AFC West: Justin Fargas

The Denver Broncos' running back crew is as healthy as it has been all training camp, but it is still not in a perfect situation.

Denver has to be pleased that starter Knowshon Moreno is on the mend. Moreno practiced for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury on the first full day of training camp about 30 days ago. Moreno said he is about 80 percent healthy. With the season opener at Jacksonville 12 days away, Moreno could be close to being at full strength.

The issue is Moreno may be a bit rusty when the team faces the Jaguars. I’m sure he won’t be overworked in the meantime to protect his injury. So it may be asking a lot of him to carry a huge load in the opener.

Denver’s No. 2 and No. 3 backs, Correll Buckhalter and LenDale White (who will serve a four-game suspension to start the season) are also getting back to health. I would not be surprised at all if the Broncos, who cut Justin Fargas on Monday, look for a veteran running back to help with depth.

That search could begin with Derrick Ward, who was just cut by Tampa Bay. The Broncos studied Ward during free agency last year, so it could be a fit.

Meanwhile, Denver coach Josh McDaniels made a surprising call that the starters will play some Thursday at Minnesota. Usually, starters wear baseball caps on the sideline in the preseason finale.

McDaniels told reporters that neither Tim Tebow nor Brady Quinn has separated himself in the chase to be the No.2 quarterback and they will compete for the spot this week.For what it’s worth, I expect Tebow to be the No. 2 quarterback for Denver on most game days.

This one has to sting Denver: Detroit traded offensive lineman Tyler Polumbus to Seattle for a late-round pick. The Lions claimed Polumbus off waivers from Denver last week. Way to flip a player, Detroit.
The release of Justin Fargas in Denver means a few things.

First, it means Fargas’ career may be coming to an end. The former effective Oakland back showed very little in his 19-day stint in Denver. He had 17 yards on 10 carries in the preseason. He had a hard time getting a job after Oakland cut him in March because of his history of health issues. His short stint in Denver will likely not make teams want to reconsider him.

Also, his release means running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter are probably getting closer to the field. Their injuries were one of the reasons why Fargas was inked.

Denver could scour the waiver wire for running backs. Backups LenDale White and Lance Ball are intriguing, but it wouldn’t be a shock if the Broncos continue to study running backs now that Fargas is out of the picture. In addition to Fargas, Denver waived/injured cornerback Tony Carter.

You pick it responses

August, 20, 2010
8/20/10
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We had a tight race this week in our “you pick it’ feature. The winner, by a nose, was San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman ending his holdout.

It narrowly beat the story out of Oakland in which Raiders owner Al Davis compared new quarterback Jason Campbell to former quarterback Jim Plunkett, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories. The other candidate, former Oakland running back Justin Fargas, signing with Denver, also got some support.

I think the readers got this one right. The losing stories were both solid, but Merriman’s return can have a big impact on the division. Davis’ words are interesting, but what do they really mean right now? Fargas will have to prove he can help Denver. The Merriman factor is big in San Diego. So, nice job, readers.

Below are some of your responses. Thanks to everyone who participated.

Mike from Sacramento: The only real story is Merriman returning. That’s the news.

Tony from San Diego: Merriman is back and the Chargers are the class of the division. That’s the story of the week.

Al Clark from Bakersfield, Calif.: Well nothing jumped out at me this week as being real big news, the Broncos signing Fargas, good for him I liked him as a Raider, but as a short yardage back with probably a little left in the tank he won't likely be very impactful. And as a Raiders fan who actually likes Al davis, he was effusive in praise to Russel, deemed him telestrater worthy even, so we will see if that is true, it would be huge for the Raiders. So almost by default I say it's Merriman but not because he showed up to camp, but because it might just give you a peek into the mindset of S.D.'s front office and what is (or is not ) in store for Jackson and Mcniel, Presuming Merrimans agent did all he could to work something out longer term and was unsuccessful. We all knew Merriman had to report, and the other two have more leverage so for my money this remains the biggest story in the AFC west, I all deference to Tebow Palooza.

