AFC West: Karl Paymah

Posted by's Bill Williamson

There's been some action regarding free agency in the AFC West on Saturday.

Tackle Khalif Barnes joins Oakland after a long courtship and Karl Paymah leaves Denver for Minnesota.

Barnes and the Raiders come together after talks broke down early last week. The former Jacksonville tackle is familiar with the zone-blocking scheme Oakland uses and Oakland coach Tom Cable, whose specialty is the offensive line, wanted Barnes.

He can start at both right and left tackle so if Oakland drafts a left tackle early in the draft Barnes could slide over to the right side. Oakland opened the offseason with the hopes of signing one veteran tackle and drafting a tackle. The Raiders have the No. 7 pick in the draft and will likely choose between a receiver and tackle.

Mario Henderson played decently at the end of the 2008 season and could also be in the mix. Kwame Harris was cut after one season because of salary cap issues, plus he struggled in Oakland. Barnes is a big, strong player who has been inconsistent at times. But he does have some skills and signing him to a one-year deal was a good investment by Oakland.

Oakland has concentrated on signing its own players in free agency but these moves gives Oakland a chance to fill one of its needs.

Paymah's departure from Denver was not a surprise. Denver never tried to re-sign the cornerback and he visited several teams before signing with the Vikings.

Denver used its first three draft picks in 2005 on cornerbacks. Denver had six picks in 2005 and none of those players are on the team any longer. The list includes Maurice Clarett who was cut in the preseason of his only NFL training camp. Cornerback Darrent Williams was becoming a standout but he was shot and killed hours after the end of his second NFL season.

AFC West news and notes

March, 11, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

There were some things going on in the AFC West that didn't involve the Jay Cutler and LaDainian Tomlinson bombshells.

Let's get caught up:

Denver signed defensive tackle J'Vonne Parker. He is a fifth-season player who was with Carolina, Atlanta and Baltimore last season. He will fight for a roster spot in training camp.

The Kansas City Star reasons that now that St. Louis has cut tackle Orlando Pace they could add a tackle with the No. 2 spot, which could help Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry to slip to Kansas City at the No. 3 pick. Still, Detroit is a candidate to take Curry with the No. 1 pick.

Former Denver backup quarterback Patrick Ramsey was visiting with Tennessee. Denver is not going to bring him back. Linebacker Jamie Winborn, who was cut by Denver last month, is also visiting with the Titans.

Denver free-agent cornerback Karl Paymah will visit with San Francisco. He could soon choose where he will play in 2009. Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Minnesota have all expressed interest in Paymah. Denver has not shown interest in bringing him back.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The San Diego Union Tribune is reporting that the Chargers have made their final offer to running back LaDainian Tomlinson.

This is getting interesting.

The paper reports that the situation is now in Tomlinson's hands. His choice: Either accept the pay cut the Chargers have offered him or be cut.

There have been rumors of Tomlinson not accepting the offer for weeks and his mother told a San Diego radio station during the week that the situation doesn't look promising.

The two sides have been discussing the situation for weeks and if the Chargers truly are not going to give him another offer, a resolution could be soon. Chargers fans may need to prepare themselves for the unthinkable: The departure of their legendary running back. Still, I won't believe it until I see it.

The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that tackle Khalif Barnes is likely not to sign with the Raiders. The team wants to add two tackles so perhaps it will consider someone else in free agency.

Denver free agent cornerback Karl Paymah is going to visit Tampa Bay. He already visited Baltimore.

Mike Vrabel is ready for his new role in Kansas City.

The Denver Post reports money was a factor in the Jay Cutler-Matt Cassel non-trade.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Interest in Denver free agent cornerback Karl Paymah is heating up. He is visiting Baltimore on Thursday and he is getting calls elsewhere, a source close to the situation said. Denver is not trying to retain Paymah.

If he ends up in Baltimore, Paymah would likely be the nickel cornerback and he would reunite with fellow cornerback Domonique Foxworth, who signed with Baltimore on Friday. Both Paymah and Foxworth were drafted by Denver in the third round in 2005.

