AFC West: Houston Texnas

Chase Thomas was considered a top undrafted free agent when he signed with the New Orleans Saints.

However, Thomas didn’t catch on with the Saints and was an early cut. Now, he will get another NFL chance in a familiar spot. The Oakland Raiders have claimed the Stanford product off waivers.

Thomas will be reunited with Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver, who coached Thomas in 2011 at Stanford.

The Raiders are giving Thomas a chance partly because they have injuries at the position. I think he could be a potential practice squad player. Oakland waived injured offensive lineman John Wetzel to make room for Thomas.

Meanwhile, Oakland rookie tackle Menelik Watson may practice Wednesday. He has been out virtually all of training camp with a calf injury. The second-round pick could eventually be in the mix at left tackle. Right tackle Khalif Barnes is also a possibility at left tackle with Watson playing right tackle. The Raiders are trying to figure out a solution with standout left tackle Jared Veldheer out for about three months with a triceps injury.

The Raiders believe defensive end Lamarr Houston will play against Chicago on Friday. Defensive tackles Pat Sims and Vance Walker both returned to practice this week and are question marks to play.

In other AFC West notes:

The Chiefs claimed guard Ricky Henry off waivers from New Orleans.

Houston defensive end Antonio Smith has been suspended for the Week 1 “Monday Night Football” game at San Diego.

Miami cut cornerback Richard Marshall. He should be popular on the open market. San Diego is one of the teams in the league that are thin at cornerback. Plus, new San Diego coach Mike McCoy was in Carolina with Marshall. Thus, there could potentially be interest.


As the Denver Broncos wait to hear from Peyton Manning, the Tennessee Titans have emerged as a strong competitor for the superstar quarterback.

Manning, who is also considering the Cardinals and Dolphins, is meeting with the Titans’ brass and then he is expected to make a decision on his future. There has been recent chatter that Manning may be swayed to stay in the AFC South and play for the Titans. Wednesday, Manning’s former boss didn’t do anything to end that talk.

Former Indianapolis general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian said on "SportsCenter" that he thinks the Titans are the most logical landing spot for Manning. Polian cited that Manning and his wife, Ashley, have ties to the state. Manning was a legendary quarterback at the University of Tennessee.

So, location could be a big stumbling block for John Elway. This doesn’t mean Manning won’t be a Bronco, but the Titans may have an emotional edge. Whatever happens, I’m sure the Broncos want a resolution so they can proceed with the rest of their free-agency plan, regardless of the outcome of the Manning sweepstakes.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN Boston is reporting key San Diego backup safety Steve Gregory will visit New England on Wednesday. If Gregory gets a starting job, he will likely leave San Diego. Denver has also been linked to Gregory. The Chargers will likely look for help at safety in the draft.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. believes the Chargers’ re-signing of center Nick Hardwick is a top under-the-radar signing.

Robert Meacham’s deal with the Chargers includes $100,000 in bonuses if he makes the Pro Bowl for each of the next two seasons.

The word is Oakland, Washington and New Orleans may be the early favorites to land Matt Leinart as a backup quarterback. Oakland’s connection is Leinart played for new Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Houston. The Raiders are looking for a new backup.

Remaining questions for Raiders

February, 6, 2012
Now that the Oakland Raiders have hired Stanford co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver and they have filled their major assistant spots on Dennis Allen’s staff, let’s look at some remaining questions for the team:

Will the Raiders be a 4-3 or a 3-4 defense? Allen ran a 4-3 defense in Denver last season. Tarver’s defense at Stanford was a 3-4 and Tarver was an assistant in a 3-4 defense in San Francisco. Allen said last week that schemes can be overvalued and the Raiders will show multiple defensive alignments. I’d guess the Raiders would mostly use 4-3, but show some 3-4 looks as well.

Who will call the defensive plays? There were rumblings during Allen’s search for a defensive coordinator that he could reconsider and call the defensive plays. Allen said last week that he won’t call the defensive plays and he’d be a game manager. However, Tarver didn’t call the plays at Stanford. So, it will be interesting to see what Allen does.

Will the Raiders run a zone-blocking offense? The Raiders hired Frank Pollack from Houston to coach the offensive line. The Texans used the zone-blocking scheme and it would make sense that Pollack would do the same in Oakland. The Raiders transitioned from the zone to power-blocking under Hue Jackson and running back Darren McFadden seemed to fare better. McFadden, however, has also had some success in the zone-blocking scheme.