Manuelito from MexicaIi, Mexico.: I think fargas joining the broncos is news, I can only imagine him making the team and running over the raiders, what a nightmare. Campbell will have a good season with the raiders but he needs more time to adapt to the raiders and there young young receiving core, the running game needs to take the load, this need to be addressed for the raiders to have a chance to seek the playoffs..go raiders!!

Joe from San Francisco: I have to go with Al Davis saying that Jason Campbell reminding him of Jim Plunkett. I like Campbell alot but Plunkett was very special. There may be some things that are alike with the two but Plunkett had the ability to find a way to win. If Campbell can develop that trait, then the Raiders may return to glory and soon.

Jack N. from Chicago: Merriman's return is definitely the story of the week. The Chargers' pass rush looked ferocious against the Bears, racking up six sacks without arguably their two best pass rushers in Merriman and English. Add a healthy Merriman and an improved English to that mix and this team could be racking up the sacks this season. Barring major injuries, the return of the Chargers best defensive player should pretty much ensure they cruise to another AFC West title while the rest of the division rebuilds.

Josh from Mission Viejo, Calif.: I'm going to have to say that Merriman's return is the real story here. Al Davis does that sort of thing all the time. As you pointed out in your column, Davis once compared JaMarcus Russell to John Elway. Davis' antics haven't been news since the 1980s. Denver signing Justin Fargas also doesn't matter a whole lot. I don't see him producing that much. He didn't do it in Oakland, and as soon as anyone, even Buckhalter, is healthy, he won't be getting many carries. Merriman's return is not so important now as it will be later. If Merriman can really produce again, then that will have a drastic impact on the Chargers defense. Otherwise, they put in Larry English and send Merriman packing.

Thomas from San Diego: Merriman returns to Chargers. He may not be the same player he was in 06-07, but the Chargers are clearly a better team with 56 on the field. The knee should be healed and I look for Merriman to return to form in 2010 and get the long-term contract he desires in 2011, but not in San Diego. Merriman is back to work and now it's time to get Marcus McNeill back on the field as well.

Devon Self from Springfield, Mo.: Story of the week has to be Jason Campbell being compared to Jim Plunkett... As a Kansas City Chiefs fan, it made me sit back and think of the type of quarterback and leader the Raiders could have on their hands. And their possibility to be a sleeper in the AFC West. THEN, I watched the preseason game (I know, it's just preseason) and Campbell looked horrible. Plunkett won the heisman trophy in college, then led the Raiders to TWO super bowl victories in the NFL. I'm sorry, but I don't see Jason Campbell making any pro bowls, playoffs, or coming anywhere close to being considered in the Hall of Fame.

Raider Ed from Oswego, N.Y.: The story has to be Big Al's Campbell-Plunkett comparison. Merriman? Who cares? Fargas? Old news. Mr. Davis obviously wants to show support for Campbell and the similarities between Campbell and Plunkett are there. In truth it's probably wishful thinking for a similar story line. Campbell is, however, a HUGE upgrade over the previous several deadbeats who have masqueraded as NFL caliber QB's for Oakland since Rich Gannon retired. Campbell actually makes Oakland competitive, which as a Raiders fan, I'll settle for at this point. The AFC West is wide open. The Chargers have slipped. The Chefs are still rebuilding. Denver is a mess. The Raiders will compete because of Campbell, whereas last year they only competed in spite of Russell.

Marcos from Ft. Worth: With Knowshon and Buckhalter sidelined, the Fargas pickup was a shrewd move on the part of McDaniels for two reasons. One, obviously to be a veteran tailback who possesses the intelligence and attitude to contribute to an underrated offense. And two, to divulge Raider gameplans and information for Denver to continue its dominance over it's longtime rival. Don't think they haven't grilled him on what he knows. Mike and Mike said both predicted a 6-10 season for this club which proves how little they know about this team. Look for the Broncos to have more confidence and stability this season and to quietly win the division with a 10-6 record.Keep up the good work Bill!