Bailey out again for Denver

November, 23, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Champ Bailey is going to get one more week to rest his injured groin. Bailey, who was hurt Oct. 20, has practiced on a limited basis for more than a week, but he is still not ready to play. He was deactivated for today's game against Oakland.

Barring a setback, expect Bailey to be ready to play next Sunday at the New York Jets. The word out of Denver is that Bailey could have forced himself to play against the Raiders, but the team would rather have him near full strength to face Brett Favre next week.

Undrafted rookie Josh Bell is starting for Bailey for the second straight week. Bell has risen rapidly up Denver's depth chart. After being cut by San Diego, Bell was signed to the Denver practice squad. He has jumped over Karl Paymah and Jack Williams on his way to being the replacement for Bailey.

AFC West mailbag

November, 22, 2008
Posted by's Bill Williamson

Weekend mail call:

Chris from Denver: Bill! Where are the Pro Bowl results for guards and tackles so far - they weren't included in your Nov. 18th blog on where the AFC West stands in Pro Bowl voting...what are the chances Ryan Clady, or possibly even Ryan Harris or Casey Wiegmann might go? Sure would love to hear more talk about Clady being this years Joe Thomas (who many consider to be the best LT in the game right now!) :) Thanks and keep up the great work!

Bill Williamson: Hi, Chris. I only posted the positions where players from the AFC West made the top five in the fan voting. Fan voting is still going on and it counts for a third of the overall voting, along with the players' and coaches' votes. I agree with you that Clady deserves to go. But it may take a year for him to get more recognition. The same goes for Harris.

Quentin: Bill what is the deal with the bronco's CB position? The team traded foxworth becuase they thought highly of J. williams and Karl P. and know both of them have been past up on the depth chart by and undrafted player in josh bell. Also what does this mean fo the furture of Dre bly?

BW: Williams and Paymah have been inconsistent. Undrafted rookie Josh Bell has taken over their playing time. If Champ Bailey can't play Sunday against the Raiders, Bell will likely make his second-straight start. It's pretty surprising that this happened but the team likes Bell. Williams still could get a chance this season.

Elliot from coran ny: bill thanks for taking my question carl peterson has been at the helm 20 years and herm edwards now finishing his 3 year in kc i'm concerned that the loyalty factor has run its course in kc instead of tangible results will clark hunt be forced to make changes at seasons end or risk further fan base errosion, i don't think edwards is the answer what say you sir

BW: The Hunt family is very loyal. But it also wants to win. I think the Chiefs' ownership will make the decision after the season based on business, not loyalty.

Brian from Durango, CO: i was looking at the pro bowl voting. i saw that nowhere was dwayne bowe mentioned. i mean considering the guy has had 5 different qbs throwing his way and how horrible the offense was beginning of the season hes still on track for 1000 yards 90 recepts and maybe 10 tds. of all the other receivers in the front running, they all have pro bowl caliber, pro bowl, or consistent qbs. i think he definately deserves aleast a backup role in the pro bowl. wouldnt you agree?

BW: I like Bowe a lot, too. He will be a Pro Bowl player someday, likely soon. But he needs to establish himself with fans and players and coaches, and the Chiefs need to get better. Then, Bowe will get his just due.

Nathan: Do you think Nnamdi Asomugha is the best CB in the NFL today? Having only been tested 10 times this season (1 per game average) is he that good? or are the rest of the Raiders that bad? Having the misfortune of watching the Raiders several time this year I can not help but fall into a giant man crush with Nnamdi. There is not doubt why the Raider are in disarray after Al Davis gave D. Hall what they gave him and Nnamdi has to work as a franchise play.

BW: Yes, Nnamdi Asomugha is the best cornerback in the NFL, hands down. He is a jewel in a bad situation.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

It is the massive left tackle who has shut out sack masters Joey Porter and John Abraham this season.

It is the dynamic receiver and return man who caught nine passes for 146 yards in his NFL debut and is a legitimate rookie-of-the-year and Pro Bowl candidate.

