AFC West: Mark Sanchez

Double Coverage: Matt Schaub

March, 24, 2014
Mar 24
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SchaubJim Brown/USA TODAY SportsThe Oakland Raiders believe quarterback Matt Schaub can rebound this season.
The Oakland Raiders acquired two-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Schaub from the Houston Texans on Friday and Raiders coach Dennis Allen immediately anointed the 10-year veteran his starter, even as he already had Trent Edwards, Matt McGloin and Terrelle Pryor on his roster.

Schaub, though, is coming off a career-worst year in which he was often booed at home, threw a flurry of interceptions returned for touchdowns, lost his starting job and had a career-low total quarterback rating of 43.65. In fact, Raiders offensive coordinator Greg Olson saw his new quarterback's fall from grace as a blessing in disguise, saying, “Had he not had the season he had last year in Houston, he wouldn’t be sitting here today.”

ESPN.com Raiders reporter Paul Gutierrez and Texans reporter Tania Ganguli broke down Schaub and his leaving Houston for Oakland.

Paul Gutierrez: It was obvious that Schaub bottomed out last year. The question is why -- was it more mental or physical?

Tania Ganguli: There was certainly a physical aspect to it. His arm strength wasn't what it had been. But a bigger part of it was mental. You can't pin everything that went wrong with the Texans' offense on Schaub. But the pick-six is such a catastrophic play that the streak of four games with one thrown was mentally very taxing on both the team and the quarterback. I've heard a lot of people around him say that his pick-six to Richard Sherman (his third of last season) was the one that ultimately crushed his confidence.

Do you think Oakland is a place where he can regain his confidence?

Gutierrez: So long as the offensive line holds up and gives him time. The Raiders have made a concerted effort to overhaul the offensive line since free agency began, picking up left tackle Donald Penn, right tackle Austin Howard and guard/center Kevin Boothe. The Raiders also got a veteran receiver in former Packers wideout James Jones, so general manager Reggie McKenzie has been building around the quarterback position, so to speak, to get a veteran signal-caller to serve as a bridge, of sorts. Schaub fits that description, no? Thing is, McKenzie and his scouts have failed thus far at identifying and settling on a franchise quarterback. They inherited Carson Palmer, but traded him away in favor of Matt Flynn, who bombed. Then they zeroed in on USC’s Matt Barkley last spring in the draft before the Philadelphia Eagles swooped in and took him. They used a fourth-round draft pick on Arkansas' Tyler Wilson, who was cut a couple of times and ultimately picked off their practice squad by the Tennessee Titans. Finally, they seemed to botch the handling of Terrelle Pryor and undrafted rookie Matt McGloin. With the money owed Schaub, unless he restructures his contract, the Raiders believe he will regain his confidence.

And yet, after last season’s debacle, is Schaub the kind of guy who would benefit from a mere change of scenery?

Ganguli: ESPN Stats & Info passed along some stats that support your skepticism, but I think a change of scenery will be great for Schaub nonetheless. First their points: Schaub has declined over the past three seasons in stats like first down percentage, total QBR, yards per attempt and interception percentage. The dramatic drop in QBR (from 67 in 2011 to 64 in 2012 to 37 in 2013) and dramatic increase in interception percentage (2.1 to 2.2 to 3.9) indicate a statistical anomaly. Given what the Raiders are going to be spending on him, it's clear that's what they believe, too. What made 2013 so bizarre is Schaub had not been a turnover machine historically. If he's in a situation where things around him go well, he can recover. But things have to go well around him. The struggles the Texans had with their running game were a very underrated part of why their offense wasn't working. Schaub had done really well out of play-action in the past, but didn't last year. Is he going to a place where the running game will support his endeavors?

