AFC West: Kris Wilson
Here is the list: receiver Buster Davis, linebacker Brandon Lang, cornerback Donald Strickland, linebacker Jyles Tucker and tight end Kris Wilson. The Chargers also withdrew their qualifying offer from linebacker Antwan Applewhite. All six players are now free agents.
The Chargers finally ran out of patience with Davis, a first-round pick in 2007. He has skills, but he just can’t stay healthy.
For San Diego, tight end Antonio Gates is listed as questionable to play Sunday night at Indianapolis with a foot injury that has kept him out of the past two games. However, he didn’t practice Friday after being limited Thursday. He will likely be a game-time decision.
Rookie running back Ryan Mathews (ankle) is doubtful to play. He didn’t play Monday night against Denver. Backup Mike Tolbert had 111 yards on the ground and he expected to start against the Colts. Starting receiver Malcom Floyd is questionable to play with a hamstring injury that he aggravated Monday night. He was limited Friday after not practicing earlier in the week. Receiver Legedu Naanee practiced fully Friday and he is probable to play for the first time in a month. He will likely start alongside Vincent Jackson, who is eligible to play after ending his holdout and serving three games on a roster-exemption list.
Gates’ backups Randy McMichael (hamstring) is probable and Kris Wilson (back) is questionable. Guard Louis Vasquez (neck) is questionable. He didn’t practice all week.
- For Kansas City, standout cornerback Brandon Flowers is doubtful to play with a hamstring injury. Rookie receiver/running back/returner Dexter McCluster (ankle) and rookie tight end Tony Moeaki (head) are questionable. Both have players have been practicing fully. McCluster has missed the past four games and Moeaki missed one game. The Chiefs offense will be in good shape at Seattle with these two dynamic youngsters in the game. Also, offensive lineman Ryan Lilja (foot) and Branden Albert (groin) are questionable to play against the Seahawks.
- For Oakland, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha (ankle) and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey (hamstring) are expected back in the lineup Sunday against Miami. Asomugha has missed two games and Heyward-Bey missed one game.
Gates still has to improve some, but the team is hopeful he can play Sunday. Gates said he was “incredibly sore” after his limited session, which, of course, isn’t a great sign.
The Chargers need him. They are stretched thin on offense because of injuries, starting receiver Malcolm Floyd didn’t practice Thursday for the second straight day after aggravating a hamstring injury Monday night against Denver that kept him out for a month. Receiver Legedu Naanee was limited Thursday because of a month-long hamstring injury. He has missed a month-plus because of the injury. Receiver Patrick Crayton will miss, at least, three games after having wrist surgery Wednesday.
Gates’ backup, Randy McMichael, hasn’t practiced this week because of a hamstring injury. Third-string tight end Kris Wilson didn’t practice Thursday because of a back injury. Running back Ryan Mathews hasn’t practiced all week because of an ankle injury that kept him out against Denver. Backup Mike Tolbert will likely start at Indianapolis. Tolbert had 111 rushing yards against Denver. Guard Louis Vasquez has been out all week with a neck injury.
The Chargers, who are 5-5 after winning three straight games, are strapped by injuries. But if Gates can continue to make progress, it would be a major positive development for the team.
It is the second straight game Gates will miss after playing in 94 straight games.
Mike Tolbert is expected to start at running back for San Diego. As expected, rookie running back Ryan Mathews is out with an ankle injury. He didn’t practice all week. Both Tolbert and Mathews have 382 rushing yards.
Receiver Legedu Naanee remains out with a hamstring injury. Patrick Crayton takes his place. Current No. 1 receiver Malcom Floyd is returning after missing several games with a hamstring injury.
Because of the injuries at tight end and running back, San Diego has signed Korry Sperry (tight end) and Curtis Brinkley (running back) off the practice squad. Both players are active Monday night. Backup tight end Kris Wilson is also inactive, so expect to see a lot of Randy McMichael in both phases of the offense.
For Denver, cornerback Andre Goodman (hip) is out as is linebacker Robert Ayers (foot). Ayers may be getting close to playing. Denver running back Laurence Maroney is inactive for the second straight game. He was acquired from New England in September for a fourth-round pick.
Because of a recent San Diego State game, there are big patches of rough grass at heading toward the East end zone.
- Meanwhile, in other AFC West-related news, Oakland coach Tom Cable confirmed that starting defensive end Trevor Scott did tear the ACL in his knee and he is out for the season, as expected. He was hurt on a special teams play Sunday in a 35-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
Oakland is preparing for its biggest game since 2002 with star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha and standout tight end Zach Miller being listed as doubtful to play against first-place Kansas City. Also, San Diego star tight end Antonio Gates is doubtful to play at Houston.
