastro, Wisconsin's Peter Konz.

Scouts Inc. take: "To me, the Chargers need a lot. Offensive line is a massive need. Some receivers would be nice if Vincent Jackson leaves. On defense, I think they could use a little something at every level, but their biggest two spots would be at outside linebacker and strong safety."
-- Matt Williamson.

AFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 7, 2012
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AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Denver Broncos

Key free agents: K Matt Prater (franchised), DT Brodrick Bunkley, S Brian Dawkins, TE Daniel Fells, FB Spencer Larsen, WR Eddie Royal, QB Brady Quinn, DT Marcus Thomas, LB Wesley Woodyard, P Britton Colquitt (restricted).

Where they stand: The Broncos will have plenty of salary-cap room. For a team that went from 4-12 with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to winning the AFC West and a playoff game in John Fox’s first season as coach, the Broncos are in position to improve through free agency. With Prater franchised, the team’s only priority unrestricted free agent is Bunkley.

What to expect: Don’t expect a huge spending spree. The Broncos are cash conscious and I think the franchise is still recovering from some undisciplined spending during the Mike Shanahan era that ended in 2008. We will see the Broncos try to add several pieces at lower prices. Denver could address needs at safety, running back, receiver, tight end, linebacker and quarterback. Keep an eye on players such as Washington safety LaRon Landry, Seattle tight end John Carlson, quarterbacks Chad Henne (Miami), Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh) or Josh Johnson (Tampa), running backs Michael Bush (Oakland) and Mike Tolbert (San Diego), and defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene Cincinnati.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key free agents: WR Dwayne Bowe (franchised), CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, RB Jackie Battle, LB Jovan Belcher, S Jon McGraw, C Casey Wiegmann, RB Thomas Jones, DE Wallace Gilberry, DT Kelly Gregg

Where they stand: The Chiefs are in great shape on cap space even after signing cornerback Stanford Routt and franchising Bowe. They have already done a nice job in free agency with these two moves and have a good, young roster. Kansas City can become a serious playoff contender with the right moves. It is likely Carr will leave in free agency, but the Chiefs should be able to re-sign most of their other free agents if they wish.

What to expect: I’m not sure we will see the Chiefs break the bank for any of the super-hot free agents, but I expect them to do some significant shopping. I think we could see Kansas City look for help at nose tackle, linebacker, safety, tackle, running back and quarterback. Of course, the intrigue could start if the team gets in on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. But they could also look at several other quarterbacks, including Orton, Henne, Jason Campbell (Oakland) or even Quinn. They could also be in the mix for Miami nose tackle Paul Soliai, Saints guard Carl Nicks and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (New England), Bush and Tolbert.

Oakland Raiders

Key free agents: S Tyvon Branch (franchised), RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, LB Quentin Groves, C Samson Satele, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, FB Marcel Reece (restricted).

Where they stand: The Raiders are one of the few teams that must get under the salary cap. Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently acknowledged the team has work to do. The Raiders have some contracts that can be easily restructured, but they also may have to cut some players, particularly on defense. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and defensive tackle John Henderson are among the top candidates.

What to expect: The Raiders likely face some limitations once they get under the cap, but they can add two or three starting-quality players under the right circumstances. Their primary needs are on defense, starting at cornerback and linebacker. The offensive line could be upgraded as well. I think they can be in on the second wave of cornerbacks. A player to watch is New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter, who previously played for Allen. There are some solid second-tier cornerbacks Oakland could be interested in other than Porter. There will be some good players available on both sides of the ball after the initial wave of free agency for short-term deals. Expect the Raiders to do some bargain picking during that time. I think Oakland will be interested in signing several of its free agents, but I expect Bush and Campbell will leave.

San Diego Chargers

Key free agents: WR Vincent Jackson, C Nick Hardwick, RB Tolbert, DT Antonio Garay, OT Jared Gaither, FB Jacob Hester.

Where they stand: The Chargers will be in decent shape and they are getting even better after cutting Luis Castillo, the retirement of guard Kris Dielman and the expected release of tackle Marcus McNeill. But San Diego still has a lot of work to do. They have the most priority free agents of any team in the division. Signing Jackson, Hardwick, Gaither, Tolbert and Garay will be a challenge.