Gutierrez: Which brings us to the $100,000 question (the amount of money guaranteed to running back Darren McFadden). It always comes back to the health of the perpetually injured McFadden. If McFadden is healthy -- he’s never played more than 13 games in a season and has missed 19 of the Raiders’ past 41 games, including six last season -- and used properly to his skill set, he’s a quarterback’s best friend. Look at how good and effective he made Jason Campbell look in 2011, before both were lost for the season with injuries. As noted above, the overhaul of the offensive line would suggest the Raiders are going to go all-in with a power running game and after McFadden, Oakland has the CFL’s Grey Cup MVP in Kory Sheets, a virtual rookie in Latavius Murray, who missed all of last season with injury, and Jeremy Stewart. Obviously, there are more questions than answers when it comes to the Raiders’ running game. No doubt, McKenzie & Co. are hoping Schaub brings some answers with him, without weighing him down with unrealistic expectations.

Schaub, you’ll recall, is already in the Raiders' annals for his part in the "Divine Interception" play in 2011, when he was picked off in the end zone to seal an Oakland victory in Houston the day after Al Davis died and with the Raiders having only 10 players on the field. How cognizant is Schaub of NFL history in general, the Raiders and that play in particular, or is he simply a football player?

Ganguli: Wow, I forgot all about that. And it figures, doesn’t it? Run off on the heels of an uncharacteristically interception-laden season, Schaub gets traded to a team against which he threw an interception that led to an eerily perfect moment in the franchise’s history.

He might be a student of the game’s history, but will rarely let the public into any aspect of his being that isn’t related to the game immediately in front of him. I challenge you, Paul, to extract the personality we all knew was beneath Schaub’s stone exterior. By all accounts, he is interesting, funny and has a great personality. We just never saw it publicly. Schaub went to great lengths to make us believe he was dull, but he isn’t.

It won’t be long before Schaub faces his old team again. The Texans have a trip to Oakland on their schedule, which is less interesting than if the Raiders were to return to Houston with Schaub at the helm, but it’ll be interesting nonetheless. What’s your prediction?

Gutierrez: I accept your challenge, Tania, and look forward to seeing what’s underneath said “stone exterior.” Many see it as more milquetoast and that was a reason so many fans clamored for the likes of Michael Vick because, really, ain’t nothing boring about the artist formerly known as Ron Mexico. And actually, for what the Raiders are doing, Schaub is their man. He was their No. 1 target all along, followed by Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and then Vick. Fans may not agree with what McKenzie and Allen are doing but as far as the Raiders are concerned, it’s exactly what they want to do. As far as a prediction, I’ll wait until the roster is completely overhauled and the schedule is out and we see when, exactly, Schaub faces the Texans in Oakland. The cynic will predict a back-breaking and game-changing pick-six for Schaub against his former team. The optimist sees a 400-yard passing day and victory for Schaub and the Raiders against the Texans. Look forward to chatting again then.

Free-agency primer: Raiders

March, 7, 2014
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» AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Key free agents: LT Jared Veldheer, DE Lamarr Houston, RB Rashad Jennings, FS Charles Woodson, CB Tracy Porter, RB Darren McFadden

Where they stand: With 17 remaining unrestricted free agents -- Oakland re-signed offensive tackle Khalif Barnes last week -- the Raiders chose not to use the franchise tag on Veldheer or Houston. That should not surprise anyone; general manager Reggie McKenzie said he wanted to avoid using it, and Veldheer said he did not want to be tagged. With nearly $65 million in cap space, the Raiders are primed to be players during free agency. They need help especially on the defensive line -- all four starters are free agents -- and in the secondary, and ditto with both cornerbacks and the free safety. The primary need on defense is a prototypical edge rusher.

What to expect: As McKenzie said last year, just because he has money to spend does not mean he’s going shopping at Macy’s. And as he restated this year, just because he has money does not mean he’s going to spend it on junk. True, it’s time for McKenzie to make like Macklemore and “pop some tags,” but don’t expect him to break the bank. He’ll use the money judiciously, and although the Raiders have the most cap space, they also have the most needs. It makes sense for Oakland to find a veteran quarterback to serve as a bridge, of sorts, while McKenzie strengthens to team around said quarterback, someone the staff trusts and already knows. Targets could include Josh Freeman, Josh McCown and Mark Sanchez (if and when the Jets cut him). Defensively, Jared Allen could fit the bill at defensive end.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders last played a game on Dec. 29, and the final game of the 2013 season -- Super Bowl XLVIII -- goes down Sunday with the Denver Broncos facing the Seattle Seahawks in New Jersey. So with that as our backdrop, let's get our first offseason Raiders Twitter mailbag party started ...