Travis Gear from Wichita, Kan.: The storyline of the week is Shawne Merriman's return to the Chargers. It is significant because San Diego's defense needs Merriman, and with him in the fold they are a more talented, complete unit. However, it is also important because it sends a potential signal to Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill that it is time to get into camp and start working with the team.

Will from Harrisburg, Pa.: Bill, I think Al Davis likening Campbell to Plunkett could either be a really good thing, or a major negative depending on how JC took it. Obviously, Al is hoping for the same type of huge turnaround the Raiders had in the 1980 season (apparently the Raiders were generally picked to finish last in the division that year) in which they beat the Eagles in the SuperBowl. I just hope Campbell isn't feeling too much pressure from Davis's statements. That type of talk can make or break a person. This is the biggest story of this week. We knew Merriman would be back, and Denver has far more problems than at RB (although i do believe Fargus will shine there for them, as long as he stays healthy).

You pick it: AFC West storylines

August, 18, 2010
8/18/10
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The candidates are:

Merriman returns: San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman ended his two-week holdout and returned to the Chargers.

Davis compares new QB to former star: Oakland owner Al Davis went on a radio show and said new Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell reminded him of Jim Plunkett, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl wins in the 1980s.

Fargas signs with Denver: The Broncos signed former Oakland running back Justin Fargas.

Choose your story of the week and hit my mailbag with your thoughts. I will post some of your responses later in the week.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- New Denver Broncos running back Justin Fargas is surely grateful for being in an NFL uniform again, even though it’s strange for him to wear the colors of his former enemy.

Fargas has been looking for work since he was cut by Oakland in March. He visited with several teams, but teams were worried about his history of knee issues.

The Broncos signed Fargas after keeping in touch with him for some time. Denver has several running backs injured and Fargas will immediately get a chance to show what he can do. He was on the practice field Wednesday morning after signing earlier in the day.

He knows he needs to take advantage of this opportunity.

“It’s going to be whatever I make it,” Fargas said.

Meanwhile, Denver’s summer of injury has continued. Tight end Marquez Branson suffered a right leg injury and had to be carted off the field Wednesday morning. The team has not given an update on his status yet. Receiver Jabar Gaffney left the field for an undisclosed reason and did not return to the morning practice.

The Baltimore Sun suggests perhaps the cornerback-hungry Baltimore Ravens will pursue Denver starting cornerback Andre' Goodman. The Broncos would likely ask for a decent return for Goodman, who played well last year. If Denver was to deal Goodman, veteran Nate Jones and rookie Perrish Cox, who has been outstanding in camp, would take on increased roles.

In other news, cornerback Champ Bailey is clearly behind coach Josh McDaniels and he made an interesting point about two high-profile former teammates.

Camp Confidential: Denver Broncos

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
11:46
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ESPN.com NFL Power Ranking (pre-camp): 23

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- After he watched one key player after another limp to the training room this summer, Josh McDaniels came to a conclusion: The Denver Broncos are going to find a way to get better as a result.

Call it medical motivation.

“Sometimes, when everybody around you thinks the sky is falling because of injuries, it could rally a team,” the second-year Denver coach said. “That’s what we are doing. We are going to be motivated to show we can withstand what has happened to us. We’re not sitting here feeling sorry for ourselves.”

McDaniels swears Denver is having a productive training camp despite being the most injured team in the NFL. The biggest hit was the loss of star linebacker Elvis Dumervil. He is likely out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Other players who have been lost during camp include running backs Knowshon Moreno and Correll Buckhalter, receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker, safety Brian Dawkins and linebackers D.J. Williams and Jarvis Moss. Don’t forget that left tackle Ryan Clady is out until sometime in September after hurting his knee in the offseason.

Still, McDaniels said it’s not a time of despair, because everyone but Dumervil is expected back in the near future.

“It hurts to lose Elvis, but maybe the other injuries are good that they happened now,” McDaniels said. “We are not worrying about who is not here. We trust our depth and we’re dealing with it.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargeTim Tebow
AP Photo/Jack DempseyTim Tebow got a new haircut on Tuesday, replacing the monk haircut from earlier in the week.
1. How will the Tebow factor affect the team? There is not a rookie in the NFL who is getting the attention that Tim Tebow is receiving. From special Nike shoes to a hideous training-camp haircut to operating in short yardage situations, the Tebow Watch is in full force.