It is the fullback -- a former college linebacker -- who on Sunday became the first NFL player in five years to start on offense and defense.

It is the seventh-round pick, best known for blocking for Darren McFadden and Felix Jones in college, who has made the sudden switch from fullback to tailback quite nicely.

It is the undrafted linebacker who took over for one of the leading tacklers in the NFL and has given the team a spark.

It is all of these players who have made the Denver Broncos' 2008 rookie class arguably the best in the NFL and one of the deepest rookie classes in team history.

Before the season, it was widely regarded that the Kansas City Chiefs had one of the best rookie classes in recent memory. The Chiefs' deep rookie class is good. But it has been overshadowed by the Denver class that wasn't as ballyhooed. However, thanks to stunning and historic performances by the Denver rookies, the team has rebounded from a midseason malaise and is taking control of the AFC West with a 6-4 record.

If Denver is going to close out strong and win its first division crown since 2005, these rookies will have to play a major role.

"It's gone so quickly that we haven't had a chance to sit around and feel good about what we are doing," said fullback Spencer Larsen, who started on offense and defense against the Falcons. "I just thought this was normal. I thought a bunch of rookies played on every NFL team, but you look around and you realize this is a pretty good group."

When Broncos coach Mike Shanahan predicted on a Denver radio station during training camp that his team would make the playoffs, he probably knew he had a nice crop of youngsters. But he couldn't have known it was going to be this good.

"These guys aren't only excellent athletes, but they are very sharp football players," Shanahan said. "Some guys got their opportunity because of injuries and some guys got their opportunity because they proved in practice that they can make plays."

Seven rookies have started at eight positions for Denver in 2008. Receiver Eddie Royal has twice won rookie-of-the-week honors and Larsen won the honor this week.

This is Denver's third straight strong rookie class after years of failing in the draft. Denver has rebuilt its team through the draft since 2006, when it drafted quarterback Jay Cutler, tight end Tony Scheffler, wide receiver Brandon Marshall and defense end Elvis Dumervil. This year's rookie crop may be even deeper.

A look at some of the Broncos' key rookies who are contributing for the first-place team:


First round, offensive tackle Ryan Clady:
Clady, the No. 12 overall pick, has been as good at left tackle as Cleveland's Joe Thomas was last year as a rookie. Clady should get serious Pro Bowl consideration. He has allowed a half a sack in 10 games. He is one of three tackles in the NFL not to allow a full sack this season. Clady shut down Porter and Abraham, who have a combined 24.5 sacks this season, in games this season. He is arguably the team's MVP. The Broncos struck gold at one of the most vital positions on the field.


Second round, wide receiver Eddie Royal:
I recall talking to a member of the Denver staff in June. He said the staff was convinced, after the minicamp season, that the Virginia Tech product would be an impact player. Originally, the Broncos drafted Royal to be an impact player in the return game and a developmental player as a receiver. But Royal came to town as a polished player. He has teamed with Marshall to give Denver one of the best 1-2 receiver punches in the NFL. Royal, who is also getting it done as a returner, has 56 catches and four touchdowns in nine games. He has compiled at least 200 all-purpose yards in three games. Royal turned the league on its ear with his big game in Oakland to start the season and he hasn't stopped. He looks like a long-term answer at receiver.


Fifth round, running back Ryan Torain:
The Broncos love this player but it will have to wait until 2009. Torain was on the verge of winning the starting tailback job early in training camp when he broke his elbow. Shanahan compared him to legendary Broncos running back Terrell Davis. Torain came back temporarily earlier this month. He had 68 yards midway through the second quarter against Cleveland when he tore the ACL in his knee.


Sixth round, fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen:
Larsen was a tackle machine at Arizona as a linebacker. However, the Broncos liked him as a fullback and told him that when they drafted him. He practiced at both fullback and linebacker but became primarily a fullback. As the season progressed, Larsen became one of Denver's best special-teams players. He would routinely blow up people while covering kicks. However, after a rash of injuries at both running back and linebacker, the Broncos decided they needed Larson on bo
th offense and defense. Last Sunday at Atlanta, Larsen became the first NFL player since 2003 to start on both sides of the ball. He started at fullback and middle linebacker. He hadn't practiced at linebacker since training camp but still came up with seven tackles. The Broncos expect to use Larsen in a similar role as the season progresses.