Asomugha and Miller would be big losses for Oakland against the Chiefs. Neither player practiced all week. Asomugha has an ankle injury and Miller has a foot problem.
Asomugha is widely considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson, who is coming off a concussion, will get more playing time if Asomugha doesn’t play.
Kansas City has the No. 1 running attack in the NFL and relies on the run. However, if Asomugha doesn’t play, expect Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel to challenge Oakland’s cornerbacks more than he would if Asomugha were healthy. Miller is a favorite target in Oakland and a top third-down weapon.
San Diego’s passing game will be a mess if Gates can’t play. He has plantar fasciitis on one foot and an injured toe on the other, and didn’t practice all week. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers will be without his top four receivers, and if Gates – Rivers’ favorite target – doesn’t play, Rivers will be in a lurch. Backup tight ends Randy McMichael and Kris Wilson and receiver Patrick Crayton will the have to carry the receiving load along with running back Darren Sproles.
Rivers has thrown for 2,649 yards this season, which is more than any quarterback in NFL history after eight games. He might be challenged like he has never been before this week. Oakland and San Diego have a bye in Week 10, so these three players will get a chance to heal next week.
Meanwhile, Kansas City guard Ryan Lilja (hand) and receiver/returner/rusher Dexter McCluster (ankle) are both questionable to face Oakland.
There are some pretty talented players on that roster, including cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, running back Darren McFadden and tight end Zach Miller. I don’t think Oakland fans should fret about this news.
First, it's happened before, and secondly, huge trades are difficult to make in the NFL, especially considering the trade deadline is Tuesday afternoon. I think the only reason Oakland (2-3) is making the roster available is to see what they could be offered.
Remember, Oakland doesn’t have a first-round draft pick next year because of the Richard Seymour trade with New England. So, if the Raiders could get a huge return for a top player, it may be interested. But don’t expect much to happen.
Schefter also reports that San Francisco could claim linebacker Shawne Merriman when he is released by San Diego in the next couple of weeks. It makes sense. The 0-5 49ers may have the top waiver priority when Merriman is made available. Schefter reports Merriman would like to play for Miami, Dallas or Baltimore.
Also in the AFC West:
San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers leads the NFL with 1,759 passing yards. He leads Denver’s Kyle Orton by 26 yards. Both players are on pace to set the single-season NFL passing yardage record.
It’s no surprise the division is putting together some interesting statistics in the passing game. Let’s examine some interesting nuggets discovered by the talented folks at ESPN Stats & Information.
San Diego tight end Antonio Gates, who is having his best season at the age of 30, is tied for second in the NFL behind the Colts’ Dallas Clark in targets for a tight end. Both Gates and Oakland’s Zach Miller have been targeted 40 times.
Gates has 29 catches for 478 yards and seven scores. Miller -- the favorite target of both Bruce Gradkowski and Jason Campbell -- has 28 grabs for 340 yards and three scores.
San Diego also uses backup tight ends Kris Wilson and Randy McMichael in sets with Gates. In two or more tight end sets, the Chargers have used the second most plays with 163. But it has, by far, the most yardage and catches in the league while using the set. Rivers has completed 50 of 70 passes for 1,148 yards in the set. Meanwhile, here is an ESPN clip debating whether Gates can continue his special season. My guess is yes. The numbers don’t lie.
Denver is thriving in three-plus receiver sets. With the No. 1 ranked passing offense and the worst ranked running offense in the league, the Broncos have to get creative and the multiple receiver sets are working.
Denver is third in the league with three-plus-receiver plays with 208. It has completed and attempted the most passes in the league in the sets, though. Orton has completed 112 of 163 passes using three or more receivers.
These are all reasons the AFC West is becoming the premier passing division in the league.
SAN DIEGO -- Philip Rivers, with the benefit of solid protection, dropped back, scanned the field and let loose with what is very likely the NFL’s prettiest deep ball.
Galloping down the right sideline, Malcom Floyd skied high in double coverage and brought down a spectacular catch, breaking away from coverage and reaching the end zone. A large training camp crowd erupted. It was just another big play from the explosive San Diego Chargers offense during this camp.
The Chargers are not spending the early days of camp worrying about who isn't in attendance and how are they going to survive without them. Instead, the Chargers are acting like a team preparing for a Super Bowl run with the players who are in camp.
“We’re going every day and we’re going hard,” San Diego coach Norv Turner said. "Sure, we’d like everyone here, but they aren’t here and we feel good with what the guys who are here are doing. There is a calmness here.”