The question is how his work in camp will affect the team on the field. The former Florida star quarterback has operated in short-yardage situations and he will likely be used in the Wildcat formation and in the red zone. That likely means Denver will keep quarterbacks Kyle Orton, Brady Quinn and Tebow on the 45-man roster on game days. In June, McDaniels said he was leaning away from that.

But it is clear that Tebow is being groomed to be active as a rookie. Unless Tebow completely leapfrogs Quinn in training camp and in the preseason, Denver could be using three quarterbacks on game days, which will take away from another position.

2. Can this team forget the final 10 games of 2009? Denver was the most perplexing team in the NFL in 2009. It shocked the league by starting 6-0. However, it suddenly fell apart and lost eight of its final 10 games.

Which team will we see in 2010? McDaniels, of course, won’t guarantee anything, but he believes Denver is heading in the right direction because of a strong training camp.

He said the team is making big strides this year because his program is established after 14 years under Mike Shanahan. McDaniels pointed out how much smoother and productive Denver was in its team scrimmage last weekend compared to last year’s scrimmage.

“It’s night and day,” McDaniels said. “Everybody knows the system now and that has helped camp.”

[+] EnlargeKnowshon Moreno
Ron Chenoy/US PresswireKnowshon Moreno, the team's leading rusher last season, is out with a hamstring injury.
3. Can the running backs stay healthy? Moreno (hamstring) and Buckhalter (back) are supposed to be ready this month. But seeing the top two running backs go down on the first full day of camp had to be scary for Denver. The team has big plans for Moreno and Buckhalter.

Denver brought in veteran LenDale White to help in camp and perhaps as a short-yardage runner once he serves a four-game NFL suspension. The team is discussing signing former Oakland tailback Justin Fargas, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

This is still the Moreno and Buckhalter show, but the Broncos have been forced to look at other options. Expect Moreno and Buckhalter to be handled very gingerly for the rest of camp and in the preseason in an attempt to ensure their health for the start of the regular season.

BIGGEST SURPRISE

The Broncos are excited about their receivers.

Brandon Lloyd and Matthew Willis have been outstanding. Eddie Royal is playing well in camp and the team hopes he can bounce back from a poor first season under McDaniels. After catching 91 passes as a rookie, Royal had just 37 catches last season.

Add rookies Thomas and Decker and Denver could have a decent receiving crew. That looked shaky after the team sent talented but troubled Brandon Marshall to Miami in April.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT

How can it be anything other than the injury to Dumervil? He is arguably Denver’s best player and he just signed a huge, new contract. Denver was looking for him to have a dominant season. Dumervil led the NFL with 17 sacks last season.

