AFC West: Mario Haggan

As part of their front office and scouting restructuring, the Oakland Raiders have formally announced several new appointments.

Here are new positions, in alphabetical order, as relayed by the team: Teddy Atlas, scouting coordinator; Calvin Branch, college scout; Joey Clinkscales, director of player personnel; Zack Crockett, college scout; Tom Delaney, director of football administration; Shaun Herock, director of college scouting; Von Hutchins, pro scout; Brad Kaplan, college scout; Larry Marmie, pro scout; Mickey Marvin, college scout; David McCloughan, college scout; Raleigh McKenzie, college scout, Trey Scott, college scout; and Dane Vandernat, pro scout.

In other AFC West news:

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting that the Chiefs will visit with former Miami safety Yeremiah Bell. The Chiefs are looking for depth at the spot. They recently visited with veteran safety O.J. Atogwe.

The Rams signed two AFC West players Tuesday when they inked Kansas City free-agent tackle Barry Richardson and former Denver linebacker Mario Haggan. Neither was in his former team’s plans.

Recently retired Denver safety Brian Dawkins will appear on ESPN’s "NFL Live" on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET.

UPDATE: As expected, the Raiders signed fullback Owen Schmitt.

He played for Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Knapp in Seattle. He is a hard-nosed player, who has a chance to make the team. Restricted free-agent Marcel Reece is and still will be the starter. He has yet to report to the team. Perhaps this minor heat will persuade Reece to join the team.

Camp Confidential: Denver Broncos

August, 17, 2011
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For a franchise that was accused of turning stale a few years ago, the Denver Broncos have become pros at taking fresh approaches.

For the second time in three training camps, Denver has a new head coach. John Fox takes over after the disastrous 23-month Josh McDaniels regime. From 1995 to 2008, the Broncos were the picture of coaching constancy. It was the Mike Shanahan show. Everyone knew it.

But the Broncos have been in flux and have gone from one of the better-run organizations in the NFL to a team that is grasping for an identity. Denver hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2005 season. It hasn’t had a winning record since 2006.

In comes Fox, who is experiencing a rebirth himself after spending the past nine seasons in Carolina. Fox’s biggest task in Denver is to restore normalcy after the rocky McDaniels era and rebuild a winner.

“There has been instability here, good, bad or indifferent, that’s just the way it has been,” said Fox, whose team will be on its sixth defensive coordinator (former New Orleans secondary coach Dennis Allen) in six seasons.

“We have to build our program here. But I think it can be done. There are good pieces here.”

Many Denver players have raved about Fox. They appreciate his professionalism, his structure and his attention to detail. They believe there is a plan in place, and they trust Fox’s experience. The players also seem to appreciate the fact that Fox is simply in Denver to coach. The front office is run by legendary Denver quarterback John Elway and general manager Brian Xanders. Both Shanahan and McDaniels made personnel decisions.

“I get a great feel for Coach Fox,” star cornerback Champ Bailey said. “He’s one of the better coaches I’ve been around ... I like it that he is focused on coaching us on the field. That’s where he wants to be.”


[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Matthew Emmons/US PresswireRookie Von Miller will need to play well right away if Denver's defense is going to improve this season.
1. Fix the defense. While the Tim Tebow-Kyle Orton competition has garnered much attention, the real key issue in Denver’s camp has been the defense. This unit was ranked No. 32 in the NFL last season and was generally awful in every major statistical category. Fox and his defensive staff have taken a hands-on approach to improve this group, which is a mix of veterans and youngsters.

If the reconstructed defensive front plays well and rookie linebacker Von Miller makes an instant impact, this group has a chance to improve quickly. It seems to be working early. Denver’s defense has been capable in camp and it looked solid against Dallas in the preseason opener Thursday. Injuries to defensive tackles Ty Warren (who signed to a two-year, $8 million deal) and Marcus Thomas create more uncertainty at a key spot for Denver. It needs to get help there by Kevin Vickerson, Brodrick Bunkley, Jeremy Jarmon and Derrick Harvey in the rest of the preseason. Warren could be out for a long period and Thomas will miss the rest of the preseason.

