AFC West: Cameron Sheffield

San Diego coach Norv Turner said Tuesday that running back Ryan Mathews could be cleared for contact as soon as Wednesday, but he made no promises. Mathews has been targeting a Sunday return against Tennessee. He broke his clavicle Aug. 9. Left tackle Jared Gaither is still expected to miss more time with a back injury. He has been out all summer.

Turner and Philip Rivers talks about the Charger victory in Oakland in a video, while Oakland coach Dennis Allen discuses the loss in a video.

In other AFC West news:

The Raiders announce the contract for fullback Marcel Reece has been completed. It was reported that the deal was almost done Monday. Like I wrote Monday, it’s a good move for the Raiders. Reece is a valuable, versatile player.

The Broncos made some expected moves Tuesday. They signed center Dan Koppen and re-signed quarterback Caleb Hanie and placed defensive tackle Ty Warren with his third season-ending injury in three years, He tore his triceps Sunday night against Pittsburgh. Koppen, the former starter in New England, will be a backup center.

The Chiefs reportedly cut linebacker Cameron Sheffield to make room for linebacker Tamba Hali. Hali served a one-day NFL suspension.

Camp Confidential: Chiefs

August, 19, 2011
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ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- Been looking for post-lockout, smashmouth NFL action?

Hope you didn’t come to Chiefs camp during the past three weeks.

Kansas City's training camp wasn’t the most exciting place in the NFL. The Chiefs started very slowly, only going to pads last Sunday. The team’s starters did virtually nothing in a 25-0 loss to Tampa Bay last Friday night. Coach Todd Haley said he may take the same approach this Friday at Baltimore.

It’s a lockout-caused plan for Haley as the Chiefs take the big-picture approach and begin their AFC West title defense.

Haley was concerned about the length of the lockout and didn’t want to rush his team into action because of the lost time. He wants this team to be fresh for the season. Other teams have crammed in as much physical play as possible. Haley, known for his physical camps in his first two years in Kansas City, is taking a much different approach.

At this point, he said, getting his team conditioned to make up for lost time is more important to him than practicing hard. Haley said he will concentrate on heavy football drills toward the end of the preseason to ensure the team stays as healthy as possible heading into the regular season.

The coach is taking some heat for taking the cautious approach. Many fans are concerned that the Chiefs will not be ready when they open the regular season against visiting Buffalo on Sept. 11.

“I’m sticking to my convictions,” Haley said. “This is what is best for this team. I believe we will be ready for the season.”

The Chiefs picked up the intensity in practice this week, but they will not turn their starters loose until the third preseason game. There is even a chance that the starters will play in the final preseason game, which routinely doesn’t happen around the league.

“This is the approach Coach Haley wants us to take,” Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. “We are fully behind him.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Work with the quarterback: Cassel’s development is still the No. 1 priority for this team, and camp time is essential. There is no doubt that Cassel progressed last season, but he fell off at the end of the season and now has to get used to working with new quarterback coach Jim Zorn after a one-year stint with Charlie Weis as a his offensive coordinator. Weis now has the same job at the University of Florida. Cassel and Zorn lost valuable time due to the lockout. However, they are said to have built a good relationship and gotten comfortable working together this summer.

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Kirby Lee/US PresswireChiefs quarterback Matt Cassel will have plenty of options when distributing the ball this season.
2. Spread the ball around: The Chiefs are spending this camp getting their varied passing-game weapons in order. This can be a dangerous passing offense and this camp is being spent on how to best utilize it. Cassel has many directions in which to look. It starts with No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe, but the Chiefs have given him help by drafting Jon Baldwin in the first round and signing slot receiver Steve Breaston, who played for Haley in Arizona and caught 77 passes in 2008 under Haley’s guidance. Add tight end Tony Moeaki and running back/receiver Dexter McCluster and there are a lot of options. Figuring out the best way to utilize all of them is what camp is for.

