AFC West: Brian Orakpo

Already this season, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning has faced his younger brother, Giants quarterback Eli Manning, and has made his first visit to Indianapolis as an opposing player.

So, what's another reunion? Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan will stand on a sideline inside Sports Authority Field at Mile High for the first time since the Broncos fired him following the 2008 season. That ended a 14-year tenure as the head coach, which included two Super Bowl wins with current Broncos executive vice president of football operations John Elway as his quarterback.

The Broncos are 6-1, having suffered their first loss of the season against the Colts in Week 7. The Redskins (2-4) have won two of their last three after an 0-3 start. ESPN.com Redskins reporter John Keim and Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold break down this week's game:

Legwold: John, we'll get to the football in a minute. Sunday's game is essentially unprecedented in that a coach is coming back to face the team with which he won a Super Bowl -- one that is now run by his former quarterback. How has Shanahan described all of this? And do you get any kind of sense it means any more to him than any other opponent?

Keim: You probably know as well as anyone how Mike gets in these situations. He's talked about how important Denver is to him because he spent 21 years there, his kids were raised there and he still maintains a home in the area. But Shanahan is as competitive as they come, and there's no doubt his mindset is not on sentimentality, but on proving he should not have been fired in the first place. I remember hearing stories while he was in Denver about him, after winning the Super Bowl, showing reporters their newspaper clippings from early in the season. He coaches with a chip; it's what drives him to be successful.

I think Mike might feel better if the Broncos' offense wasn't playing so well. But have defenses started to attack them differently -- and with more success -- lately?

Legwold: For all of their struggles this season -- and at 0-7, the Jaguars have had plenty -- it was Jacksonville's defense that opened the box a bit, and the Colts took that cue. It was the Jaguars, being such a heavy underdog, who played more aggressively on defense than any of the Broncos' first five opponents. Jacksonville's defensive backs were more physical with the Broncos receivers, and the Colts went to the next level with that. The Colts played in press coverage much of the time on the outside, matched up one-on-one on the Broncos wideouts, kept the two safeties deep and defended the run with seven in the box most of the night. Now, it is a testament to the Broncos offense that "holding" it to 33 points, as the Colts did, was a season low. But it is probably a template others will try to duplicate, at least until the Broncos show they have an answer.

To that end, how do you think the Redskins will attack Manning and the Broncos' wide receivers?

Keim: They have to be aggressive, as they were against Tony Romo and against Jay Cutler, until he got hurt. The Redskins will not blitz every down by any means; they feel good about their ability to pressure with four -- thanks to having linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo and nose tackle Barry Cofield. But they will blitz from the slot and send the safety off the edge once in a while. Anything up the middle will come from the linebackers. What they've also tried to do the last couple weeks against very good receivers is jam them and disrupt timing. They won't do it every down; sometimes they'll do it at the line and sometimes they'll wait a couple yards. They will mix coverages; Washington uses a lot of three-corner, one-safety sets and that enables corner Josh Wilson to sometimes disguise his position. Will he be in the slot? Strong safety? That occasionally buys them time to get free on the rush. They will have a tough time against Wes Welker, as everyone does. But with issues at safety this week -- Brandon Meriweather's suspension and Reed Doughty's concussion -- I think you have to mix it up. If they try to just play coverage against Peyton Manning, he will pick them apart. It's not their style to just sit back.

Are you surprised by what Denver's offense has done? If so, what surprises you?

Legwold: I'm a little more surprised defenses were so passive early in the season in terms of how often they rushed Manning, especially after he simply torched coverage looks week after week. Despite the avalanche of touchdowns through the weeks, team after team chose coverage over pressure, and that's probably understandable, given Manning has routinely eaten up blitz packages like breath mints throughout his career. But until the Jacksonville game, defenses had rushed Manning with four or fewer on 70 percent of his dropbacks. The Jaguars and the Colts were more aggressive and had some success against a battered offensive line. There is a slight chance right tackle Orlando Franklin (knee) could be back this week -- that is the most optimistic scenario with the bye coming next week for the Broncos -- but left tackle Ryan Clady is on injured reserve. Manning has always been quick to adjust, so the Broncos will handle some things better than they did against the Colts. But when they're right and in rhythm, there are defensive coordinators who say the Broncos are as close to unstoppable as the league has to offer because they routinely have four pass catchers in the pattern who can consistently beat one-on-one coverages.