What to expect: The Chargers will likely stick to their usual plan and concentrate first on their own free agents. But they also have other needs and they will likely spend more in free agency than they have done before under general manager A.J. Smith. I get the sense from some agents that the Chargers may spend wildy in an attempt to win back the fan base’s trust after the unpopular contract extensions for Smith and coach Norv Turner. The pair were brought back even after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. I also get the sense from inside the organization, however, that the Chargers will not act out of desperation. Look for the team to consider pass-rushers, nose tackles, safeties and offensive linemen if Hardwick and Gaither aren’t brought back. A receiver will also become a major need if Jackson goes. The Colts' Reggie Wayne could be an option in that case. A running back such as Cadillac Williams (St. Louis) reportedly will be in the mix if Tolbert walks. Soliai could interest the team as well. Chicago special teams ace Corey Graham may also be a target. If the Chargers want to make a huge splash, they could try to get in on Houston pass-rusher Mario Williams, who is widely considered the best player on the market.

Oakland continues to add to staff

February, 12, 2012
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Johnny Lynn is Oakland’s new defensive backs coach. He worked with new Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver in San Francisco. Lynn was recently fired by Philadelphia.

New Oakland coach Dennis Allen has hired several coaches on this staff who were fired from their last job. That doesn’t necessarily mean he is hiring bad coaches. This is a tough business and if you’re a coach, you are very likely going to be fired at some point in your career.

Fox Sports reports former interim Tulane head coach Mark Hutson will coach the Raiders’ tight ends.

In other AFC West news:

Sports Illustrated reports that Richard Seymour’s full $15 million contract for 2012 has already kicked in. Thus, he is not a candidate to be cut in Oakland.

In an Insider piece, Mel Kiper looks at how badly Denver needs to replace 38-year-old safety Brian Dawkins.

The Chargers hired Byron Storer as special teams assistant. He played under San Diego special teams coach Rich Bisaccia in Tampa Bay.

New York Knicks’ sudden star Jeremy Lin said he draws inspiration from Tim Tebow.

AFC West retirement watch

February, 9, 2012
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In the first week of the NFL offseason, ESPN.com’s Hot Read is a look at how players deal with deciding whether to retire or not.

In her usual deft style, Elizabeth Merrill takes the reader through the struggles that players and their families go through as they try to figure out whether or not to hang them up.

There are some players in the AFC West who are going through this process now. Let’s take a look at a few:

Denver safety Brian Dawkins

Comment: Dawkins has said he will decide soon on his future. He is 38 and has dealt with a neck injury. If Dawkins wants to come back in a limited role, I could see the Broncos having interest in having him on the team for one more season.

Kansas City center Casey Wiegmann

Comment: Wiegmann, 38, has considered retirement the past few seasons and he has always come back for one more season. It could happen again. The word is, though, Wiegmann may take his time on his decision. He is still playing at a high level and he has played more than 11,000 straight snaps.

San Diego guard Kris Dielman

Comment: Dielman was considering retirement after suffering serious aftereffects of a concussion that ended his season prematurely last season. The UT San Diego has reported there are indications Dielman will return in 2012.

San Diego center Nick Hardwick

Comment: Hardwick is just 30 and he is a free agent who is playing at a high level. I’d be surprised if he hangs them up.

San Diego tackle Marcus McNeill

Comment: McNeill, 28, wants to play but he is dealing with serious neck issues. The UT San Diego reported that he is expected to be cut next month because he isn’t expected to be cleared medically by the time the Chargers owe him a huge bonus. Perhaps McNeill will resume his career, but the odds are it will not be in San Diego.

Brian Dawkins hasn't decided future

February, 3, 2012
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Denver safety Brian Dawkins told the Denver Post it will be the Broncos or nothing in 2012. Dawkins, 38, hasn’t decided if he will retire or not. But if he does play one more season, Dawkins said it will be with the Broncos.

Dawkins has played the past three seasons with Denver and he is the team’s unquestioned leader. Dawkins said he will discuss his future with the Broncos soon.

He missed all but one quarter in the team’s final five games because of a neck injury. I could see a scenario where the Broncos would want Dawkins back in a limited role for one more season if he wants to play.

Pro Bowl primer

January, 27, 2012
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There have been several changes to the AFC Pro Bowl team since the team was announced originally last month. Here is an updated list of AFC West players who will be playing in the game Sunday in Honolulu:

DENVER

CB Champ Bailey

LT Ryan Clady

S Brian Dawkins

LB Elvis Dumervil

RB Willis McGahee

LB Von Miller

KANSAS CITY

LB Tamba Hali

LB Derrick Johnson

OAKLAND

LS Jon Condo

K Sebastian Janikowski

P Shane Lechler

DL Richard Seymour

SAN DIEGO

TE Antonio Gates

WR Vincent Jackson

RB Ryan Mathews

QB Philip Rivers

S Eric Weddle

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