3. Figuring what’s best for Charles: It has driven many Kansas City fans crazy that the Chiefs don’t give Jamaal Charles more carries. Thomas Jones had 245 rushing attempts last season, while Charles had 230. Jones fell off toward the end of the season, but Charles was spectacular. He had 1,467 rushing yards, second in the league. The Chiefs want to increase his numbers but also want him to stay fresh and healthy, so don’t expect his workload to fly through the roof. To help both Charles and Jones, who will likely get 8-10 carries per game, the Chiefs signed former Baltimore fullback Le'Ron McClain, who runs the ball more than the average fullback. The Chiefs are working all three backs during this camp to figure out the most advantageous carry distribution.

ARE THEY GOING TO JARED?

The Chiefs’ camp got interesting last week when the team picked up former Baltimore left tackle Jared Gaither. Known as an above-average left tackle, Gaither missed all of last season with a back injury. The Raiders considered signing him early in camp, but they passed because of his back.

The Chiefs signed Gaither during camp and he is now practicing with the second team. If his back holds up, there is a strong chance he could move into the starting lineup and send Branden Albert to right tackle. Albert, a first-round pick in 2008, has been a decent but not great left tackle. The Chiefs have long considered making him a right tackle, where many scouts think he’d flourish. If he moves to right tackle, Albert would replace Barry Richardson. If the massive Gaither (6-foot-9, 340 pounds) is healthy and motivated, this could be a significant move for Kansas City.

CHIEFS MAY NEED TO BACK IT UP AT QB

The Chiefs are keeping a close eye on backup quarterbacks Tyler Palko and rookie Ricky Stanzi during camp. The two struggled in the preseason opener last week. If they continue to struggle, Kansas City could potentially consider bringing in a veteran backup such as Jake Delhomme to be the No. 2 quarterback. Still, Stanzi, a fifth-round pick from Iowa, should be a lock to make the team. Palko will have to increase his production to survive the final cuts.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The team loves the addition of nose tackle Kelly Gregg. He has been a leader, has been working hard in camp and has been a positive influence on young players, including draft pick Jerrell Powe.

  • The Chiefs are working on increasing their turnover numbers on defense. They had the eighth-fewest takeaways in the NFL last season.
    [+] EnlargeKansas City's Jon Baldwin
    Denny Medley/US PRESSWIREFirst-round draft pick Jon Baldwin, along with new acquisition Steve Breaston, are expected to make an impact this season.

  • Baldwin was hampered by some minor issues. Camp observers said he struggled early in camp getting off the line of scrimmage, but the coaching staff is confident the No. 26 overall pick in the 2011 draft will catch up quickly. Baldwin had a reputation for being difficult in college, but the Chiefs haven’t seen any of indications of that and are more than satisfied with his attitude.
UPDATE: ESPN’s Adam Schefter confirmed that Baldwin is doubtful for the rest of training camp after a locker-room fight with Jones. Baldwin’s incident occurred after the Chiefs brass praised his attitude. This event has to be alarming for the team.

  • Veteran backup Jerheme Urban has been running with the first team with Bowe as Baldwin and Breaston get acclimated. Don’t expect that to last. Baldwin and Breaston were brought in to play a lot of snaps.

  • Haley has paired veterans with rookies to help the younger players through camp. The players room together, and Haley often matches up players from opposite sides of the ball to help team continuity.

  • Veteran Andy Studebaker has been working with the first team at outside linebacker opposite star pass-rusher Tamba Hali. The Chiefs are going to use several players to pressure the quarterback, but Studebaker has a chance to have a key role while rookie Justin Houston learns the team’s system.

  • McCluster has been working mostly out of the backfield as Haley suggested he would in May. Still, expect McCluster to line up at receiver some as well. The Chiefs are looking to create as many matchup problems as they can with McCluster, especially on third downs.

  • Rookie DE Allen Bailey has a chance to contribute right away as a pass-rusher. He has been working diligently in that area in camp.

  • Rookie offensive lineman Rodney Hudson has been looking good. The second-round pick could play at guard and at center.