The Chargers could be excused if there was a sense of panic at camp. They are practicing without Pro Bowl receiver Vincent Jackson, left tackle Marcus McNeill and linebacker Shawne Merriman, all of whom are holding out. Jackson and McNeill are expected to hold out well into the season. Merriman’s status is less clear.
The attitude in San Diego is not one of a season that is about to be lost. Training camp is being used as a time to get everyone ready for a long run.
“I’m not going to say we don’t miss those guys, because we do,” Rivers said. “I miss throwing the ball to Vincent and I miss standing on the sidelines jawing with Marcus. Those are important guys. But at the same time, we are moving forward. We feel very comfortable with the guys who are here. We’re getting a lot done.”
THREE HOT ISSUES
The key is San Diego’s tremendous depth. Chargers general manager A.J. Smith may get some grief for not giving in and signing the holdout veterans, but he also has his team in position to survive the losses. San Diego is deep at many key positions. Smith has been careful to mix proven veteran talent with intriguing young prospects.
Last year, the Chargers lost defensive tackle Jamal Williams for the entire season and center Nick Hardwick for virtually the entire regular season in Week 1. The Chargers plugged in people and went 13-3 in the regular season.
“We’ve been through this before in a lot of ways,” Turner said. “We feel good with the young players here.”
Jackson is being replaced by Legedu Naanee and Buster Davis, both of whom are having terrific camps. McNeill is being replaced by Brandyn Dombrowski. He was a valuable injury replacement at guard and right tackle last season. There is also veteran Tra Thomas, who can help as well. Merriman is being replaced by 2009 first-round pick Larry English, who was drafted to replace Merriman in case he departed through free agency. English appears to have made great strides this offseason after a lackluster rookie season.
2. Will Ryan Mathews be up for the challenge of replacing a legend? This is a landmark time in Chargers history. The team is moving away from the LaDainian Tomlinson era. He was cut in February after nine seasons in San Diego. Tomlinson had a Hall of Fame career, but he faltered the past two seasons.
While Tomlinson is still a respected figure in San Diego, it is clear that the Chargers are relieved to move on and help ignite the run game, which ranked No. 31 in the NFL last season.
It’s Mathews’ job in training camp to make the team feel comfortable that he is up to the task of bringing balance back to San Diego’s offense. Mathews was the No. 12 overall pick and people in the organization have been raving about him.
“He does not seem affected by having to replace LaDainian,” Rivers said. “He’s very humble and very confident. It doesn’t seem too big for him. We expect a very productive training camp from him.”
The Chargers are excited about the change. Cromartie had 10 interceptions in 2007, but he had a total of five in the next two seasons. Cromartie made many mental mistakes, he was poor against the run and he had some off-field concerns.
The Chargers believe they will be in better shape with Cason, who has been lauded for his intelligence and preparation. Cromartie may be a big name, but the Chargers believe Cason will continue to prove in camp that Cromartie isn’t a big loss.
You would think that the Chargers would be nervous about not having Jackson, McNeill and Merriman in camp. It doesn’t seem like they miss them at all. Practices have been crisp and dynamic. Players are very confident and replacements for each absent player don’t appear to be intimidated at all. The Chargers will surely miss these guys on the field if it gets to that point, but there is no wallowing in the early stages of camp. This team means business.
Merriman needs to be in camp. He is holding out because he wants assurances that the Chargers won’t trade him. He has been upset that he was the subject of trade talk during the past year. The Chargers won’t give him those assurances, but Smith has said he has no current plans to deal Merriman. Merriman really has no leverage here. We all know he’s going to play this year. This is a huge season for the rest of his career. He has to prove he can be a dominant pass-rusher again as he enters the final year of his contract. He is just wasting time by not being at camp.
- Quietly, many in San Diego think the offensive line is ready for a big season. The unit may be motivated by critical comments made by Tomlinson. Among his many excuses for his dramatic lack of production last season was the offensive line play. The line isn’t saying anything about it, but the word is this group is very inspired.
- The Chargers are excited about inside linebacker Brandon Siler. He came on strong last season and should have a big role on the defense this season.
- Look out for linebacker Antwan Applewhite. He was hurt last year, but the Chargers think he could be a secret weapon. He is a special-teams ace and could play a role as a pass-rusher. He is a fierce player.
- Turner is excited to have veteran tight end Randy McMichael. The two were together in Miami in 2002-03 and Turner thinks the veteran can help. Known as a good receiver, McMichael is an underrated blocker, Turner said. The Chargers are also high on backup tight end Kris Wilson.
