AFC West: Derek Hagan

On the day the Denver Broncos cut veteran running back Willis McGahee, they signed his replacement.

Denver signed running back Montee Ball -- the team's second-round pick -- and cornerback Kayvon Webster -- the team's third-round pick. Denver’s lone remaining unsigned draft pick is first-round pick Sylvester Williams.

Ball is expected to be the team’s starter, though, he was sorry to see McGahee go.

“It’s a business. I had nothing to do with it,” Ball said. “The couple days I had with McGahee were kind of special because the guy is a great man. He’s a great man and I most definitely wish him the best. Like I said, it’s a business and this program is going to most definitely stay on track.”

Meanwhile, McGahee told ESPN’s Josina Anderson that San Diego and Oakland are on his initial list of his preferred teams to play for. Denver cut the running back Thursday morning.

In other AFC West notes:
  • There are a total of five unsigned draft picks in the AFC West. In addition to Williams, they are Kansas City tackle Eric Fisher and Oakland cornerback D.J. Hayden, tackle Menelik Watson and quarterback Tyler Wilson. All should easily be signed by the start of training camp late next month.
  • Oakland signed third-round pick, linebacker Sio Moore. The Connecticut product has a chance to start, or at least be a major contributor. He is the seventh of 10 Oakland draft picks to sign.
  • Like the Broncos did last year, the Chiefs are putting their playbooks on iPads for players. It was received with rave reviews in Denver last year. It is just a matter of time before every NFL team uses the system.
  • Former Oakland receiver Derek Hagan signed with the Buccaneers.
Update: It seemed strange that the Oakland Raiders would work out Derek Hagan, a player who was with them for the past two years and now it appears it never did happen.

It was reported that league transactions listed Hagan as having a tryout with Raiders this week. Later, Hagan tweeted that he did not work out with Oakland. I have also been told he didn’t work out there.

So there you have it.

Hagan spent the past two seasons with the Raiders. He played 14 games and had 20 catches last season after playing six games with Oakland in 2011. He did work out for the Jets this week.

In other AFC West notes:

Chris Sprow looks at Insider what faces Alex Smith in Kansas City and Matt Flynn in Oakland.

Denver tight end Joel Dreessen underwent minor knee surgery. He will be ready for training camp.

Kansas City receiver Dexter McCluster returned to practice Thursday after being out an extended time with a hamstring injury.

Fullback Patrick DiMarco, recently cut by the Chiefs, signed with Atlanta.

Chris Kuper out for Denver

December, 6, 2012
OAKLAND -- Another day, another Denver starter out for Thursday night’s game.

The Broncos have inactivated standout guard Chris Kuper with an ankle injury. He was downgraded to questionable Thursday morning and he was ruled out after trying to work on his injury prior to the game. Manny Ramirez takes Kuper’s place.

Wednesday night, starting linebacker Wesley Woodyard was ruled out with an ankle injury. D.J. Williams and Danny Trevathan will play for him.

Receiver Brandon Stokley was healthy enough in pregame warm-ups to be activated. He missed last Sunday’s game with a hip and wrist woes.

For Oakland, there are a couple of mild surprises. Running back Jeremy Stewart and receiver Derek Hagan are inactive. Stewart ran well Sunday and Hagan has been one of Oakland’s most reliable receivers.

Stewart is down partly because starter Darren McFadden is back after missing the past four games with an ankle sprain. For the second time this season, second-year quarterback Terrelle Pryor is active. I wouldn’t be shocked to see some packages designed for him, perhaps in the red zone.

Raiders still missing key players

November, 16, 2012
As expected, the Oakland Raiders will be without starting running back Darren McFadden and his backup, Mike Goodson, for the second straight game Sunday when they host New Orleans.

Both players were hurt in Week 9 and they didn’t play last week because of high ankle sprains. Fullback Marcel Reece will continue to be the top tailback and Taiwan Jones and Jeremy Stewart will be the backups with McFadden and Goodson out.

Defensive tackle Richard Seymour is out for the second straight game with a knee/hamstring problem.

Safety Tyvon Branch practiced on a limited basis Friday. He missed the first two days of practice this week with a neck injury. He is questionable and he will likely be a game-time decision. Receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey missed his second straight day of practice with a hamstring injury and he is questionable. Rookie Rod Streater and veteran Derek Hagan will likely play a lot if Heyward-Bey can’t play.

Meanwhile, for Kansas City, receiver Jon Baldwin is out with a head/neck injury he suffered Monday night at Pittsburgh. Quarterback Brady Quinn is questionable with a concussion he suffered in Week 8. If he can’t play, Ricky Stanzi will be the backup quarterback. Center Ryan Lilja is questionable with a knee injury. There may be shuffling on the Chiefs offensive line with guard Jon Asamoah out with a thumb injury.

