AFC West: Kelley Washington

Who's on the bubble?

September, 2, 2011
As far as I’m concerned the 53-man cut-down date (which occurs Saturday) is an overrated event.

Many players who survive the cut end up being gameday inactives during most of the season and teams are always looking to improve the back end of the roster. Yet, the final cutdown time is upon us, so let’s look at some of the players on the bubble for each AFC West team:

Denver: There’s not a ton of big names here that stand out as certain bubble players. Safeties Darcel McBath and David Bruton, both taken in 2009, could get the axe. Second-year cornerback Perrish Cox -- who is facing an October sexual assault trial that could imprison him for life -- could also be on the bubble. But the season-ending Achilles injury to key backup cornerback Syd’Quan Thompson could help Cox’s cause to make the team.

Kansas City: There’s not a lot big names here, either. Receivers Verran Tucker, Jeremy Horne and Keary Colbert are fighting for a spot. Running back Jackie Battle is likely an odd-man out. Defensive backs Donald Washington, Rashard Langford, Sabby Piscitelli and Travis Daniels are also on the bubble.

Oakland: Defensive backs Walter McFadden, Jeremy Ware, Steve Brown and Sterling Moore are all on the bubble. It will be interesting to see what happens there. Veteran running back Michael Bennett could also be on his way out as well as receiver/punt returner Nick Miller.

San Diego: The Chargers’ receiver situation is interesting. It looks like Bryan Walters could make the team. But what about Seji Ajirotutu, Laurent Robinson and Kelley Washington? Veteran linebacker Stephen Cooper and Kevin Bentley are on the bubble as is rookie undrafted quarterback Scott Tolzien.

What are your thoughts about the final cut downs. Fill up the comment section below with your thoughts.

Philip Rivers or Joe Flacco?

June, 16, 2011
Despite the fact that he has not won a Super Bowl, San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers is generally considered an elite NFL quarterback. Baltimore’s Joe Flacco, however, isn’t. Flacco is widely respected, but he is more known as a gritty game manager.

In an Insider piece, though, KC Joyner writes that Flacco is in Rivers’ company. Crunching the numbers in the way only he can, Joyner makes the argument that Flacco is in Rivers’ league as a deep passer. Rivers is considered by many NFL observers to have the prettiest deep ball in the league.

Here is some of Joyner’s thinking on the subject: Last year, the San Diego receiving corps suffered through a slew of injuries and suspensions that cost the team the services of starting wideouts Vincent Jackson and Malcom Floyd and starting tight end Antonio Gates for a total of 22 games.

Those losses meant that Rivers ended up throwing a total of 189 pass attempts to the following receivers: Seyi Ajirotutu, Patrick Crayton, Buster Davis, Randy McMichael, Legedu Naanee and Kelley Washington. Those six players would be lucky to crack the starting lineup of any NFL team, yet Rivers ended up committing 34.9 percent of his targets to them last season.

For most quarterbacks, a situation of this nature would cause a significant drop-off in yards per attempt (YPA) production in the areas of vertical (aerials thrown 11 or more yards downfield) and stretch vertical (20 or more yards) passing, but that didn't happen with Rivers. He ranked fourth in the league in vertical YPA (12.1) and seventh in stretch vertical YPA (14.8).

One of the ways he was able to do this was by getting quality YPA figures from both the big name and non-big name pass-catchers. His 13.0 vertical YPA on passes to Floyd, Gates and Jackson alone would have been good enough to rank second in the league in that category, but his 11.2 YPA on vertical targets to other pass-catchers would have been good enough to rank 13th in that same category.

This shows that Rivers is capable of finding a way to get above-average vertical performance from backups. That ability kept the Chargers' downfield passing offense moving even when injuries and suspensions could have hamstrung it.

Flacco was faced with a somewhat different situation in that his wideouts and tight ends were healthy, but they all had vertical receiving limitations.

Anquan Boldin has a very limited history of being a vertical threat and he was paired up with Derrick Mason and T.J. Houshmandzadeh, a tandem of aging possession receivers.

Flacco was able to do more than just work around these limitations. He actually excelled with this trio, evidenced by 1,472 yards on the 133 vertical targets aimed at these three.

That equates to an 11.1 vertical YPA overall, but what is more impressive is that each of the three ended up posting a double-digit vertical YPA mark (11.3 for Boldin, 11.9 for Houshmandzadeh, 10.4 for Mason). To put that into perspective, consider that only five other teams ended up with three qualifying pass-catchers in double digits in vertical YPA (47 total targets needed to qualify).

Flacco's downfield passing expertise did not stop there. He posted a 12.5 vertical YPA and 15.1 stretches vertical YPA on throws to targets other than the aforementioned three. Both of those figures are more than a yard higher than what the possession trio posted, and they should increase further with a legitimate deep-threat possibility this year in second-round pick Torrey Smith.

My thoughts: It’s difficult to argue with Joyner and his numbers. He’s a mad scientist when it comes to NFL statistics. And I do like Flacco. The guy is a winner. Still, for my money, I’d rather have Rivers on my team. His pure ability, gumption and leadership make him special.

Who would you rather have quarterback your team, Rivers or Flacco? Fill up the comment section below with your thoughts.

AFC West mailbag

November, 10, 2010
Midweek mail call:

Scott from Phoenix wants to know if I think San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has a chance to win the NFL MVP award?

Bill Williamson: Well, he is playing as well as anybody. He is on a record pace for yards thrown. He has put San Diego on his back. The fact that he threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns in a six-point win at Houston despite not having his top four receivers and tight end Antonio Gates was remarkable. But the problem is San Diego is 4-5. It will have to rip off a bunch of wins for Rivers to get serious MVP consideration. Now, if Rivers continues his torrid season and the Chargers end up in the playoffs, yes, I think he has a real shot.

Tim from SLC wants to know if I think Oakland rookie receiver Jacoby Ford will take some playing time away from Darrius Heyward-Bey.

BW: I could see it. Ford has to stay on the field. The fourth-round draft pick had six catches for 148 yards Sunday in the Raiders’ big win over the Chiefs. But most importantly, Ford, who also returned a kickoff for a score in the game, made clutch plays. Heyward-Bey had no catches Sunday. He has had two good games this season and in seven games he was a non-factor. With Louis Murphy likely returning from a lung injury soon, there is a decision to be made. I think Ford needs a chance to show what he can do. He looks very polished.

SJL from Portland wants to know why I think San Diego passed on putting a waiver claim on Randy Moss, but signed journeyman receiver Kelley Washington the next day.

BW: I think they are two separate issues. San Diego has some temporary injury issues and that’s why Washington was brought in. There was no interest in Moss because the Chargers like their receivers in the long term, and adding a controversial personality like Moss is out of character for San Diego.

Receiver-needy Chargers add veteran

November, 4, 2010
The San Diego Chargers gave themselves some much-needed help at receiver in the form of receiver Kelley Washington.

He is expected to be in uniform Sunday at Houston. He is a big receiver at 6-foot-3, 217 pounds. He has played eight NFL season and had 34 catches for 431 yards for Baltimore last season. He can also help on special teams.

Prior to signing Washington, San Diego had just three healthy receivers – Patrick Cratyon, Gary Banks and Seji Ajirotutu. Starters Malcom Floyd and Legedu Naanee are not expected to play at Houston because of hamstring injuries. Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson won’t be eligible to play until Week 12 after ending his holdout last week.

Also, star tight end Antonio Gates is dealing with foot injuries and will be severely hampered if he plays at Houston. So, the Washington signing makes sense.