Seventh round, running back Peyton Hillis:
After season-ending injuries to four tailbacks, the former Arkansas standout was forced to move from fullback to tailback. In the past two weeks, Hillis has run hard and gained tough yards. He is a great receiver out of the backfield. Denver thinks he can help down the stretch. He's a very tough player and could do well in a committee with tailbacks Tatum Bell and Selvin Young.


Undrafted free agent, linebacker Wesley Woodyard:
A special-teams ace, the Kentucky product has played very well in the last two games as a replacement for D.J. Williams at weakside linebacker. Woodyard is very active and always near the ball. When Williams returns in a couple of weeks, expect Denver to find a way to keep Woodyard in the defensive mix.


Undrafted free agent, cornerback Josh Bell:
The Baylor product was originally with San Diego. Denver signed him to the practice squad earlier in the season. He quickly impressed coaches with his play in practice. He has moved past fellow rookie Jack Williams and veteran Karl Paymah. He started in front of Paymah with Champ Bailey out. When Bailey returns, Bell will be the nickel cornerback.


Undrafted free agent, punter Brett Kern:
Kern has brought stability to a position from which Denver has had none in recent years. He's very steady and has a strong leg.

AFC West news and notes

November, 16, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Here are some random AFC West thoughts with three teams in the books and San Diego playing in the second half in Pittsburgh:

The Chargers' defense looks like it's clicking under new coordinator Ron Rivera. He is in his second game since taking over for the fired Ted Cottrell. San Diego's defense clicked in the second half last week against Kansas City and is playing aggressively against the Steelers in a bad weather game in Pittsburgh.

The Chargers have been hassling Pittsburgh quarterback Ben oRoethlisberger all game long. San Diego had a critical defensive stand in the first half as Pittsburgh was stranded near the goal line.

Undrafted rookie Josh Bell started for Denver at cornerback Sunday, replacing Champ Bailey. Karl Paymah had been playing for the injured Bailey, but Bell took over Sunday. The Baylor product was originally signed by San Diego. It's interesting that Bell has moved up so quickly. Not only did he pass up Paymah but also he passed fourth-round pick Jack Williams who had been playing earlier this season. Expect Bell to be the nickel cornerback when Bailey returns.

San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson has had a few nice runs against the Steelers. Expect Tomlinson to continue to improve as the season wears on. He is healthy after dealing with a turf toe injury most of the first half of the season.

With Cincinnati tying Philadelphia on Sunday, the Chiefs, 1-9, are now on pace to get the second pick in the April draft.

New Oakland return man Justin Miller had four kick returns Sunday and had a best return of 40 yards. He was claimed off waivers from the Jets on Wednesday.

Denver tight end Daniel Graham, who caught the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Falcons on Sunday, has four touchdowns in the last five games.

The Raiders have been beaten badly in the first half of games in the past three weeks. Oakland has been outscored 50-3 in the last three first halves. In those games, their opponents achieved 41 first downs while the Raiders have had seven.

The Raiders announced after the game that quarterback JaMarcus Russell was informed of a death in the family after the game. He did not speak to the media.

AFC West injury report

November, 13, 2008
Posted by's Bill Williamson


After practice, Broncos left cornerback Champ Bailey told reporters he isn't completely healed but there is a chance he can play Sunday at Atlanta. Denver coach Mike Shanahan said that Bailey is the type of player who doesn't need a large amount of practice to play.

Bailey was limited in his participation Thursday, but it was an unexpected boost for Denver. Bailey didn't participate Wednesday and he has been out since suffering a serious groin injury Oct. 20 at New England. When he was hurt, the diagnosis was that he'd be out 4-6 weeks. It will be 27 days between the Patriots game and Sunday's game at Atlanta.