Halftime: Raiders 10, Bucs 7

November, 4, 2012
OAKLAND -- Halftime thoughts:

Oakland running back Darren McFadden is out with a leg injury. He is questionable to return. There is no other information.

The same goes for defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, who is questionable to return with a chest injury. Cleary, these are two key players who Oakland needs to return for Sunday and beyond.

This is a pretty sloppy game. A holding penalty on Oakland tackle Willie Smith nullified a long touchdown pass from Carson Palmer to Derek Hagan. Oakland also had back-to-back personal foul calls on Kelly and safety Tyvon Branch.

Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey made a great one-armed catch while being interfered with in the second quarter. Great play. It set up the go-ahead touchdown pass from Palmer to Rod Streater. The Raiders have scored in the final two minutes of the first half in every game this season.

The Raiders tried a fake punt, but a pass from Shane Lechler to Taiwan Jones was short of a first down.

Former San Diego receiver Vincent Jackson has two catches for 84 yards, including a score, for Tampa Bay.

AFC West notes

September, 29, 2012
Catching up on the news of the day after arriving in Kansas City:

Denver put safety Quinton Carter on the injured reserve. He will require knee surgery. That means fellow 2011 draft pick Rahim Moore will likely remain the starter. Carter, who took the job from Moore last year, had been expected to push Moore at some point.

Denver promoted safety Duke Ihenacho and linebacker Mike Mohamed from the practice squad. Mohamed was promoted because starter Joe Mays is suspended for Sunday’s game against Oakland for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Matt Schaub last Sunday. Keith Brooking is expected to start for Mays.

San Diego officially announced that kicker Nick Novak has been signed and offensive lineman Reggie Wells has been cut. Novak is replacing kicker Nate Kaeding, who is out for Sunday’s game at Kansas City with a groin injury. Novak kicked for the Chargers last season after Kaeding tore his anterior cruciate ligament.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that Kansas City's top receiver, Dwayne Bowe (groin), is expected to play Sunday. He is one of four Chiefs receivers listed as questionable on the injury report.

In addition to receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (concussion), backup Oakland tight end Richard Gordon (hamstring) has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Broncos. Derek Hagan is expected to start for Heyward-Bey.

Raiders have receiver issues

September, 11, 2012
A day after the Oakland Raiders’ passing game relied on short passes to potentially overworked running back Darren McFadden, the team got bad news for the receiver group.

Jacoby Ford, a sparkplug No. 3 receiver, will have surgery on his left foot and he will be out a significant amount of time, according to Oakland coach Dennis Allen. Ford missed nearly the entire second half of last season with a sprained left foot and then he re-injured the same foot this summer. It is reasonable to think Ford, a third-year speedster, could miss the entire year.

The Raiders hope to get starter Denarius Moore back Sunday. He has been out for several weeks with a hamstring injury. When Miller return the Raiders will have a receiver groups that includes Moore, fellows starter Darrius Heyward-Bey, Derek Hagan, and rookie Rod Streater and Juron Criner. Streater, an undrafted rookie, started in a loss to San Diego on Monday night.

With a strapped receiving crew, Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer went to McFadden often. He had 13 catches for 86 yards. It was a Raiders’ record for a running back. The problem was, McFadden’s longest catch was for 17 yards and it the Chargers snuffed it out, for the most part, in the second half. McFadden didn’t have success as a runner, which is his biggest job. He had just 32 yards on 15 carries.

Thus, 28 touches for 118 yards may not be worth it for a player who is injury prone. The Raiders need to find a way to maximize McFadden’s impact.

With Ford out, the Raiders will surely look for a veteran. They worked out Jabar Gaffney last week before signing Hagan. Gaffney could be a choice. Oakland will likely bring in someone, but the truth is, no newcomer is going to make up for Ford’s speed. What the Raiders need is to hope Hagan, Streater and Criner can all make impacts.
As expected, Oakland Raiders receiver Jacoby Ford did not practice Saturday night and has been ruled out for Monday night’s home game against San Diego. Ford hasn’t practiced for several weeks with a foot injury.

Starting receiver Denarius Moore, however, has practiced all week. Barring a setback, he should be able to play. Rookie receiver Juron Criner is also dealing with a leg injury.

Oakland may have to rely on starter Darrius Heyward-Bey, undrafted rookie Rod Streater -- who was reportedly working with the starters Saturday -- and newly signed Derek Hagan.

It could be difficult, especially with an inexperienced group at tight end. But if Moore can shake off the rust of not playing during the preseason, Oakland could get by in the passing game.

Meanwhile, San Diego defensive tackle Antonio Garay is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. He practiced on a limited basis all week. As expected left tackle Jared Gaither (back) and running back Ryan Mathews (shoulder) are out. Mathews may play next week against Tennessee. There is no real timetable for Gaither’s return, but the team is still hoping he can play this season.