- Undrafted rookie receiver Jeremy Williams from Tulane has had a good early camp and is the favorite to be the No. 5 receiver.
- While losing Rivers would be devastating, the Chargers have one of the best backups in the NFL in Billy Volek. The guy is a pro and has looked sharp.
- Expect big fullback Mike Tolbert to give San Diego a boost in the short-yardage game. The 5-foot-9, 243-pound Tolbert is a load.
- The Chargers were thrilled with the play of right guard Louis Vasquez last season as a rookie. The word is Vasquez is continuing to make strides and the Chargers think they have a real find.
Chicago may offer Manumaleuna enough make him sign while on his visit. He is a blocking specialist, who the Chargers would want back, but at the right price. San Diego may be preparing for Manumaleuna to depart.
ESPN’s John Clayton has reported that the Chargers have re-signed tight end Kris Wilson to a two-year contract worth $1.7 million.
The Denver Post is reporting that the Broncos are lining up several visits for Friday. Most of these visits are for interior linemen on both sides of the ball as Denver tries to get bigger.
Expect Friday morning and afternoon to offer more news about visits and signing around the division.
Potential unrestricted free agents: P Mitch Berger, S Vernon Fox, T Brandon Gorin, Nick Greisen, G Ben Hamilton, G Russ Hochstein, DE Vonnie Holliday, CB Ty Law, WR Brandon Lloyd
Potential restricted free agents: LB Elvis Dumervil, OL Chris Kuper, WR Brandon Marshall, QB Kyle Orton, TE Tony Scheffler, DT Le Kevin Smith
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Broncos’ restricted class is talented. That will be the focus. It has been reported that Marshall, Orton, Dumervil, Scheffler and Kuper will all get one-year tenders. Marshall very well could be traded. It wouldn’t be a shock if Dumervil gets some action on the restricted market. Miami could be interested.
Potential unrestricted free agents: OL Andy Alleman, S Mike Brown, WR Chris Chambers, WR Terrance Copper, TE Sean Ryan, C Wade Smith, LB Mike Vrabel, WR Bobby Wade
Potential restricted free agents: RB Jackie Battle, QB Brodie Croyle, LB Derrick Johnson, LB Corey Mays, OL Ikechuku Ndukwe, OL Rudy Niswanger, OL Ryan O'Callaghan, S Jarrad Page
Franchise player: None.
What to expect: The Chiefs are interested in keeping some of their unrestricted free agents. General manager Scott Pioli said at the combine the team has been in contact with several of their free agents. Chambers is the focus. The team is trying to keep him. Brown and Vrabel could also return with new deals.
Potential unrestricted free agents: S Hiram Eugene, G Cornell Green, T Langston Walker, LB Sam Williams
Potential restricted free agents: LB Jon Alston, OL Khalif Barnes, LB Ricky Brown, LB Jon Condo, QB Charlie Frye, QB Bruce Gradkowski, LB Thomas Howard, RB Luke Lawton, OL Chris Morris, LB Kirk Morrison, CB Stanford Routt, RB Gary Russell
Franchise player: DE Richard Seymour.
What to expect: The Raiders franchised Seymour and signed kicker Sebastian Janikowski to a record deal, so they’ve already been busy. It will be interesting to see how they tender Howard and Morrison. The Raiders could use some new life at linebacker and this could be the start of it.
Potential unrestricted free agents: DT Alfonso Boone, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, C Dennis Norman, WR Kassim Osgood. T Jon Runyan, DT Ian Scott, TE Kris Wilson
Potential restricted free agents: OL Jeromey Clary, LB Tim Dobbins, WR Malcom Floyd, DT Antonio Garay, OL Eric Ghiaciuc, LB Marques Harris, WR Vincent Jackson, DT Travis Johnson, OL Marcus McNeill, LB Shawne Merriman, RB Darren Sproles, QB Charlie Whitehurst
Franchise player: None
What to expect: The Chargers have their hands full. It’s been reported they will give high tenders to Jackson, Merriman, McNeill and Floyd. Jackson and McNeill could still attract some interest on the restricted market. Sproles is not expected to be tendered, making him a free agent. The Chargers want him back. But if Sproles hits the open market, the multifaceted weapon could be scooped up quickly.
An early look at the free-agent situation in the AFC West.
Note: These projected lists reflect notable unrestricted free agents for each team. The NFL will not issue an official list of free agents until the signing period begins March 5.
Unrestricted free agents: P Mitch Berger, S Vernon Fox, T Brandon Gorin, Nick Greisen, G Ben Hamilton, G Russ Hochstein, DE Vonnie Holliday, CB Ty Law, WR Brandon Lloyd.