Earlier in the week, it seemed like there was no chance of Bailey facing the Falcons, so this is certainly progress. If Bailey can't play against Atlanta, undrafted rookie Josh Bell or Karl Paymah will likely take his place.

Meanwhile, running back Selvin Young didn't practice for the second straight day and he likely won't play Sunday because of a nagging groin injury.

Kansas City

Defensive end Turk McBride was taken off the injury report. He could play Sunday against New Orleans. However, other defensive starters, Tamba Hali, Derrick Johnson and Pat Thomas, look like they may not play Sunday.


It looks more and more like quarterback JaMarcus Russell (knee) and running back Darren McFadden (turf toes) will play at Miami on Sunday. Russell missed one game and McFadden has missed the past three games. Meanwhile, defensive end Derrick Burgess wasn't on the practice field to start practice despite indications earlier in the week he could play Sunday. Burgess has missed the past five games with a triceps injury.

San Diego

The only changes of note Thursday were that backup receiver Buster Davis (groin) and backup linebacker Marques Harris (hamstring) didn't practice.

AFC West injury update

November, 12, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Here is an AFC West injury update where Oakland is hopeful quarterback JaMarcus Russell will be back on the field Sunday:

Denver: There weren't many surprises for Denver, which has 11 players on injured reserve -- the second-highest total in the NFL. The only fairly interesting tidbit is star left cornerback Champ Bailey wasn't listed as "out" for the game as were fellow starters Marlon McCree, Nate Webster and D.J. Williams. Bailey was listed as "did not participate." That does not close the door on him playing for the first time since Oct. 20 when he suffered a groin injury.

At this point, it would be a surprise if Bailey played Sunday at Atlanta. More than likely, undrafted rookie Josh Bell and Karl Paymah will vie for playing time at left cornerback. Running back Selvin Young didn't practice with a groin injury that has been bothering him for nearly six weeks. He is likely a long shot to play at Atlanta.

Oakland: Raiders coach Tom Cable is hopeful Russell, running back Darren McFadden and defensive end Derrick Burgess can play Sunday at Miami.

Russell didn't play against Carolina because of tendonitis in his knee. McFadden has been out for the past three games with turf toe injuries on both feet, and Burgess has missed the past five games with a triceps injury. The return of these three players would help Oakland try to break its three-game losing streak. Receiver Javon Walker is doubtful with an ankle injury and Ashley Lelie is set to start for him.

San Diego: Cornerback Cletis Gordon didn't practice with a knee injury and he'll likely be out 2-3 weeks. Gordon started against Kansas City for Antonio Cromartie who played despite having a hip injury. Cromartie wasn't on the participation report Wednesday and he is expected to start at Pittsburgh. Rookie Antoine Cason will continue to play in the nickel. However, the Chargers didn't use the nickel defense much against Kansas City.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Domonique Foxworth says Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler "probably has the strongest arm in the entire league."

That used to be a source of pride for Foxworth, who was a third-round pick of the Broncos in 2005. Now, however, as the left cornerback of the Atlanta Falcons, Foxworth is not so thrilled with Cutler's big arm.

Foxworth was traded to Atlanta from Denver for a seventh-round pick in September. Foxworth is now a starting cornerback for the Falcons who host Cutler and the Broncos on Sunday.

"It is not nearly as exciting of a prospect now that I am on the other side of Jay," Foxworth said. "But I'm ready for it. I went against him all the time in practice and I look forward to the challenge."

Does Foxworth expect the Broncos to target him Sunday?

"Absolutely," he said. "They'll come after me but I'll be ready."

Foxworth said he is excited to face the Broncos who suddenly traded him. He was set to be the team's nickel cornerback. Foxworth said the trade was for the best for him. Foxworth, a free agent at the end of the season, wasn't going to get a chance to start in Denver.

The Broncos could use Foxworth these days. Left cornerback Champ Bailey has been out for three weeks with a groin injury and he will likely miss another game or two. Undrafted rookie Josh Bell and Karl Paymah could see time in Bailey's place against Atlanta.