Denver will have to find a pass rush elsewhere. A top candidate is 2009 first-round pick Robert Ayers. He struggled as a rookie. But he has been good in camp. Ayers will get every chance to turn it on and help make this bad situation workable.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • [+] EnlargeKyle Orton
    Jeff Fishbein/Icon SMIKyle Orton passed for 3,802 yards, 21 touchdowns and 12 interceptions for the Broncos last season.
    Orton has quietly been a star in camp. He had a strong offseason and is, by far, the most accurate of three quarterbacks. While the future is Tebow’s in Denver, Orton is going to do everything he can to make 2010 special before he hits the free-agency market in 2011.
  • Quinn, the current No. 2 quarterback in Denver, has been inaccurate often. The Broncos still like Quinn, who was acquired from Cleveland in March. However, with Orton being the immediate starter and Tebow being the future starter, he has his work cut out for him to find a spot in Denver.
  • Keep an eye out for fifth-round pick Perrish Cox. He’s been outstanding in camp. “Every day, I look up and Perrish is making another big play,” Royal said. Cox is second at left cornerback behind star Champ Bailey. Cox will likely be the nickel cornerback. He is also dynamic as a return man.
  • While Cox is ascending, second-year cornerback Alphonso Smith is still not progressing. Smith was the No. 37 overall pick in 2009. Denver gave up its first-round pick for Smith in 2010 (which was No. 14). He floundered as a rookie and he is not showing much improvement in camp as Cox is stealing the show.
  • Richard Quinn, a second-round pick in 2009, is blocking very well in camp. He still must improve as a receiver, but Denver should feel comfortable with him in double tight-end sets with starter Daniel Graham.
  • So far, defensive end Ryan McBean is holding off free-agent pickup Jarvis Green. However, the team likes Green and he is very versatile.
  • Denver likes what it sees in former San Diego defensive tackle Jamal Williams in the early stages. With Dumervil out, a lot of Denver’s defensive burst must start from him at nose tackle. That may mean Williams may be on the field more than Denver likes. But he is showing, even at 34 and after missing all but one game in San Diego last year, he could still be a force.
  • Denver knows it won’t all be roses, but it is at terms with rookies J.D. Walton (center) and Zane Beadles (guard) starting. Both players have showed intelligence and toughness in camp. Most importantly, they are big and strong and they are well suited for the power-blocking scheme McDaniels is adopting. Denver is scrapping the zone-blocking scheme used during the Shanahan era. One of the reasons is McDaniels wants a bigger offensive line that can stay fresh throughout the season.
  • D’Anthony Batiste is doing well at left tackle. The Broncos think he will be a valuable backup when Clady returns from a knee injury in September.
  • Inside linebacker Joe Mays, acquired from Philadelphia for running back J.J. Arrington less than two weeks ago, is impressing. He has worked some with the first team. He is likely to be a key backup and a special teamer.
  • Veteran defensive lineman Marcus Thomas is buried on the depth chart. If he doesn’t pick up the rest of camp, he could be a candidate to be cut.
  • Punter Britton Colquitt, the younger brother of Kansas City punter Dustin Colquitt, is doing well and he will likely win the job. He is going unchallenged, but if he falters, Denver could scour the waiver wire. So far, he is showing that may not be necessary.

Justin Fargas officially a Bronco

August, 11, 2010
8/11/10
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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The Denver Browns announced they have officially signed former Oakland running back Justin Fargas.

That means he has passed a physical. That is significant for Denver because Fargas had trouble passing physicals earlier this offseason. He was cut by the Raiders in March and has had knee issues.

Fargas brings depth to a depleted Denver running back crew. Starter Knowshon Moreno (hamstring), Correll Buckhalter (back) and newly signed LenDale White (lower leg) are all out. All three players are expected to be back soon.

Fargas will be given a chance to make an impression as a short-yardage back. In his prime with the Raiders, Fargas was a tough-nosed yards eater. He has 2,269 career yards in seven NFL seasons.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, the Denver Broncos are not done collecting veteran running backs.

Fargas
Fargas
This time they are looking at a former division foe:

Schefter reports that former Oakland Raiders running back Justin Fargas will take a physical for the Broncos on Tuesday and a contract is likely. Fargas was cut by Oakland in March. He had knee trouble and that’s why teams were staying away from him. Perhaps he’s now ready to pass a physical.

Denver has been looking for rushing help this camp. It signed LenDale White last week. White, who is currently banged up, is facing a four-game NFL suspension to start the season. If he’s signed, Fargas could vie for short-yardage work.

He was effective early in his Oakland career and he is bruiser. But the game has taken a toll on him in recent seasons. Denver is thin at running back. Starter Knowshon Moreno (hamstring) and Correll Buckhalter (back) are out. The team expects both back sometime this month.
The Omaha Nighthawks of the UFL want to help discarded former No. 1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell resurrect his career.

Omaha general manager Rick Mueller and player personnel director Ted Sundquist said Friday that they are pursuing the quarterback, who was cut by Oakland in May after three disastrous seasons. The team put Russell on its protective list almost immediately after he was cut by Oakland, Sundquist said. Omaha’s interest in Russell was initially reported by Profootballtalk.com.