Staying on quarterbacks, the general feeling around the league seems to be that Robert Griffin III has been more himself over the last two games or so. Is that the case, or have the Redskins made some kind of adjustment to help him along?

Keim: No, I think the adjustment has been more about Robert trusting his knee and feeling good enough to let loose again. The Redskins say there were runs for him in the game plan in the first couple weeks, but I think that was just lip service and a desire to try and con other teams. The reality is, Robert wasn't going to be running a lot early in the season. I also think Dallas and Chicago both played in a way that fed into his running: man coverage on the outside and a big focus on stopping running back Alfred Morris. The Bears played as if they had not seen the Dallas tape; there were times when most of the eyes were on Morris, a contrast to last season when they were more on Griffin. So he had to run more. But I really think this is about him feeling better -- not healthier, but just overall better.

Teams blitzed Griffin early in the season because he wasn't quite himself. They also played the zone read with a little more discipline (until last week). How do you think Denver will react to his style of play?

Legwold: It's easy to forget in all that's happened all over the league since, but it was John Fox, former offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and current offensive coordinator Adam Gase who dropped the read option on the NFL in the 2011 season. The Broncos had Tim Tebow at quarterback then, and discovered he didn't function well in a traditional pro-style, dropback passing offense. So they unveiled the read option against the Raiders that season, won big and eventually made the playoffs at 8-8. The Broncos have since defended the look well, but Griffin will be the most explosive player they've seen running it. Defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is aggressive and the Broncos like to try to force the issue. Champ Bailey won't play because of a foot injury, but Del Rio likes his other corners enough to play plenty of man coverages. They will likely use some sort of spy on Griffin in some down-and-distance situations, and take a measured approach in the pass rush so they don't get too deep into the backfield and give Griffin escape routes.

Staying with the Redskins' offense a little more, on the outside it looked as though there was at least a small rift between Griffin and both Mike and (offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan earlier this season. Was that the case, and if so, have they worked through it?

Keim: A rift? Not sure if it went that far (though perhaps this is semantics), because that feels harder to repair. But there was definitely a little tension as the coaches and player sought to get on that so-called same page. From Griffin's perspective, what I've always heard is that it was a matter of him being able to trust his coaches -- that what they told him during the week would play out on Sunday. He needs to trust them. From Mike Shanahan's perspective, he always liked to let Griffin know who was in charge. For Shanahan, this is a business relationship, though Griffin seems to like having something more from those he works with. Shanahan only wants to win a Super Bowl. That's it. Griffin's dad didn't help the cause by talking about how his son shouldn't run the ball; the coaches would point out that Griffin's ability to run is why he was so good last year. He's not an accomplished passer yet and needs his legs to be dynamic. I've always felt this was an evolving relationship and one that could work. But I'll be curious to see what happens with it should the Redskins fail to turn their season around (and it becomes a disaster). Just keep in mind: Griffin is tight with the owner.

How did Von Miller look in his return and is he enough to save the Broncos' defense?

Legwold: Miller looked like he had missed six weeks' worth of practice. At times he flashed his ability, but he also looked rusty and sluggish. Time will ultimately tell the tale, but it will be interesting to see if the extra 10-15 pounds he said he added in intense workouts during his suspension affect his play. His game before the suspension (for violating the league's substance-abuse policy) was predicated on speed off the ball, explosiveness and the ability to change direction at full speed, without losing any momentum toward the ball carrier. It was just one game, and publicly Fox keeps saying it will get better, but Miller did not consistently show that same explosiveness this past Sunday. Internally, some with the team are concerned Miller continues to avoid taking any full responsibility for what's happened. He is now in Stage 3 of the league's drug program, which means his next suspension is for at least a year,and he's tested up to 10 times a month for the remainder of his career. Yet he continues to say he doesn't have a substance-abuse problem or need any help in a treatment program. So, some are left to wonder how exactly he got all the way to Stage 3 without having a substance-abuse problem. Put it all together and Miller certainly does have question marks around him. On the field, though, the Broncos need him to be better than he was Sunday night if he's going to have the kind of defensive impact they hope to see.