2. Clarity at quarterback: The Broncos’ camp has been about getting the first-team ready to go with Orton. There is no question Orton is the starter now. If the team struggles, Tebow could enter the picture, but players love playing with Orton and the team thinks he currently gives them the best chance to win now.

Of course, the lack of clarity was team-induced. It spent the immediate days after the lockout trying to trade Orton to Miami. After that fell through, Orton took control of the offense quickly and has given Denver no choice but to make him the starter, TebowMania be dammed.

3. Establish a ground game: Although Fox is a defensive-minded coach, he has a strict philosophy on offense. He believes in stuffing the ball down an opponent’s throat and killing the clock. Denver struggled to run the ball under McDaniels, and Fox said adding a veteran tailback was paramount.

The Broncos jumped on Willis McGahee when he was cut by the Ravens. Expect McGahee and third-year player Knowshon Moreno to combine for plenty of carries. They have worked well in camp, and they combined for 40 yards on six carries in the preseason opener at Dallas. This camp has been spent getting these two involved in the offense as much as possible.


The Broncos are raving about the play of Elvis Dumervil. After leading the NFL with 17 sacks in 2009 and getting a contract worthy of that performance, Dumervil tore a pectoral muscle in early August last year and missed the entire 2010 season.

There was concern that his rust and a move back to the 4-3 under Fox could hamper the smallish Dumervil. He flourished in McDaniels’ 3-4 system after being a solid player in Shanahan’s 4-3 defense. Dumervil beefed up to more than 260 pounds, and he‘s been impressive under Fox.

The Broncos expect Dumervil and Miller to become one of the better pass-rush tandems in the league.


[+] EnlargeRahim Moore
Ronald Martinez/Getty ImagesThe Broncos will also be looking to rookie Rahim Moore to shore up Denver's secondary.
One of the most exciting aspects of this camp for Denver has been the play of its rookies. The Broncos thought they drafted well in April, and after three weeks, they are thrilled with what they see.

“I think we had an excellent draft,” Fox said.

Added Dumervil: “This is the best group of rookies I’ve seen here in awhile.”

Leading the way is Miller, who was the No. 2 overall draft pick. The Texas A&M product has been as advertised. Teammates rave about his speed, explosiveness and his ability to make plays. They expect instant success.

Second-round pick Rahim Moore is vying for a starting spot with Kyle McCarthy at safety and has shown he is ready for NFL play. Right tackle Orlando Franklin, middle linebacker Nate Irving, tight end Julius Thomas and safety Quentin Carter are all expected to be major contributors. This is exactly what this 4-12 team needed -- a solid group of youngsters to build around after a couple of shaky years of drafting by McDaniels.


  • Safety Brian Dawkins may be turning 38 this year, but the Broncos are still getting a lot out of him. He works well with Fox’s staff, and his leadership has been uncanny during camp.
  • Defensive end Robert Ayers has been getting chances to break out in camp, but he has been slow to show progress. He was the No. 18 overall pick in the 2009 draft.
  • Receiver Brandon Lloyd has been slowed by swelling in his knee. Still, the team expects him to contribute. Lloyd had a breakout season in 2010 -- 77 catches for 1,448 yards.
  • The second-round draft class of 2009 has been a bust. Tight end Richard Quinn is hurt and could be the odd man out. Safety Darcel McBath has yet to develop, and cornerback Alphonso Smith (who Denver traded its 20101 first-round pick for) was shipped out to Detroit last year. This was supposed to be the nucleus of future success, and Denver hasn’t seen results.
  • The Broncos’ passing game struggled in red-zone and third-down situations. That has been a point of emphasis during this camp.
  • Veterans Joe Mays and Mario Haggan are competing to hold off Irving at middle linebacker.
  • Franklin has struggled in pass projection. Still, the team is committed to him.
  • Denver is excited about second-year receiver Eric Decker. Expect Decker to get a chance to contribute a lot.
  • The Broncos like what they have in new tight end Daniel Fells. He is solid as a receiver and as a blocker. He should help in both phases of the game.
  • Right cornerback Andre' Goodman has been steady, and the team is confident he can play well in 2011.
  • Second-year center J.D. Walton continues to improve, and he has shown strong leadership for a young player.