Key figures: There isn’t much here. The team could bring back Hochstein, Holliday and Law, but they are all complementary pieces. It’s all about the restricted free-agent class in Denver. The Broncos have to figure out what they are going to do with receiver Brandon Marshall, defensive end Elvis Dumervil, quarterback Kyle Orton and tight end Tony Scheffler.
Kansas City Chiefs
Unrestricted free agents: S Mike Brown, WR Chris Chambers, WR Terrance Copper, TE Sean Ryan, C Wade Smith, LB Mike Vrabel, WR Bobby Wade,
Key figures: Chambers will be Kansas City's priority. He gave the Chiefs’ offense a big spark after he was claimed off waivers in November. The team’s brass really likes what Brown and Vrabel bring to the team and both could be back in Kansas City at the right price. Wade also could be brought back.
Unrestricted free agents: Hiram Eugene, G Cornell Green, K Sebastian Janikowski, DE Richard Seymour, T Langston Walker, LB Sam Williams
Key figures: It’s all about Seymour and Janikowski. The Raiders are trying to get long-term deals with both players done. If new deals aren’t struck, watch for Oakland to put the franchise and transition tags on them. Oakland will do anything it can not to lose either player.
San Diego Chargers
Unrestricted free agents: DT Alfonso Boone, TE Brandon Manumaleuna, C Dennis Norman, WR Kassim Osgood. T Jon Runyan, DT Ian Scott, TE Kris Wilson
Key figures: The team would like to bring back Osgood, one of the best special-teams players in the NFL. But Osgood wants a chance to be a receiver and the opportunity might not be in San Diego. The Chargers will spend most of their energy on their restricted class. The priorities are receiver Vincent Jackson, tackle Marcus McNeill, linebacker Shawne Merriman, running back Darren Sproles and receiver Malcom Floyd.
When I wrote Friday about all of the San Diego receiving game options, I failed to mention third-string tight end Kris Wilson. I guess I didn’t mention him because, well, he’s the third-string tight end.
Wouldn’t you know it – Wilson scored the first touchdown of the game Sunday, on a 13-yard pass from Philip Rivers. San Diego has a 7-0 lead with 12:11 to go in the half.
The fact that Wilson scored, shows just how deep San Diego’s receiving crew is; I don’t think the Jets, ultimately, will have an answer for it .
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Several players from the AFC West or who have retired from the AFC West are enrolled in the league's popular NFL business management and entrepreneurial program.
The annual initiative will be held at the Harvard Business School, Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University), Stanford Graduate School of Business and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The program began in 2005 and 407 players have taken advantage of it. The programs are run in four-day increments and will run from February through April.
Here are the players participating this year with AFC West ties:
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
SAN DIEGO -- Here are the inactives for tonight's game:
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
DENVER -- The injury-barraged San Diego Chargers may have gotten a break.
Both running back LaDainian Tomlinson and cornerback Antonio Cromartie are active for today's game between the Chargers and the Broncos. Both players were listed as questionable on the injury report heading into the game.
Both players did practice fully Friday, though. Tomlinson has a turf toe problem and Cromartie had a hip issue. Both players were hurt in last week's loss to Carolina.
If Tomlinson is affected by the injury, Darren Sproles and rookie Jacob Hester will run the ball for the Chargers in what is a crucial game against the 1-0 Broncos. First-round pick Antoine Cason will spell Cromartie if he can't go.
The Chargers continue to play without standout offensive linemen Nick Hardwick (foot) and left tackle Marcus McNeill (neck). Both players missed last week as well. Jeremy Newberry starts for Hardwick at center and L.J. Shelton plays for McNeill at left tackle.
San Diego's other inactive players are cornerback DeJuan Tribble, linebacker Anthony Waters, guard Kynan Forney, tight end Kris Wilson, defensive tackle Brandon McKinney and Charlie Whitehurst is the emergency quarterback.
For Denver, its inactive players are safety Hamza Abdullah, running back Ryan Torain. linebacker Louis Green, tackle Erik Pears, center Tom Nalen, receiver Darrell Jackson, defensive tackle Nic Clemons and defensive end Jarvis Moss.
This is the second straight healthy scratch for Moss, Denver's first-round pick last year. The Broncos have plans for Moss but Denver doesn't think Oakland and San Diego were good match-ups for the slender pass rusher. However, if you are a first-round pick, match-ups shouldn't play a part on whether you are active or not.
Jackson was added to the injury report Saturday with a calf injury.