In the end, with a 2-4 start, is Shanahan in any real trouble with owner Daniel Snyder if they don't rebound to make the postseason or at least be in the hunt down the stretch?

Keim: I haven't heard Shahanan would be in that sort of trouble. I think it would take an outright disaster for anything to happen, and former Redskins tight end Chris Cooley, for example, recently said that Shanahan would return regardless (Cooley remains close to many in the organization). But the interesting part will be whether he gets an extension. Shanahan signed a five-year deal and has constantly said that owner Dan Snyder would give him all five; otherwise he would not have come here. But would he want to enter the last year of his contract without an extension? So there is a scenario under which Shanahan does not get fired, but presses Snyder for an extension. At that point, Snyder has a decision to make; if he doesn't grant the extension, then Shanahan could end up resigning. Once again, there could be offseason drama in Washington.

Do you view Denver as a legitimate Super Bowl contender, or do you have concerns that they're built more for the regular season than postseason success?

Legwold: In the end, if they can avoid too many more major injuries, they'll have the offense to put themselves in the title hunt. The question will be, can they find enough defense from a unit that, somewhat surprisingly, hasn't performed nearly to the level of last season? Also, they have to play with a little more edge on offense. Receivers can't always be looking for a flag because there is some contact, and they can't react as poorly as they sometimes do after fumbles or other misfortunes. Just get back up and play. But it is a talented group who generally works hard across the board, and when it plays with purpose and toughness, it can be the best the league has to offer. It's a matter of keeping their eye on the ball, as it were, and closing the deal.

.

Broncos-Redskins matchup of the day

October, 24, 2013
10/24/13
7:00
AM ET
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Broncos didn’t really need any reminders this week about the importance of protecting quarterback Peyton Manning. But Wednesday they got one anyway.

That's when Manning was held out of his first practice since he signed with the Broncos in March of 2012 because of a sore ankle, an injury that was the result of the punishment Manning took in Indianapolis on Sunday night. Manning had been sacked just five times in the Broncos first six games combined -- he was not sacked in three of those games -- but the Colts got him four times and hit him several other times just after Manning got the ball away.

“It’s a physical game out there and I don’t know who in their 16th year feels 100 percent at any point,’’ Manning said. “But I’ve been hit a lot, I’ve taken big hits. That’s part of playing football -- getting up, getting back in the game. There’s an opportunity right there in front of you on that next series to get back in and go play. That’s what I’ve always tried to do.’’

The Colts, especially Robert Mathis, the NFL’s sack leader, repeatedly had success as they attacked the edges of the Broncos formation where Chris Clark is already playing for Ryan Clady, who is on injured reserve, at left tackle and Louis Vasquez had moved out to right tackle from right guard to cover for the injured Orlando Franklin.

Franklin (ankle) did not practice Wednesday and is going to have to improve significantly over the next few days to play against the Redskins. He has just started doing some additional work with the team’s strength and conditioning staff during practice so it’s still a big jump from that to be game ready. But there were several moments Sunday night when Clark and Vasquez had awkward pass sets and surrendered the edges, which put Manning in harm's way.

Manning was hit by Mathis that resulted in a fumble and a safety, hit again on his interception and hit another time when a pass was tipped and ended up being underthrown to Demaryius Thomas up the sideline.

Like the Colts, the Redskins work out of a 3-4 look on defense, and have productive players in the primary rush positions in outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. Orakpo has only recently started to round into form after working through an early-season injury as well as coming back from a torn pectoral that caused him to miss all but two games last season.

Orakpo had suffered a similar injury in 2011. But with his return opposing offenses have been unable to send the help to the player across from the hard-nosed Kerrigan. The Broncos may need to pump things up in their protection looks by playing a little more two-tight end looks.