Meanwhile, Denver just waived receiver Glenn Martinez to make room for running back Tatum bell who agreed to terms earlier Tuesday.

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Around the AFC West where Larry Johnson is back in Kansas City and Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has been stripped of his play-calling duties:

The Broncos' linebackers are all hurt.

My take: There isn't a team in the NFL dealing with as many injuries as the Broncos. The Broncos have lost three running backs in the past week and all three of their starting linebackers are hurt. Boss Bailey is out for the season and D.J. Williams and Nate Webster will likely miss two or three more games. Star cornerback Champ Bailey will likely miss at least one more game. Undrafted rookie Josh Bell and veteran Karl Paymah could play in Bailey's place. Denver is banged up.

Kansas City
Larry Johnson is back with the club.

My take: It's time for Kansas City to allow Johnson back. He was punished for three games by the team and then one game by the NFL for off-field issues. Since he was inactivate and suspended for three games by the Chiefs, Johnson missed just one game check and that came when he was suspended by the league for the San Diego game.

Four games away from the team is a stuff penalty. Johnson now has seven games remaining with the Chiefs to show the team that he is worth keeping around in 2009. Johnson is probably gone after this season. But if he plays well, he could change the team's mind. It will be interesting to see what Kansas City's offense is like with Tyler Thigpen and Johnson in the same backfield. Thigpen is best suited for the spread offense where the running game is a second option. The Chiefs will have to find a way to get the most out of both Thigpen and Johnson.

The Chiefs' defense is beat up.

My Take: If the Chiefs lose Turk McBride for the season it will hurt. He is a big part of the defense. The Chiefs were playing without several starters against San Diego. That's why Chiefs coach Herman Edwards decided to go for two points and try to win the game in the final minute. After the loss, Edwards said his defense just wasn't healthy enough to go to overtime.

Offensive coordinator Greg Knapp has been stripped of his play-calling duties.

My take: You can't argue with this team trying to change its offensive fortunes. Oakland hasn't scored a touchdown in three games and it was two games between trips to the end zone before that. Oakland has scored a league-low 113 points this season. Apparently, interim coach Tom Cable is calling the plays now. Oakland is a mess and the play calling is just a part of it. But you can't argue with it. The Raiders weren't scoring under Knapp, who will likely end up on Jim Mora's staff in Seattle next year, so a change is understandable.

San Diego
The Chargers' run game isn't right.

My take: LaDainian Tomlinson said this week the running game isn't working as well as it should be. He said he is healthy from a turf toe injury he suffered in Week 1. Still, Tomlinson had just 78 yards on 22 carries against Kansas City on Sunday. I think the Chargers need to use both Tomlinson and backup Daren Sproles. He has a nice burst and he is an excellent change of pace back. I'm not saying Sproles should take carries away from Tomlinson. The Chargers need to force the issue and create caries for both. With Sproles in the mix, it will take pressure of Tomlinson and help create opportunities for him.

This is the AFC West's best?

November, 2, 2008

Posted by ESPN .com's Bill Williamson

DENVER -- What's the difference between the AFC West and the United States presidential race?

There will be a winner this week in the chase to be president.

 Doug Pensinger/Getty Images
 Denver quarterback Jay Cutler played his worst game of the season Sunday, tossing three interceptions.

Further cementing its stranglehold on the title of worst division in the NFL, the AFC West went a combined 0-3 Sunday. It was the second straight week the division went winless. The four AFC West teams are now 10-22 at the halfway point of the season. No, don't expect an AFC wild card to come out of this division.

With half a season to go, there is a legitimate chance the AFC West will produce the first playoff team with a losing record in the playoffs in a non-strike shortened season. Two 4-5 teams made the playoffs in 1982.

Only a strike could save this division. As silly as it sounds, the Denver Broncos, losers of four of their past five games, are leading the division. Denver is 4-4; San Diego, which had a bye this week, is 3-5; Oakland is 2-6 and Kansas City is 1-7.