Russell
“We are interested in JaMarcus Russell and we think it would be a good opportunity for him,” Mueller said.

Still, Omaha knows getting Russell to play in the UFL may be a long shot. The team realizes that he still prefers to try to latch on with an NFL team as a backup. Still, Omaha’s pitch to Russell has been that it can help him reach his goal of being a starting NFL quarterback quicker.

“JaMarcus needs to play,” said Sundquist, the former Denver general manager. "We’d give him that opportunity. We don’t want to make JaMarcus a five-time UFL All-Star. We want him to be a quality NFL quarterback. We think we can help him do that by playing in our league. If he was a No. 3 in the NFL, he’d get four reps a day. Here, he would be playing football and that’s what he needs to do.

“It’s no different than a Major League [Baseball] player who struggles. He goes down to Triple-A for a little while and gets a chance to get things together. That’s what we want for JaMarcus.”

Oakland cut Russell after he regressed badly in 2009. Russell was 7-18 as an NFL starter. Russell is currently working out in Arizona with hopes of shedding weight and getting a call from an NFL team this summer. Russell has talked to some NFL teams but there has been no significant interest.

Omaha has been very aggressive in trying to get former NFL players to sign with the team. The Nighthawks have already inked running back Ahman Green. Other players they are pursuing include Justin Fargas, LaMont Jordan, Shawn Andrews, Charles Grant and Cato June.

Draft Watch: AFC West

March, 26, 2010
3/26/10
1:00
PM ET
NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each week leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Under the radar needs.

Denver

I could see Denver drafting a safety in the fourth round. Starters Brian Dawkins (36) and Renaldo Hill (31) will not be around forever. Denver did take Darcel McBath in the second round last year and he made some decent strides before getting hurt. It would hurt Denver to try to find another young safety to develop. I could also see Denver looking for a big running back late in the draft. The team needs a pounder. The Broncos struggled in short-yardage situations. The Broncos also need a punter.

Kansas City

The Chiefs have done a nice job in free agency, but they still have plenty of needs heading into the draft. Many of Kansas City’s needs are on the defensive side of the ball. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City added multiple linebackers, perhaps starting in the second round. Since the Chiefs use a 3-4 defense, they need several linebackers on an aging crew. Linebacker might be the top need after safety, offensive line and receiver. The Chiefs are young on the defensive front, but it wouldn’t hurt to get more talent in the later rounds at nose tackle. Even though tight end is not a glamour position in Todd Haley’s offense, the Chiefs do need some talent there.

Oakland

After the offensive line, linebacker and quarterback, the Raiders need some defensive line help, especially at tackle. Watch for Oakland to use a mid-round pick on this position. I could also see Oakland trying to find a running back in the third-to-fifth rounds. It cut Justin Fargas and needs some help behind Darren McFadden and Michael Bush. Oakland was set to visit with former Kansas City star Larry Johnson before he signed with Washington. Cornerback and safety are other areas Oakland might address add late in the draft. Oakland also needs some help at receiver. Ideally, it would be in the form of a veteran (Terrell Owens, anyone?) because Oakland is so green at the position.

San Diego

This is an important draft for the Chargers. The team has has lost several players this offseason. San Diego is still the class of the AFC West and it has pretty nice depth. But reinforcements are needed at several positions. The Chargers’ biggest needs are running back and nose tackle. But San Diego will be busy after filling those two early needs. San Diego could use some youth at defensive end and inside linebacker. Also, watch for the team to look for a cornerback in the post-Antonio Cromartie era. Offensively, San Diego needs a blocking tight end to replace Brandon Manumaleuna, who signed with Chicago. That position could be addressed in the middle rounds. San Diego also could use a young right tackle to groom. I could also see a young receiver taken in the late rounds.

US PresswireThe Raiders have to figure out a way to effectively use both of their running backs, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush.
The quarterback battle will not be the only intrigue in the backfield during Oakland’s training camp this summer.

Raiders coach Tom Cable said this week during the NFL owners meetings that running backs Darren McFadden and Michael Bush will compete for the starting job.