The Redskins also try to often cross quarterbacks up by playing a three-cornerback, one-safety look in the secondary to disguise which player is acting like the second safety in the formation. It may be difficult to play that against the Broncos because of Denver’s no-huddle look and the fact the Redskins won’t want to get caught in the defense in certain down-and-distance situations.

But all in all, the Broncos need to keep Manning clean to get back on track.

What's next for Denver?

August, 5, 2010
8/05/10
2:20
PM ET
I just caught up with Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. to discuss how the Denver Broncos will handle the loss of Elvis Dumervil. Dumervil is expected to be out for four months with a ton pectoral muscle. The linebacker led the NFL with 17 sacks last season.

Williamson’s prognosis for Denver without Dumervil is not good.

“Pass rushers don’t grow on trees,” Williamson said. “Denver really has nothing without Dumervil.”

Williamson is not thrilled at all with former first-round picks, Jarvis Moss and Robert Ayers, who are Denver's top in-house pass-rush options.

Williamson on Moss: “The Broncos can’t count on him at all. He is not the answer.”

Williamson on Ayers: “I don’t trust Ayers at all. I think he’s a bad fit for the 3-4, anyway … I bet Denver wishes it would have taken Brian Orakpo last year."

Denver will surely look at free-agent possibilities. Yet, there are not great 3-4 options. Aaron Schobel is the top pass rusher available, but he’s a 4-3 player. There are other 4-3 players, such as the aging Leonard Little and Adewale Ogunleye. In Denver, those two players would likely only be third-down options.

“They couldn’t play in the 3-4, but they could come in and go after he quarterback on third down,” Williamson said. “It’s not perfect, but it’s better than what Denver has now.”

Greg Ellis has 3-4 experience, but he is old and banged up. Adalius Thomas is still available, and he was in New England with Denver coach Josh McDaniels. However, rushing the passer was never Thomas’ forte.

“I really don’t know what Denver can do at this point,” Williamson said. “It’s terrible timing.”

AFC West Pro Bowl notes

December, 29, 2009
12/29/09
8:50
PM ET
In comments provided by the Chargers, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers credited head coach Norv Turner for helping him make the Pro Bowl.

This is the third season that Rivers and Turner, one of the game’s all-time noted quarterback tutors, have worked together.

“He’s been huge in my progress,” Rivers said of Turner. "I knew very early on when we first met that we thought a lot alike and have similar approaches to the game. That helped immediately because we were able to understand how each other thinks. Running this system and his ability to coach the position is exceptional. It’s been a great fit.”
  • The Chiefs were the only team in the division, and one of six teams in the NFL, not to have a representative.
  • Here are two players from the past two drafts that made the Pro Bowl that Denver passed on despite taking players at the same position in the same round: Eagles receiver DeSean Jackson and Washington pass rusher Brian Orakpo.

  • Last year, Denver took receiver Eddie Royal (who is having a poor second season after a strong rookie year) instead of Jackson. This year, the Broncos drafted running back Knowshon Moreno at No.12, a pick before the Redskins took Orakpo. At No. 18, Denver took pass rusher Robert Ayers, who has been slow to contribute.
  • UPDATE: Thanks to the Raiders for sending out some quotes on cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and punter Shane Lechler making the team:

  • “I am excited and happy for the Raiders who have been selected for the Pro Bowl,” Oakland coach Tom Cable said. “It’s tremendous that they are being recognized as the best at their positions. They deserve it and the Raiders organization is proud of them. The Raiders have rich history and tradition and these players exemplify what it means to wear the Silver and Black.”
    Added Lechler: “It’s a great honor and I’m glad to go back with Nnamdi and represent the Raiders. You have to go out and prove it every year. I felt like I was having a solid season and was hoping to make it and to get the news today was definitely a relief.”

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.

AFC West mailbag

March, 29, 2009
3/29/09
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Weekend mail call:

Ryan from NJ: Hey BW, a lot of mock drafts have Tyson Jackson going to Denver. I dont mind the pick, but I have a question about him. In this year's draft, I hear a lot of DE's can stand up or have a hand in the ground (ie:Orakpo, Maybin), but i havent heard that about Jackson. My question: can he do both? I see he's almost 300, but in his tapes I see he is pretty quick.