After a 26-17 loss to visiting Miami on Sunday, in which the Broncos continued their sloppy ways on offense and untimely lapses on defense, Denver players tried to find a way to be positive.

"The division hasn't been good, we can look at that," Denver linebacker Nate Webster said. "But, come on, we need to start winning some games."

The Broncos, who play on a short week Thursday night at Cleveland, had an opportunity to separate themselves from San Diego while the Chargers were on a bye. With wins over Miami and Cleveland, Denver could have been 6-3 while San Diego was still 3-5. Now, Denver must try to avoid being 4-5 as the Chargers prepare to play host to Kansas City next Sunday.

"We have to shore things up," Denver running back Michael Pittman said. "We have to do it quick."

There is plenty of work to do. Quarterback Jay Cutler is coming off his worst game of the season, the vaunted Denver running attack is coming off its second-worst effort in the history of the franchise and the battered defense probably will now have to play without another stalwart, linebacker D.J. Williams, who suffered a knee injury.

"This was a bad game," Cutler said.

Other key developments from Sunday:

Turnovers continue to kill Denver: The Broncos continued to be careless with the ball. Cutler was the culprit Sunday. He threw three interceptions, two in the first quarter -- including one that was returned 32 yards by Miami cornerback Will Allen for a touchdown to give the Dolphins a 13-0 lead.

The Broncos have committed 15 turnovers in their four losses. Eleven of the turnovers have come in the first half of games. In the past five weeks, Denver has been outscored 56-0 on series after turnovers.

Simply put, the Broncos' defense is not stout enough to withstand the pressure of Denver's offensive mistakes.

The turnovers are also ruining a strong offense. In Denver's first three games, which were essentially mistake-free, Denver scored 114 points. In the five games since, Denver has scored a total of 76 points and no more than 19 points in a game.

"Turnovers, it's that simple," Cutler said when asked his thoughts on his unit's biggest issue.

Nowhere to run: In 14 seasons under Mike Shanahan, Denver has been the premier rushing offense in the NFL. It wasn't Sunday. Denver had 14 yards rushing. It was the second-fewest yards in team history. It was a Miami record for fewest rushing yards allowed. Denver ran the ball only 12 times. Shanahan categorized the effort as "embarrassing."

This is battered unit. Pittman left the game because of recurring neck stingers. After the game, Pittman suggested he may need time to rest the injury.

This may open the door for promising rookie Ryan Torain, who was eased into action Sunday. It was his NFL debut. The fifth-round pick from Arizona State broke his elbow in training camp in early August.

Torain was a non-factor against Miami. He had three carries for 1 yard. However, with Pittman hurting and Selvin Young out for the past three games with a groin injury, Denver may have to turn to Torain in an attempt to regain the Denver rushing spark.

Marshall no fan of defensive scheme: Fresh off his lowest catch output since becoming a starter late in his rookie season in 2006, Denver star receiver Brandon Marshall, who had two catches for 27 yards, was more focused on the game plan of Denver defensive coordinator Bob Slowik.

Marshall didn't like the fact that Denver cornerback Karl Paymah, who replaced the injured Champ Bailey, was playing so far off of Miami receiver Greg Camarillo. He had 11 catches for 111 yards.

"When I look at it, it's common sense, if I was a receiver going against our defense and they're stacking the box and we're playing a one-high defense and eight in the box, and the DBs are 10 yards off of me, I'm going to catch 10 to 12 balls a game," Marshall ranted. "I don't even know that receiver's name who caught all those balls.

"Tighten up the coverage and just play ball, it's real simple. It's real simple. They don't need to be 10 yards off. Tighten it up. You say they don't do that against us, the reason why is a receiver will kill them."

When a star bashes the coaching scheme, it is a sure sign of the wheels falling off a team.

Webster didn't buy into Marshall's complaint. He pointed to Denver's defense nullifying Miami's Wildcat formation. Miami ditched the Wildcat after having very little success using it Sunday. Miami had 75 yards rushing and Dolphins quarterback Chad Pennington completed 23 of 40 passes for 281 yards.