Unlike Oakland’s quarterback battle between bust-in-waiting JaMarcus Russell and feisty journeyman Bruce Gradkowski, Oakland’s running back competition could really help the team. Let’s face it, Oakland’s quarterback situation is murky at best. Even if the admirable Gradkowski wins the job, he is not likely a long-term answer.

The running game is potentially Oakland’s best chance for offensive success.

Cable has indicated he'd like either McFadden or Bush to step up and become a premier tailback. It seems McFadden, who has been a disappointment since being picked fourth overall in the 2008 draft, could have the first chance to separate himself.

But Cable wants to see one of them become a standout.

“We’ll move forward with those two guys,” Cable said. “I think it will help both of them that they will get more work. But [they are] definitely different one from the other so I think that helps us with what we’re trying to do. Looking at everything, let’s see if we can keep [McFadden] healthy and see what he can do. ...

"The question is can he be an every-down back, and I think he can be.”

While Bush and McFadden both have to make improvements in their game, the Oakland coaching staff also has to do a better job handling them.

Perhaps it will help the entire situation that Justin Fargas was removed from the mix. He was cut earlier this month. While Oakland boasted about its three-man running back committee for the past two years, it never properly used the committee. Now that Fargas is not a factor, Oakland has to construct a way to best use Bush and McFadden.

I truly believe there should be no clear-cut primary back in Oakland. I think Bush and McFadden can be effective in their own roles.

The best way to win in the NFL these days is on the ground and with two backs. Bush is more of a power back who can wear down defenses and McFadden is a speedster who can break a long run at any time.

If Oakland gets both Bush and McFadden rolling together, it can confuse and frustrate defenses. But both players have to show they can handle the load.

Bush started seven games last year. He ran for 589 yards and averaged 4.8 yards per carry on 123 attempts. Bush is much too talented to get so few carries.

Oakland used him very inconsistently. He had 10 or more attempts in only six games last year. Oakland did give Bush a total of 38 carries in the final three games.

But Bush has to take better advantage of his carries. In Week 15, he had 133 yards on 18 carries in a win at Denver. In the season finale, Bush had only 18 yards on 10 carries against Baltimore.

“Michael, I think, if he can get comfortable if he’s going to be an every-down guy,” Cable said.

But he doesn’t have to be. McFadden can help as well. But he has to show he can stay healthy. His early career has been hampered by injuries and ineffectiveness. There has to be concern that he will not be able to hold up. I think Cable would be better served by not trying to make McFadden a 20- to 25-carry back. He is best suited to be used like New Orleans uses Reggie Bush.

If McFadden can get eight to 10 carries a game and catches a few passes out of the slot, he can be a terror.

The only way this is going to work if Bush and McFadden work as a tandem. There doesn’t have to be a clear-cut starter in Oakland.
The Eagles cut former Pro Bowl guard Shawn Andrews. Denver could use a guard. But Andrews would be risky. He has played just two games the past two years due to depression and back issues.

  • If San Diego is still looking for veteran backup help at cornerback it could turn to Nathan Vasher, who was just cut by the Bears. He played for San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in Chicago.
  • The Chargers have other needs, but after trading Charlie Whitehurst and after Tim Tebow’s good performance at his pro day, maybe they will be interested in making Tebow their No. 3 quarterback if he’s available in the third round. It’s a long shot, but there is now an opening.
  • Running back Justin Fargas visited the Saints. He was recently cut by Oakland.

Draft Watch: AFC West

March, 17, 2010
3/17/10
12:00
PM ET
NFC Needs Revisited: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Draft Watch: Biggest needs (2/17) | Busts/gems (2/24) | Schemes, themes (3/3) | Recent history (3/10) | Needs revisited (3/17) | Under-the-radar needs (3/26) | History in that spot (3/31) | Draft approach (4/7) | Decision-makers (4/14) | Dream scenario/Plan B (4/21)

Each Wednesday leading up to the NFL draft (April 22-24), the ESPN.com blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today’s topic: Biggest needs revisited.