  • The team also likes the progress of second-year guard Jon Asamoah, who has a chance to shine in the aftermath of the release of Brian Waters.

  • Former San Diego inside linebacker Brandon Siler is making a push for major playing time. He is a solid talent who also helps on special teams.

  • Linebacker Cameron Sheffield has played well. And he could be a contributor. He missed all of last season after suffering a neck injury in the preseason.

  • One undrafted free agent to watch is Temple linebacker Amara Kamara. He has caught on to the defensive scheme very quickly.

  • Cornerback Jalil Brown, a fourth-round pick out of Colorado, has been impressive and has a chance to be contributor in some packages and on special teams.

2010 AFC West draft rewind

February, 18, 2011
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This is the final in a three-part series of an examination of the past three draft classes of each AFC West team leading up to the NFL scouting combine at the end of the month:

Denver

First pick: No. 22, wide receiver Demaryius Thomas

Total picks: Nine

Stars: After one season, offensive linemen J.D. Walton and Zane Beadles have been the team’s best draft performers. They were both starters. Neither player was great, but they deserve credit for starting in the NFL as youngsters. Beadles, a guard who was a second-round pick and Walton, a center who was a third-round pick, may have decent futures. Quarterback Tim Tebow, the No. 25 overall pick whom Denver traded three picks to move up and take, started the final three games of the season. He might be the starter in 2011.

Duds: It’s too early to call Thomas a dud, but the Broncos have to be worried about his career issues. Thomas suffered an Achilles tendon injury last week and the team expects him to miss 6 to 8 months. Thomas, who was drafted with a foot fracture, ended the season with an ankle injury. He is very talented, but he has been unable to stay healthy. Denver bypassed Dez Bryant to take Thomas.

McDaniels’ parting gift: Josh McDaniels drafted Tebow because he thought he could make the former Florida star an NFL star. But McDaniels was fired before Tebow ever got an NFL start. Now, the John Elway-John Fox regime will decide what to do with Tebow.

What’s the future of this class? It could end up being very good or very bad. It all depends on Tebow. If he develops into a standout quarterback, it will be a great draft. If Tebow fails and Thomas never develops, it would be looked as a terrible draft. The Broncos could have a gem in receiver Eric Decker. A fine possession receiver, Decker could get a chance to play a lot in 2011. He has strong potential.

Kansas City

First pick: No. 5, safety Eric Berry

Total picks: Seven

Star: It has to be Berry. There was a lot of talk that the Chiefs would be reluctant to take a safety so high; usually safeties aren’t top-five choices. I’m sure the Chiefs are not regretting the decision to take Berry. He was an impact player as a rookie. He is a playmaker who is a tremendous anchor to this improving defense. Expect the hard-working, humble Berry to get better. The Chiefs have a star on their hands. I would not be shocked by the time every 2010 AFC West draft pick retires, the first pick of the Chiefs will be considered the best player of the pool.

Duds: There don’t appear to be any yet. Five of the seven picks contributed as rookies. Third-round pick guard Jon Asamoah appears to have a nice future. Fifth-round pick linebacker Cameron Sheffield seemed promising before he was injured in the preseason.

The next Tony Gonzalez? Third-round pick Tony Moeaki seems like a keeper. He had an instant connection with Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel. He brought excitement back to the tight end position in Kansas City for the first time since the 2009 trade of Gonzalez. One of the greatest players in team history, Gonzalez was traded to Atlanta in 2009 for a 2010 second-round pick, which turned out to be cornerback Javier Arenas. Moeaki had 47 catches for 556 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie. Those numbers were much better than Gonzalez’ numbers as a rookie. This is not suggest Moeaki will be a better player than the great Gonzalez, but it’s clear tight end is again a position of strength in Kansas City.

What’s the future of this class? It is very bright. Along with Oakland's, this has a chance to be one of the best overall classes in the NFL. The class, which also includes promising receiver/returner Dexter McCluster, is very deep. The rookies helped the Chiefs win their first division title in seven years and I expect this class will assist in winning many more games.