Webster also pointed to Miami's final series as the only poor defensive possession Denver had. The Dolphins went on a 15-play, 80-yard drive that took 8:02 to give them a nine-point lead with 3:08 to go.

"That was it," Webster said. "I don't think our defensive scheme really hurt
us today."

Walking more wounded: When Bailey was lost for at least a month with a torn groin, Williams became Denver's best defensive player. The 2004 first-round pick was having a Pro Bowl season with 77 tackles at weakside linebacker.

Now Denver -- which also lost starting strongside linebacker Boss Bailey for the season two weeks ago -- probably will have to play without Williams for a while.

Shanahan said Williams has a sprained MCL in his knee and he had no idea how long Williams would be out. Williams, who didn't talk to reporters Sunday, departed the stadium on crutches. If Williams is out for an extended period, it could be devastating to Denver's defense.

He is a playmaker, and without the Baileys and Williams, the defense will be stretched extremely thin.

Yes, it was a disastrous Sunday for Denver. But here's the bright spot for the Broncos: They are still the best in the West.

Yes, the AFC West is that bad.

Pregame notes from Denver

November, 2, 2008

Posted by ESPN .com's Bill Williamson

DENVER -- Random pregame thoughts before to the Dolphins-Broncos game:

  • It is 74 degrees and windy in Denver.
  • Denver tight end Tony Scheffler is inactive for the third straight game with a groin injury. Nate Jackson will continue to play in his place.
  • Broncos No. 3 receiver Brandon Stokley will play after missing one game with a concussion.
  • Denver rookie running back Ryan Torain is active for the first time this season and the fifth-round pick from Arizona State is expecting to get some carries.
  • Cornerback Karl Paymah starts in place of injured left cornerback Champ Bailey who will be out for a month with a groin injury.
  • Rookie fullback Peyton Hillis will start in place of fellow rookie Spencer Larsen.

Four players to watch in Week 9

October, 30, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

Here are four players to watch from the AFC West in Week 9:

Denver cornerback Karl Paymah: Paymah has been inserted into the Broncos starting lineup to replace superstar Champ Bailey. Bailey was hurt at New England on Oct. 20. He will miss at least a month with a groin injury. Paymah has been a career nickel-and-dime package defender. He lost his nickel package job to rookie Jack Williams earlier this season. However, Paymah has had success in man coverage. Last season, while in the nickel package, Denver would move starter Dre' Bly to nickel and have Paymah play corner. He will need to be good while Bailey is out beginning Sunday against Miami. One thing is for certain: Paymah will be tested.

Denver running back Ryan Torain: Torain's long awaited debut is expected to come Sunday against Miami. He practiced fully Wednesday and is expected to play for the first time since breaking his elbow in camp in early August. Torain likely won't play extensively in his debut, but he should get some carries. Denver coach Mike Shanahan has compared him to Terrell Davis. So the entire state of Colorado is naturally interested in seeing Torain finally play.

Kansas City running back Kolby Smith: Smith is the Chiefs starter for the time being and it could be for a long while. He took over when the team punished Larry Johnson for off-field issues a few weeks ago. Johnson is expected to play Sunday against Tampa Bay but could soon be facing an NFL suspension. With rookie Jamaal Charles hurt with a high ankle sprain, a lot will be expected from Smith. With the Chiefs using the spread offense with quarterback Tyler Thigpen, Smith won't be the focal point, but he will need to get some yardage. He failed to get a key first down with the Chiefs  holding onto a three-point lead late in an eventual loss to the Jets on Sunday. Smith has some improving to do and it will be interesting to see how he progresses.

Oakland running back Justin Fargas: He hasn't had a very good season. Sure, Fargas is coming off a groin injury, but he hasn't been the player he was last season when he ran for a career high 1,009 yards. Fargas had just 24 yards rushing at Baltimore last week. That needs to improve against the Falcons on Sunday. With rookie Darren McFadden banged up, Fargas needs to step up with a big game to take pressure off quarterback JaMarcus Russell.