Zach Miller could be Pro Bowl-bound

December, 30, 2010
With San Diego tight end Antonio Gates likely out of the Pro Bowl because he was put on the injured reserve with a foot injury, Oakland tight end Zach Miller is expected to be promoted to the game because he reportedly was the No. 1 alternate.

Miller has 55 catches, for 654 yards and five touchdowns this season. It would be his first Pro Bowl appearance. Miller would join teammates Nnamdi Asomugha, Shane Lechler and Richard Seymour in the Pro Bowl. Gates can still be cleared to play in the Pro Bowl. He must be cleared by Jan. 18 to play in the Jan. 30 game. I wouldn’t be surprised if Miller is promoted before then because it will be decided that Gates won’t play.

Expect several alternates to be to be promoted because players will back out or they won’t be able to play because their team advances to the Super Bowl.
  • The Contra Costa Times outlines the reasons why Oakland owner Al Davis needs to make up his mind quickly this season if he’s going to retain coach Tom Cable. Again, I don’t think Cable has done anything but prove he deserves to keep the job.
  • Denver linebacker Mario Haggan was given the Darrent Williams Good Guy award by Denver media. The award is given to the Denver player who is most cooperative with the local media. It is named in honor of the popular Williams, who was killed Jan. 1, 2007, in a drive-by shooting in downtown Denver.

John Elway talks up Broncos

November, 12, 2010
The struggling Denver Broncos received a rare pep talk from the most iconic name in team history this week.

Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway visited the 2-6 Broncos and told them to persevere. The team has been booed at home and second-year coach Josh McDaniels is not a popular figure in the city. Yet Elway, who is interested in becoming a part owner of the team, told the players to hang in there as they prepared for Sunday’s home game against Kansas City.

“John Elway came in the other day and said something that was very important and a little bit how we were feeling too; it felt like we were pressing to make plays, trying to do a bunch of things that weren’t us,” Denver linebacker Mario Haggan told reporters in Denver on Friday. “He just talked to us and told us about his time and how everybody wanted to run him out of town too (laughing). He was in the same situation and they were 5-11 and the media tried to pack his bags too. He just told us what we believe — that the only thing we need to worry about is who is inside this building and that’s what we’re worrying about right now. (We’re) trying to keep everybody focused and go play the Chiefs.”

I covered Denver since 2004. This is the first time I heard that Elway, who played for Denver from 1983-98, has addressed the team in the past six years. I’m not saying this is the first time Elway has ever addressed the team. I just never heard of it before.

Haggan said Elway’s visit had an impact.

“The guy, he’s everything to this franchise,” Haggan said. “I think he’s probably the most popular guy ever for this franchise and to see him around, to have him talk to us and everybody was at attention -- the respect that he demanded -- everybody got down on a knee and listened to what he had to say. When you have an icon like that around to talk to you, it’s very important and a big deal.”

Elway has saved the Broncos plenty of times in the past. Perhaps he just did it again.
The Denver Broncos are finally getting their health back.

Denver, which has been ravaged by injuries this summer, saw the return of running back Correll Buckhalter, cornerback Champ Bailey, receiver Demaryius Thomas, linebacker D.J. Williams and guard Chris Kuper. They are all on pace to be ready for the season opener Sept. 12 at Jacksonville.

The most significant news may come Wednesday when he team expects left tackle Ryan Clady to return to practice. Clady has been out since April with a torn patella tendon while playing basketball in April. The team is hopeful he can play by the start of the regular season. If an All-Pro player can be ready for the Jaguars, it will be a huge boost for Denver's offfense.

Rookie quarterback Tim Tebow is still not practicing with a rib injury that has kept him out of action since last Wednesday. It is unclear if Tebow will be ready to play Sunday against Pittsburgh.

McDaniels said linebacker Akin Ayodele was cut Tuesday because Mario Haggan is being moved back from outside to inside linebacker. Because Ayodele is going to be backup, the team thought it was better to keep a backup who can help more on special teams. Ayodele did start Denver’s two preseason games.