Oakland

First pick: No. 8, linebacker Rolando McClain

Total picks: Nine

Stars: This class is very deep, but right now the stars appear to be fourth-round pick receiver/returner Jacoby Ford and second-round pick defensive lineman Lamarr Houston. Ford had three kickoff returns for scores in the second half of the season and developed into a thrilling receiver. He could be a starter in 2011. Houston is a tough, rugged player who could be part of this defense for the next 10 years.

Duds: There doesn’t look like there will be one. This class is solid.

Al still has it: You can poke holes in many of Oakland’s recent drafts, but this one looks special. Starting with McClain, this draft appears solid. Al Davis bragged about the class at his January news conference. He deserved to brag. After several whiffs, Davis seems to have hit a home run in 2010.

What’s the future of this class? This is the type of class -- that includes promising left tackle Jared Veldheer (third round) -- that can be a nucleus for a long playoff run. Add youngsters like guard Bruce Campbell (fourth round), linebacker Travis Goethel (sixth) and cornerback Stevie Brown (seventh) and this class is very deep.

San Diego

First pick: No. 12, running back Ryan Mathews

Total picks: Six

Star: Mathews was the only player from this class to contribute as a rookie. Mathews was good, but not great. He had durability and ball-security issues. Still, Mathews averaged 4.3 yards per carry. He helped this offense when he was on the field. While his impact wasn’t great, he clearly has good potential.

Duds: After Mathews, the Chargers' next pick wasn’t until N0. 79 when they took linebacker Donald Butler. He showed promise but was lost for the year in camp. Every other pick is a future pick.

Will Smith do it again? The Chargers traded a load of picks to move up from No. 28 to No. 12 to take Mathews. This year, the Chargers, who pick No. 18, have extra picks in the second and third rounds. The Chargers could use an impact receiver or pass rusher. If they fall in love with a pick in the top 10, I could see aggressive general manager A.J. Smith moving up again.

What’s the future of this class? If Mathews can stay healthy and be a legitimate power back, this will be a good class. It would be nice if players like Butler, safety Darrell Stuckey (fourth round) and defensive tackle Cam Thomas develop and help this class. But it was clear on draft night that this class was all about Mathews. If he fails, this will likely be the worst class in the division.

Dexter McCluster honored

September, 15, 2010
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Afternoon AFC West notes:

Kansas City rookie Dexter McCluster was named the AFC special teams player of the week. The second-round pick had a 94-yard punt return for a touchdown in the Chiefs’ 21-14 upset win over San Diego. It was a team record.

Kansas City has placed fifth-round pick Cameron Sheffield on the injured reserve, ending his season. Sheffield was carried off the field on a stretcher with a neck injury in the preseason last month and he spent a night in the hospital. But he was walking with feelings on all of his extremities when he was released from the hospital.

Kansas City signed linebacker Charlie Anderson to replace Sheffield. Anderson has seven starts in the past six seasons with Houston and Miami. He should provide immediate depth in Kansas City,

ESPN.com’s rookie watch features San Diego’s Ryan Mathews at the top and Kansas City’s Eric Berry on the bottom of the top-10 list.

Oakland has brought back Erik Pears in its attempt to help a weak offensive line.

Reviewing the Chiefs vs. Eagles

August, 28, 2010
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Some thoughts from Kansas City’s 20-17 loss to Philadelphia on Friday night:

First, we must address the injuries. Rookie linebacker Cameron Sheffield was taken off the field on a stretcher after a helmet-to-helmet hit. The Chiefs just announced good news. He was released from the hospital Saturday with movement in all of his extremities.

Running back Jamaal Charles left the game in the second quarter with an arm injury. Saturday, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Charles is fine.