Denver: The Broncos have added three potential starting defensive linemen and a backup quarterback (at least for the time being) in Brady Quinn. Those two positions are probably out of the question for Denver in the early rounds. The Broncos do have plenty of needs, though. The Broncos will be looking for an inside linebacker after the release of starter Andra Davis. Alabama’s Rolando McClain has to be considered a possibility at No. 11. Denver is also looking for help on the offensive line at guard and at center. The Broncos will surely take a young interior offensive linemen early. With Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall’s future in flux, Denver has to be on the hunt for a receiver. This is a position the Broncos could address early.

Kansas City: The Chiefs have been aggressive in free agency. But because the Chiefs have to improve in many areas, there is plenty to target in the draft. Kansas City has been targeting several veteran offensive linemen, but I think it will try to draft an offensive lineman in the first round or with one of its two second-round picks. The Chiefs still have a big need at safety. If he is available, Tennessee’s Eric Berry has to be a real possibility with the No. 5 pick. I wouldn’t be surprised if Kansas City looked at a linebacker in the first three rounds, either. Even though veteran receiver Chris Chambers has re-signed, look for the Chiefs to try to get younger at the position, perhaps in the second round. The team’s need for a running back was filled with veteran Thomas Jones in free agency.

Oakland: The Raiders have been shedding veterans much more than they have been bringing in players so far in free agency. The need wish list still starts at tackle. The Raiders have long had a dearth there. There probably will be several solid choices at tackle with the No. 8 overall pick. Oakland has to consider this a priority position. The Raiders could also use a young quarterback in the early-to-middle rounds. With running back Justin Fargas cut, the Raiders also could use another running back, but it won’t be a high-round priority. With veteran Gerard Warren cut, Oakland will need a defensive tackle, probably in the early rounds. Linebacker is also an area Oakland may try to address early.

San Diego: The Chargers have as many draft needs as they’ve had in several years. The Chargers have seen several veterans leave through free agency, trade or release. The team has a lot of depth, but reinforcements are needed at several areas. The two main areas of need remain running back and nose tackle. San Diego will address these areas early. It just depends how early. The Chargers could potentially take two running backs early. It is a deep running back class, so San Diego will have options. San Diego really needs a nose tackle now that veteran Jamal Williams has been released and signed by Denver. Because nose tackles are more difficult to find than running backs, the Chargers may address this area first. San Diego could use help at tight end in the middle rounds and perhaps even a third-string quarterback. Linebacker and cornerback could also be addressed in the late rounds.
LaDainian Tomlinson is on his way back to San Diego after visiting with the Vikings and the Jets.

He is expected to make a decision between the two teams in the next 24 hours or so. Tomlinson was cut by the Chargers on Feb.23.

It looks like former Oakland running back Justin Fargas is having difficulty finding a new home.

Former Oakland receiver Javon Walker expressed surprise that the Raiders gave him a lucrative deal two years ago. He was cut this week after catching 15 passes in two seasons.

Free-agent offensive linemen Hank Fraley may visit the Chiefs. The Chiefs, who signed center Casey Wiegmann on Friday and who are visiting with guard Ryan Lilja on Monday, are aggressively trying to upgrade their offensive line.
LaDainian Tomlinson’s visit with the Jets is extending to Saturday. Tomlinson could potentially choose between playing for the Vikings (who he visited Thursday) and the Jets over the weekend.

I have confirmed that the Chiefs will visit with free-agent guard Ryan Lilja on Monday. He is from Kansas City and he started his career with the Chiefs. Lilja was cut by the Colts on Monday.

Here’s a report that says former Oakland running back Justin Fargas will not sign with the Eagles.

The more I think about it, the more I think Oakland could be interested in bringing back defensive tackle Grady Jackson. He was cut by Detroit last week. Oakland has a hole in the middle after cutting Gerard Warren this week.

Tampa Bay signed former Oakland linebacker Jon Alston.

Arizona signed free-agent center Rex Hadnot. Denver had interest in him. The Broncos are still looking for a starting center.

ESPN.com has a fun way to keep up with the NFL draft.

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