Bill Williamson: I think he can play both standing up and with his hands on the ground. Jackson fits in the 3-4 defense. Some teams don't really like him. There is a high rate of failure for defensive ends, so it is tricky. Two years ago, Denver used the No. 17 overall pick on Jarvis Moss, who has been a huge failure so far. Denver can't afford any more failures on defense.


Jason from ATX: Bill,Love the blog,read it everyday. Lifelong Broncos and Longhorns fan. Can the Broncos possibly get my main man Brian Orakpo. I think he can play in the 3-4 and do some real damage under the McDaniels reign in Denver. Keep writin it and we'll keep readin it!

BW: He'd fit well in Denver, but I doubt Orakpo will be available when the Broncos pick. If he is, I'd think he'd be the Broncos' choice.


Kit from Warren: Do you think Oakland has a chance sign either Orlando Pace or Torry Holt?

BW: I doubt Pace will be pursued since Oakland already signed Khalif Barnes and it will likely draft a tackle in the early rounds. Holt could be a possibility. He has a small market so far, so you never know if Oakland will come in and sign him. He'd help.


Robert from Colorado Springs: What is the probability that KC trades Tony G? What is his value? Also, any news on the LJ front? Will he be traded prior to or during the draft or will KC simply release him? If traded what would be his value?

BW: Right now, it looks like the team will keep Tony Gonzalez. We'll see on Larry Johnson. I think the Chiefs will end up trading him before or during the draft.


Rich from Long Island, NY: Bill, I read your blog about how Tom Cable looks promising as the Raiders new coach. The Raiders are perennially among the most penalized and undisciplined teams in the NFL. Unless Coach Cable plans to address the problem the Raiders are destined to repeat their recent history.

BW: That is very true. He is a pretty hard-nosed guy but Cable does have to instill discipline in this bunch. He had trouble early in his interim tenure last year but like everything in Oakland, the discipline factor improved toward the end of the season.

Evening AFC West news and notes

March, 25, 2009
3/25/09
10:14
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Here is a report that identified Minnesota as the first team to talk to Denver about quarterback Jay Cutler in February.  Denver coach Josh McDaniels confirmed that Denver talked to Tampa Bay about Cutler.

The Kansas City Star reports star tight end Tony Gonzalez is staying "neutral" about trade talks involving him. Previously, Kansas City owner Clark Hunt said the team was going to keep him and then a report was released with a source close to Gonzalez saying he's still open to a trade.

Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo had a strong workout at Texas' pro day. Denver would likely jump on him if he was available with the 12th pick. But with his strong workout, he could be cemented as a top-10 pick.

San Diego free agent linebacker Marques Harris is still talking to teams. Denver is a potential possibility. He is not expected to return to the Chargers.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The Kansas City Chiefs may have a draft issue brewing.

 
  Mark Goldman/Icon SMI
  With Aaron Curry's stock going through the roof, the Chiefs may have to explore other options at No. 3.

Aaron Curry may be getting too hot. The Wake Forest linebacker is shooting up NFL draft boards so fast, he may be gone by the time the Chiefs pick at No. 3. Many mock drafts have the Chiefs pegging Curry. And it makes perfect sense.

He is considered the best defensive prospect available in an offense-heavy top of the draft and the Chiefs' primary needs are on defense. Curry would be an instant starter at linebacker and he would help the Chiefs in both passing and running defense immediately.

Still, will the Chiefs get a chance to draft him? This story suggests Detroit could take Curry with the No. 1 overall pick. If that happens, what should the Chiefs do?

They do have other needs, but defense is their biggest need area and no defensive player other than Curry is clearly worth the No. 3 pick. If Curry is off the board when Kansas City picks at No. 3 on April 25, here are some other options:

Take an offensive lineman: There are several solid tackles available. The Chiefs drafted Branden Albert with the No. 15 pick last season. He could move from left tackle to right if the right player is brought in. Kansas City could be tempted to take a tackle and have two bookend offensive line anchors for the next 10-12 years. Tackles that could interest Kansas City could include Baylor's Jason Smith and Virginia's Eugene Monroe.