Despite the injury scares, it was a productive night for the Chiefs. The most exciting aspect was the strong play from the defense. Kansas City has been searching for this type of effort all summer. The Chiefs had five sacks. That’s a tremendous boost for this unit. Linebackers Andy Studebaker and Demorrio Williams each had two sacks. Both Studebaker and Williams have earned major playing time once the regular season starts.

The offense was sloppy at times, but it was steady. The Chiefs turned a turnover into a touchdown on a 16-play, 63-yard drive. If the two units can play like this once the regular season starts, the Chiefs will have a chance to compete in every game.

Other strong points for the Chiefs included another impressive performance by the rookie class and the fact that the still-growing offensive line allowed just one sack.

With most of the key players expected to play small roles -- if they play at all -- in the preseason finale, the Chiefs should march toward their Sept. 13 opener against San Diego feeling pretty good.

AFC West links: Tebow will play a lot

July, 21, 2010
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Denver Broncos

Dave Krieger of the Denver Post says quarterback Tim Tebow will play a lot as a rookie.

Kansas City Chiefs

A look at five players who could raise the spirits of Chiefs fans with an impressive showing in training camp.

The Chiefs signed linebacker Cameron Sheffield, one of their two fifth-round picks.

Oakland Raiders

Terrell Owens as a veteran leader for the Raiders receivers might make some sense.

San Diego Chargers

San Diego Union-Tribune columnist Nick Canepa says it's downtown or bust for a new stadium for the Chargers.

AFC West links: Chiefs' outlook improves

July, 16, 2010
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Denver Broncos

Fantasy players, take note: The Broncos rank No. 25 on Yahoo! Sports' Juggernaut Index, the website's ranking of teams for fantasy purposes.

The Denver Post has an Ed McCaffrey-edition mailbag, in which the former Broncos receiver answers questions about receivers Eric Decker and Eddie Royal and more.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Kansas City Tribune's 2010 preview identifies the four factors that will have the biggest impact on the season.

The Chiefs reached a four-year, $1.98 million deal with fifth-round rookie linebacker Cameron Sheffield.

NBC analyst Rodney Harrison likes the path the team is on and projects around seven wins for the Chiefs this season.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders announced the signing of sixth-round pick Travis Goethel.

Jerry McDonald of the Bay Area News Group asks if Johnnie Lee Higgins can return to his 2008 form.

San Diego Chargers

Next up on Chargers.com's position previews: cornerbacks and tight ends.

The Chargers grade out well in AthlonSports.com's 2010 preview. Athlon predicts the Chargers will win the division and adds "avoiding another face-plant in the playoffs is what really matters to this team."
Matt Cassel and Thomas JonesUS PresswireThe addition of veteran running back Thomas Jones (right) should take some pressure off quarterback Matt Cassel.
Todd Haley is heading on vacation for some nice, quiet down time with his wife and their five children feeling much more comfortable about his team than he did last year.

As a rookie NFL coach, Haley was thrown into the fire when he took over the Kansas City Chiefs in February 2009. He went through his own growing pains while trying to change the culture in Kansas City and get his players in better shape. The Chiefs lost a collective 700-plus pounds last offseason.

After a 4-12 season in 2009, the Chiefs have made strides this offseason. Haley has brought in Charlie Weis and Romeo Crennel to coordinate his offense and defense, respectively, along with secondary coach Emmitt Thomas. Their credentials have left Haley very comfortable with his staff this year.

Haley fired Chan Gailey as offensive coordinator days before the start of last season and took over the duties himself. He feels working with Weis -- the two shared an office together as assistants with the Jets in the 1990s -- will help him in every aspect.

Meanwhile, the roster appears to be in much better shape after the Chiefs shored up both sides of the ball in free agency and the draft. Haley has built a reputation for being very straightforward and honest about his team. Often last season, he said he thought his team wasn’t very good. After a productive offseason, Haley knows the Chiefs are heading in the right direction.

“It’s just June, but I feel very comfortable this year because of several different reasons,” Haley said in a recent telephone interview. “It’s been good … We still have a long, dark tunnel to get through but things are going well. Again, it’s only June, but I’m pleased about where things are at.”