Meanwhile, Denver claimed tight end Kory Sperry off waivers from Miami. The Colorado State product was previously with San Diego. Denver also cut tackle Tyler Polumbus, who has struggled often this summer.

AFC West mailbag

April, 28, 2010
Mid-week mail call:

Tom from Kansas City wants to know what I think of Scott Pioli’s draft in Kansas City.

Bill Williamson: I think Pioli did a solid job in his second year as the Chiefs’ general manager and top draft decision-maker. He played the board pretty straight and didn’t make too many wild decisions. He took four players from the SEC, which has been his history. I think the Chiefs got faster at key spots, and they continued to improve this offseason during the draft.

Ben from Columbia wants to know what I think of the Broncos signing Akin Ayodele, a veteran from Miami.

BW: I think it was a decent pickup, Denver jumped on him late during the final rounds of the draft Saturday. The Broncos didn’t draft an inside linebacker. Ayodele was the team’s top remaining veteran choice. He will compete with Mario Haggan for a starting inside linebacker job. Haggan has moved from the outside. At the very least, Ayodele will be a solid situational player.

AFC West draft odds and ends

April, 24, 2010
Assuming new quarterback Jason Campbell will start in Oakland, it will mean the team will have a new opening day starting quarterback for the sixth time in seven years. Oakland offensive coordinator Hue Jackson will be Campbell’s eighth coordinator in 10 years dating back to his college days.

Oakland coach Tom Cable is not ready to make Jason Campbell the starting quarterback yet. He does expect JaMarcus Russell to be at the team’s minicamp next week.

The Broncos are bringing in former Miami linebacker Akin Ayodele for a physical Sunday and will sign him barring any issues. He will provide depth at inside linebacker. Denver did not draft a front-seven defender. Coach Josh McDaniels said Denver has moved Mario Haggan from outside to inside linebacker.

McDaniels said the team will not add any veteran receivers. The team drafted receivers Demaryius Thomas in the first round and Eric Decker in the third round.

The only team in the division I see making a run at guard Alan Faneca is Oakland, but I’d say that is a long shot at best.

Defensive tackle Gerard Warren, cut by Oakland this offseason, has signed with New England.

Denver sent a fifth-round pick next year to Tampa Bay for two seventh-round picks this year.
The Broncos have been busy revamping their defensive line with the signing of Jarvis Green and Justin Bannan, who will likely start at the end positions, and Jamal Williams, who will play nose tackle.

The group is an improvement from last season. Still, the new players are making Denver a very old defense.

A lot will happen in free agency and in the draft, but there is a chance Denver will have nine defensive starters over the age of 30. Six of Denver’s starters last season __ Champ Bailey (31), Brian Dawkins (36), Andra Davis (31), Andre Goodman (31), Mario Haggan (30) and Renaldo Hill (31) – will be 30 or older by the start of the 2010 season. Bannan will be 31 next month, Williams will be 34 next month and Green is 31.

The only current key Denver defenders are linebackers Elvis Dumervil (26) and D.J. Williams (27). Apparently, Denver believes this unit is built to win now. It better be because this group won’t be around together for long.

Denver gets injured defenders back

October, 19, 2009
Posted by’s Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Denver got its injured defensive players back to start the second half.

Safety Brian Dawkins, defensive tackle Ronald Fields and linebacker Mario Haggan all returned to start the third quarter. Dawkins and Fields had hamstring problems and Haggan had a knee injury. All were announced as questionable to return.

Dawkins left the game early in the first quarter. Denver allowed 13 points on defense in the first half, which is the second most in the first half this season.

Halftime notes from San Diego

October, 19, 2009
Posted by’s Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Denver coach Josh McDaniels has shown before that he is an excellent second-half adjuster. He’ll need to do so again as San Diego leads 20-17 in what has been a fantastic game.

Denver has outscored opponents 59-7 in the second half this season. The 20 points are the most Denver has allowed all season. Denver allowed 10 points in the first quarter for the third straight game.

Denver left tackle Ryan Clady gave up a sack to San Diego rookie Larry English. Clady has allowed sacks in the past two games. He went his first 20 games without allowing a sack.