Take Michael Crabtree: He could be tempting, too. Crabtree would make a nice pair with Dwayne Bowe and give quarterback Matt Cassel two legitimate stud receivers to work with.

Take a defensive player: These might be reaches. Taking Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo, Boston college defensive tackle B.J. Raji or Florida State Everette Brown may be too high at No. 3.

Trade the pick: This leads us to perhaps Kansas City's most intriguing option if Curry is off the board at No. 3. The Chiefs could possibly take advantage of a team with a top-10 pick that wants to move up. That way, Kansas City could get one of the top defensive players on the board without overpaying for him and getting more draft picks in exchange. The Chiefs don't have a second-round pick because they traded it to New England for Cassel and Mike Vrabel. So Kansas City could be excited by this option.

The draft ebb and flow will likely change dramatically in the next six-plus weeks but right now the possibility of Curry being off the board when Kansas City picks is very real.

Interesting day for AFC West scouts

February, 23, 2009
2/23/09
6:19
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

There were some events at the NFL combine in Indianapolis on Monday that AFC West teams had a keen eye on.

Southern California inside linebacker Rey Maualuga and Texas defensive end Brian Orakpo both suffered hamstring injuries during their workouts.

Both of the players will likely be closely scouted in the division. Orakpo is a candidate to be drafted by Denver (which has the No. 12 pick). Maualuga could draw interest from both the Broncos and the Chargers, who have the No. 16 pick.

While the injuries were unfortunate and untimely, unless there is a major setback, neither injury should affect the player's draft status. But teams scouting Orakpo and Maualuga may have to rely on film more than in-person scouting.

Meanwhile, the Kansas City Chiefs had to take notice of Aaron Curry's strong workout Monday. The Wake Forest linebacker is considered the best defensive prospect in the draft. The Chiefs will likely seriously consider taking Curry with the No. 3 pick. Monday's performance couldn't have hurt Curry's chances of landing in Kansas City.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

You want more evidence that the Kansas City Chiefs should take a defensive end in the first round of the draft?

They have nine sacks this season. That's awful. Actually, it is historically awful. If the Chiefs don't register four sacks Sunday at Cincinnati they will set the NFL record for fewest sacks. The 1981 Colts had 13 sacks.

The Chiefs, 2-13, will draft either second or third in the April draft. Many people believe Kansas City will draft a quarterback, perhaps either Oklahoma's Sam Bradford or Georgia's Matthew Stafford. But the team already has quarterback Tyler Thigpen.

He is just 24 and has been serviceable. The team could get by with Thigpen as the quarterback another year. If the team decides Thigpen can't be the long-term answer after 2009, then it could pursue another quarterback.

The need at defensive end is greater. Kansas City has been beaten badly on defense all season. Kansas City has allowed opponents at least 28 points a game in nine of its 15 games. The Chiefs have allowed 424 points, which is the third most in the NFL.

The lack of a pass rush is the team's biggest problem. It has affected the entire defense. The team gave up pass-rushing star Jared Allen in a trade to Minnesota this spring in an attempt to get multiple draft choices and rebuild. That's fine. But a replacement for Allen, who has 5.5 more sacks than the entire Chiefs' roster, is necessary.

There will be a major leadership change in Kansas City but that new group needs to recognize that the lack of a pass rush is their biggest problem. If the new brass doesn't believe it, they should ask team leader Tony Gonzalez. He said earlier this month that if Thigpen wasn't the quarterback in 2009, it would be a "disgrace." He said the problem isn't at quarterback but on defense. Gonzalez said he thought the team was 4-5 players way from being a playoff contender.

It has to start at defensive end.

The Chiefs will have their choice of players, but they need so start on the defensive line. Players such as Brian Orakpo of Texas, Michael Johnson of Georgia Tech, Aaron Maybin of Penn State and Everette Brown of Florida State should all be considered.

The draft landscape will change dramatically between now and April, but the Chiefs' greatest need won't change. If this team sets the record for fewest sacks, it's just another reason why the Chiefs have to find a difference-making pass-rusher.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

AFC WEST SCOREBOARD

Saturday, 12/20
Sunday, 12/21
Monday, 12/22