In a 35-minute interview, Haley touched on several subjects. Here are some of the keys to the 2010 season as he sees it:

Quarterback Matt Cassel: Cassel took a lot of heat last season when he didn't make that big of a difference after signing a $40 million deal.

Yet Haley believes Cassel will benefit from an improved offensive line, the presence of running back Thomas Jones and a stronger receiving group. Haley has praised Cassel’s spirit, work ethic and resolve.

“This guy is making progress in a bunch of ways,” Haley said. “He had a very difficult year last year, but he didn’t crack. That’s a good sign. He has been one of our best workers this offseason, if not the best. He’s working.

“We had 50-plus drops last season. If those don’t happen, people would look at Cassel differently … If we get the improved offensive play around him that we hope to, I think people will feel better about Matt Cassel.”

Running back Thomas Jones: One reason for hope in Kansas City is the arrival of Jones. The combination of the veteran Jones, who had 1,400-plus yards last season and was third in the NFL in rushing, and young star Jamaal Charles gives Kansas City the makings of one of the best rushing attacks in the league.

Charles had 1,120 yards as a part-time starter, including 259 rushing yards at Denver in the season finale. One of the reasons why Jones was brought in was to keep the smallish Charles fresh so that he can use his game-breaking speed throughout the game.

So far, Haley likes what he sees in Jones, his new veteran tailback.

“Thomas Jones is a special dude,” Haley said. “He has a high football character guy. He hasn’t missed a day. He helps set the tone.”

The rookies:

The Chiefs are excited about their draft class. The team took Tennessee safety Eric Berry with the No. 5 overall pick and running back/receiver/returner Dexter McCluster and cornerback/returner Javier Arenas in the second round.

All three players are explosive, productive players who should help right away.

The other players in the 2010 draft class -- guard Jon Asamoah, tight end Tony Moeaki, safety Kendrick Lewis and linebacker Cameron Sheffield -- also have a chance to contribute in the near future, especially Moeaki.

[+] EnlargeTodd Haley
AP Photo/Orlin WagnerTodd Haley has been very happy with the progress of his rookies so far.
Haley is thrilled with what he has seen from the rookies, but he still wants to see what they can do in training camp and in the preseason before defining expectations.

“We think this is a unique group,” Haley said. "We haven't been in pads and it's just June, but everyone has a chance to contribute sooner than later as a whole [class]." It’s a humble group, but it’s a group that is not intimidated. This whole thing doesn’t seem too big for this group.”

2008 first-round pick Glenn Dorsey and 2009 first-round pick Tyson Jackson: Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick and Jackson was the No. 3 pick. Both have been early disappointments.

The Chiefs are counting on the two former Louisiana State stars to help improve the defense. Haley likes the effort he is seeing from both players.

On Dorsey: “He came in here last year out of shape and he was behind the eight ball. But he has stepped up and he has worked hard. He is trying to get better.”

On Jackson: “Tyson knows he had a difficult rookie reason. But he has worked his tail off and he wants to take the next step … I feel good about the both of those guys.”

Again, it’s only June, but it seems like Haley feels good about his entire team as the 2010 season approaches.

Kansas City Chiefs out of picks

April, 24, 2010
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Unless they make some trades, the Kansas City Chiefs are done drafting this weekend.

The Chiefs entered the day with two fifth-round picks. They took Mississippi safety Kendrick Lewis at No. 136 and Troy defensive end Cameron Sheffield.

Lewis will give depth or the secondary. Sheffield is a pass rusher who can also play outside linebacker. He is a project.

The Chiefs had a decent trade. They got a potential star in Tennessee safety Eric Berry at No. 5. They got small, but explosive speedsters Dexter McCluster (running back/returner/receiver) and Javier Arenas (cornerback/returner) in the second round.

The Chiefs could still use a big receiver, a tight end and a nose tackle. But unless they strike a deal, it wouldn’t be done through the draft.

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