In other AFC West news, the Chiefs re-signed seventh-round pick Junior Hemingway to the practice squad and cut offensive lineman Rich Ranglin on Saturday. Last week, the Chiefs made the exact opposite move.

Chiefs' defensive concerns mount

September, 6, 2012
The Kansas City Chiefs are dealing with another injury on defense.

The Kansas City Star reported that starting linebacker Jovan Belcher is not practicing Thursday because of a sore groin. He is being replaced at practice by Brandon Siler, who missed all of last season with an Achilles injury.

Belcher is yet another Kansas City defender who is banged up heading into the season opener against visiting Atlanta on Sunday. Among the other injured players are safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder), cornerback Brandon Flowers (foot) and linebacker Derrick Johnson (ankle). Flowers and Johnson are hopeful of playing Sunday, while Lewis is likely out.

Defensive tackle Anthony Toribio (ankle) also may not play. Plus, star pass-rusher Tamba Hali is serving a one-game NFL suspension. Thus, another injury on defense is the last thing the team needed.

In other AFC West news:

The Raiders confirmed the signing of receiver Derek Hagan. He tweeted that he signed with the team late Wednesday night. He provides depth for a unit that is banged up. Hagan spent a couple of months with Oakland last season. Cornerback Coye Francies, claimed off waivers last week, was waived to make room for Hagan.

Rap star Ice Cube, a huge Raiders fan, will perform inside the stadium before the Raiders-Chargers game on Monday night.

In an Insider piece, ESPN quarterback guru Ron Jawkorski wrote that when he studied film of Peyton Manning’s preseason performance in Denver, he was ”wowed” and he saw a quarterback in his primeInsider.

Derek Hagan tweets he's a Raider

September, 6, 2012
Derek Hagan apparently was better than Jabar Gaffney --- apparently good enough for the Raiders to guarantee his 2012 contract.

Hagan tweeted that he has signed with the Raiders. The team has yet to announce the deal.

The Raiders looked at both Hagan and Gaffney on Wednesday. Any veteran signed between now and Monday night’s game against San Diego will have his contract guaranteed for the season. It is feasible Gaffney could also be signed.

Hagan will be bottom-of-the-rotation depth for the Raiders. Starting receiver Denarius Moore (hamstring) and No. 3 receiver Jacoby Ford (foot) are dealing with injuries and might not be ready for Monday's season opener against the Chargers.

I don’t think Hagan, who spent a couple of months with the Raiders last season, can be a top-of-the-rotation receiver. But he has good hands and he’s a veteran, so he can probably help in a pinch.

Evening AFC West notes

November, 22, 2011
The Denver Post reports that Kyle Orton would love to end up in Chicago again. Orton was cut by Denver on Tuesday and the Bears have a need at quarterback with Jay Cutler expected to miss several games with a broken thumb.

It would be ironic, of course, if Orton is Cutler’s temporary replacement. The Bears put Orton in the package for Cutler in a 2009 trade. The Broncos host the Bears on Dec. 11. Meanwhile, here is a look other takes on the Orton situation from our NFL Nation bloggers.

There are several men with AFC West ties among the 26 semifinalists for induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It just shows how much history this division has.

Former Oakland receiver Derek Hagan signed with Buffalo on Tuesday. He was cut earlier this month to make room for T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Hagan had 11 catches for 114 yards in seven games for the Raiders. Houshmandzadeh has two catches in three games.

The Chargers need to sell 3,400 tickets by Thursday for Sunday’s game against Denver to avoid a local television blackout. The team will honor former star linebacker Junior Seau during halftime.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley found the positives in Tyler Palko’s first NFL start Monday, a 34-3 loss at New England.
Apparently, the Oakland Raiders just haven’t had enough skill-position combinations this season.

So, here comes T.J. Houshmandzadeh. The Raiders are adding the veteran receiver to an offense that has used more skill-position combinations than any team in the NFL this season. Through seven games, the 4-3 Raiders have used 171 personnel combinations at receiver, tight end and in the backfield. It is 19 more combinations than Jacksonville, which has used the second-most combinations, and much higher than the league average. Only 13 teams have had more than 100 combinations.

Expect Oakland’s numbers to rise when Houshmandzadeh, who was signed Tuesday, gets in the mix as soon as Sunday against Denver. Houshmandzadeh caught 34 touchdown passes in five seasons from new Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer while they were in Cincinnati.

I think the reason why Oakland has had so many personnel combinations at skill positions are three fold.

They have had injuries at all five spots.

Hue Jackson is looking for the right receiver combinations as he has many talented players, but he has yet to settle on a top receiving tandem.