Denver’s defense is getting beat up. Linebacker Mario Haggan is out with a knee injury and he is questionable to return. Safety Brian Dawkins (hamstring) and defensive tackle Ronald Fields (hamstring) are also out and questionable to return.

If Dawkins remain out, expect San Diego to try to go to tight end Antonio Gates often. He was featured late in the second quarter.

Expect English to get fined for a horse-collar tackle late in the first half.

ESPN’s John Clayton is reporting that Kansas City traded defensive lineman Tank Tyler to Carolina for a fifth-round pick.
Ron Chenoy/US Presswire
Denver cornerback Champ Bailey is leading a much improved Broncos defense.

Posted by’s Bill Williamson

DENVER -- Champ Bailey was asked Sunday evening if he ever thought the new-look Denver Broncos' defense could possibly be this good when he headed to training camp in July.

Bailey carefully considered the question. Then, he smiled and slyly attempted to avoid it.

Week 4 Coverage
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Sando: Rams looking for answers
Wojciechowski: Bears give Chicago a break
Reiss: Patriots-Ravens game a classic
Watkins: Cowboys offense sputters
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“I don’t know,” the usually quick-to-answer Bailey said after a long delay. “I’m not one for predictions.”

Yeah, Champ, we didn’t think it would be this good, either. But after the first quarter of the NFL season, his crew is one of the top stories in the league.

Facing the first test in a tough 10-game stretch, Denver’s defense belted the Dallas Cowboys around for the final three quarters and survived a broken play in the final moments to secure a 17-10 win. Denver is one of a quartet of 4-0 teams in the NFL. Minnesota is 3-0 and it plays Green Bay on Monday night.

Under offensive-minded coach Josh McDaniels, the Broncos are winning on the strength of a 3-4 scheme under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan. His Broncos are physical and unrelenting. (In fact, the former San Francisco head coach could be working his way back into head-coaching consideration with this masterful job.) The Broncos have allowed an NFL-low 26 points this season. In the final three games of the 14-year Mike Shanahan head coaching era, Denver allowed 112 points.

Denver’s defense was so bad the past two seasons, it was often referred to as the "Enver Broncos" because there was no “D” in the city. Denver is back and that’s no joke.

The Broncos are stopping the run. That was a huge problem in recent years. Dallas had 74 yards rushing. Denver is rushing the passer with vengeance. Linebacker Elvis Dumervil, who converted from end this year, has eight sacks in four games. The Broncos have claimed 10 turnovers.

“I think [the change] is that we are so prepared and so confident,” Bailey said. “We’re ready for anything.”

That was evident in the final minute of the game.

After Dallas jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first quarter, Denver’s defense shut down the Cowboys. Dallas quarterback Tony Romo was pressured in the final three quarters and harassed into making one errant throw after another. Dallas couldn’t establish any ground-game rhythm.

Then there was the broken play. On fourth down and three from its own 27 with 1:16 to go and Denver leading 17-10, Romo shot out of pressure and hit Sam Hurd about 20 yards down field. Hurd bolted 53 yards down to the Denver 20.

Did the old, porous Denver defense resurface at the worst possible time?

“It was just one play,” Dumervil said. “We had to strap it back on and get after it. There was still 20 yards to go.”

Dallas couldn’t complete the journey.

In the final nine seconds of the game, from the Denver 2, Romo went after Bailey. Yes, Bailey. The Broncos cornerback beautifully defended two straight passes intended for Hurd in the end zone to win the game.

Bailey is rarely challenged. But Dallas went after him all game. Bailey made a difficult interception at the Denver 3 in the third quarter.

“That’s Champ Bailey, one of the best cornerbacks of all time,” Denver linebacker D.J. Williams said. “I don’t know why they would throw at him.”

Asked if he was shocked that the ball came his way on the final two plays, all Bailey said was, “I’m glad they did.”

So are the Denver faithful.

But Denver’s defense is more that just 10 scrubs and a Hall of Fame cornerback.