Jackson is creative and his offense revolves around rotations and keeping defenses off balance.

Jackson has used two combinations a team-leading 24 times. Here they are:

Kevin Boss, Darren McFadden, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Manase Tonga, Denarius Moore.

Derek Hagan, McFadden, Marcel Reece, Brandon Myers, Moore.

The second combination won’t happen again. Hagan was cut to make room for Houshmandzadeh.The first combination will likely decrease because Reece is healthy and Tonga will likely play less. Thus, expect the combination bingo to continue in Oakland.

Raiders trade out vet WRs

November, 2, 2011
Catching up on the day in the AFC West after a day of travel:

On the surface, it makes some sense that Derek Hagan was the player Oakland cut to make room for veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.

Hagan was the lone veteran receiver and the Raiders’ apparently felt they only needed one, so they went with the 34-year-old Houshmandzadeh, who was with new Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer and Oakland coach Hue Jackson in Cincinnati.

Hagan started two games and had 11 catches for the Raiders as role player. Jackson said he wanted Houshmandzadeh since the summer, but owner Al Davis -- who died Oct. 8. -- wanted Hagan. Now, that Jackson is charge, he is getting the players he wants. Now, he has to make sure Houshmandzadeh, whose play declined sharply last year, can still play.
  • Meanwhile, it is being reported Kansas City visited with cornerback Leigh Bodden, who was just cut by New England. He’d likely be a nickel corner for the Chiefs if they sign him. He played for Kansas City defensive coordinator Romeo Crenel in Cleveland.
  • Denver linebacker Von Miller has slipped a bit in ESPN’s Rookie Watch.
There has been some solid receiver play in the AFC West this season as there are several players who are doing an excellent job of, well, not dropping the ball.

Thanks to ESPN Stats & Information, below is a chart of key receivers in the AFC West and the number of drops they have.

Several names stand out.

You have to be impressed that Oakland rookie Denarius Moore has not dropped a pass. The fifth-round pick’s production has slid in the past three weeks, but he has good hands.

Denver second-year player Eric Decker has dropped just one pass with 24 catches. He is becoming one of the best players in Denver.

It is also important to note the improvements of Oakland third-year player Darrius Heyward-Bey. He has 27 catches and just two drops. Heyward-Bey has come on strong in the past month, but the drop numbers are particularly impressive. Heyward-Bey’s first two years were littered with drops.

Here is the list. Pretty nice numbers, huh?

The Oakland Raiders have an interesting situation brewing at receiver.

They are finally all healthy.

Oakland’s receiving crew has been a work in progress for years. Thanks to some nice mid-round draft picks, Oakland now has a potentially strong group of receivers. Now that Louis Murphy is back from a sports hernia that kept him out nearly two months, it is a crowded group. Let’s look at Oakland’s receivers, in alphabetical order, and examine what we should expect this season:

Jacoby Ford

Known for: He was a steal in the fourth round in 2010. He is an explosive playmaker.

2011 stats: Three catches, 22 yards, no touchdowns.

Comment: He missed time with a hamstring injury. Now that Ford is healthy, I think he has a chance to be in the top of the rotation.

How I rank him: 2

Derek Hagan

Known for: He is a journeyman with a limited reputation in the NFL.

2011 stats: 10 catches, 101 yards, no touchdowns.

Comment: He is steady and has good hands. He moves the chains. He’s good injury insurance.

How I rank him: 6

Darrius Heyward-Bey

Known for: The No. 7 overall pick in 2009 has dealt with hands issues and he hasn’t lived up to the Raiders’ expectations.

2011 stats: Nine catches, 164 yards, no touchdowns.

Comment: He is coming off his best NFL game. If he continues to work on his hands, he has a chance to help this team. I think others should be higher in the rotation because of their consistency.

How I rank him: 5

Denarius Moore

Known for: The steal of the 2011 draft. The fifth-round pick has been stellar.

2011 stats: 12 catches, 199 yards, two touchdowns.

Comment: Oakland should make Moore a definite starter and watch him shine. He has the highest ceiling of this group.

How I rank him: 1

Louis Murphy

Known for: The fourth-round pick in 2009 was the Raiders’ steadiest receiver in his first two NFL seasons.

2011 stats: He hasn’t played.

Comment: He is a steady, polished player. There is always room for a player like Murphy.

How I rank him: 3

Chaz Schilens

Known for: He is a talented player, who can’t stay healthy.

2011 stats: Five catches, 40 yards, no touchdowns.

Comment: Schilens has been bypassed by other players. He has a chance to be a top player, but he must stay healthy.

How I rank him: 4

Conclusion: There is a ton of potential here. Oakland coach Hue Jackson will be challenged to find the right rotation. In the end, it’s a nice problem for Jackson to have.