This is a cohesive group that is playing well on all three layers of the unit. The defensive front three, one of the most inexperienced groups in the league, is setting the tone in the run game. Linebackers Andra Davis, Williams, Mario Haggan and Dumervil are creating chaos. The secondary has been spectacular. New safety Brian Dawkins plays like he is 30, not nine days away from celebrating his 36th birthday.

“Everyone here holds each other accountable,” said right cornerback André Goodman."On that last drive, no one gave up. We just got stronger. That’s been the way we’ve done it all season.”

Offensively, Denver has been very timely. Case in point: Brandon Marshall ’s jaw-dropping 51-yard catch and run from Kyle Orton to give Denver the lead with 1:46 remaining. Orton has not thrown an interception all season and the Broncos’ offense is doing just enough to help its defensive mates.

In the past, it was the Denver defense that couldn’t help out the offense. But a lot has changed in Denver.

The “D” has come back to the city.

Around the AFC West

September, 9, 2009
Posted by’s Bill Williamson


The Broncos have extended the contract of linebacker Mario Haggan.

My take: Teams often like to tie up players they are comfortable with this time of year. Haggan was signed for $3.5 million over the next two years, which is reasonable for a starting player.

Kansas City

Chiefs owner Clark Hunt wants to see progress this year.

My take: That’s why he fired the former regime and brought in Scott Pioli and Todd Haley. The Chiefs have won six games total in the past two years. Of course, Hunt wants to see progress. But he has a lot committed to Pioli and Haley, so even if the progress is minimal (which could be the case this year) Hunt will have to live with it.


Rookie Mike Mitchell will play on special teams against San Diego.

My take: The second-round pick from Ohio dealt with a hamstring injury much of the preseason, so he was unable to make a statement at safety. However, if the hard-hitting Mitchell can perform well on special teams, he could get a chance to play at safety soon.

San Diego

A fast start is key for the Chargers.

My take: There’s no doubt about it. The Chargers know they have to start better. They started 5-5 in 2007 and 4-8 in 2008 before rebounding and making the playoffs both years. But starting slow is eventually going to catch up to a team. San Diego has a difficult start of the season. They play 2008 AFC playoff teams Baltimore, Miami and Pittsburgh in Weeks 2-4. San Diego has to do everything it can to come out of that stretch in good shape.

Afternoon news and notes

August, 10, 2009

Posted by's Bill Williamson

  • Denver quarterback Kyle Orton had a bounce-back practice after getting booed during a team scrimmage. Orton is under a ton of pressure and he has to feel it.
  • Todd Haley is getting some special help at his first training camp as a head coach.
  • Linebacker Mario Haggan is rising up the depth chart in Denver.
  • Tommy Kelly's penchant for jumping offside all training camp is bothering at least one teammate.
  • Denver receiver Brandon Marshall is still not practicing because of a hamstring injury. Still, Marshall should be ready for the start of the regular season without any issue.
  • The toe injury sustained by Oakland rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is not considered serious.
  • San Diego rookie running back Gartrell Johnson has been impressive in camp. The fourth-round draft choice could be a short-yardage option this season.

Broncos, Chiefs make moves

November, 4, 2008

Posted by's Bill Williamson

The Broncos and the Chiefs shuffled their rosters Tuesday.

In Denver, the Broncos signed linebacker Mario Haggan, running back P.J. Pope and defensive back Roderick Rogers.

Haggan has spent the past five seasons with Buffalo and he played in 65 career games for the Bills. He was signed because weakside linebacker D.J. Williams is out for the next month with a knee injury. Pope and Rogers were on Denver's practice squad.

Pope was signed to the 53-man roster because Denver put running backs Michael Pittman and Andre Hall on the injured reserve, ending their seasons.

Denver cut tight end Chad Mustard and it added running back Cory Boyd and linebacker Tyson Smith to the practice squad. Boyd, a South Carolina product, was Tampa Bay's seventh-round pick this year.

In Kansas City, activated wide receiver Kevin Robinson and tight end Michael Merritt. Both players are rookies. Robinson was a sixth-round pick from Utah State and Merritt was a seventh-round pick from Central Florida. Both players have been on injured list.

The Chiefs could still try to sign a running back with Kolby Smith out for the season with a knee injury.