Allen not sure if future QB on roster

December, 30, 2013
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- While Dennis Allen anticipates he will return in 2014 as the Oakland Raiders coach, he is not sure about the prospects of the Raiders' quarterback position.

"Yeah, well, I think that's a position that we've got to make sure that we address," Allen said in his season-ending media conference Monday.

"I'm not sure that we have the quarterback of the future in the building right now, but again I think we'll go through the offseason evaluation process, I think we'll go back through all the tapes, we'll comb through everything. I do think we have a better idea of what we have at the quarterback position, but again I think, listen, that's the most important position on the football field."

McGloin
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Allen has already said that he believes Matt McGloin has a future with the team but has not been so outwardly encouraging about Terrelle Pryor.

McGloin finished with a passer rating of 76.1 after completing 55.9 percent of his passes (118-of-211) for 1,547 yards, eight touchdowns and eight interceptions in seven games, six starts.

Did he prove he was a capable NFL starter?

"I think so," McGloin said. "I thought I did some pretty good things out there. I also did some poor things that I need to work on and improve. That will come. I know I will get better, I'll continue to learn. I know our team will continue to improve and get better. I'm looking forward to it."

Then does he look at the Raiders as "his" team going forward?

"I think you have to look at it that way," he said. "Like I said, Terrelle and I played well at times this year and played bad at times this year. We have a very healthy relationship. He and I are always helping each other out and trying to do what's best for the team. The mindset whether it's my team or not my team, that's out of my control that decision.

"What I can do is try to improve and continue to get better as a leader and get better as a quarterback."

Pryor, who started eight of the Raiders' first nine games and then the season finale against the Denver Broncos, had a QB rating was 69.1. He completed 57.4 percent of his passes (156-272) for 1,798 yards with seven TDs and 11 INTs. Pryor also rushed for a franchise record-for-a-quarterback 576 yards, including an NFL record-for-a-quarterback 93-yard touchdown run, against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Oct. 27.

"I feel very confident," he said. "I had a lot of experiences this year. That's what it's all about, experiencing and understanding that you're going to have good experiences and bad experiences. It's what you do and how you study your craft off that, those experiences.

"That's how I'm going to look at it and that's how I'm going to work on my craft."

But if Allen is indeed retained and the Raiders have to get into the quarterback market, do they draft one early (Blake Bortles? Johnny Manziel? Derek Carr?) or do they play the free-agent market (Josh McKown? Matt Cassel? Josh Freeman? Maybe even a soon-to-be-cut Mark Sanchez?)

Jets switch gears for Chargers

December, 18, 2012
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It will not be the Turnover Bowl.

It will not be return of Tebow Time in the AFC West.

It will just be the 5-9 San Diego Chargers against Greg McElroy and the similarly-playoff eliminated New York Jets on Sunday.

That’s no fun.

After a disastrous performance by Mark Sanchez on Monday night, the Jets have announced McElroy, the No. 3 quarterback, will start against the Chargers on Sunday. We were hoping for sexier storylines.

Had Sanchez kept his job, it would be a battle of the two players who have committed the most turnovers in the NFL since the start of last season. Sanchez has 50 turnovers since then and San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has 47.

This is Tebow’s only game against an AFC West opponent in his first season since being traded from Denver. Watching Tebow scurrying around the field against the Chargers would have brought back memories for everybody.

But instead, we get McElroy. Yep, this game has gotten even more meaningless.

In other AFC West news:

In an Insider piece, former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Herm Edwards writes how to stop a Peyton Manning-led offense.

More disturbing details have emerged from the Jovan Belcher murder-suicide case in Kansas City.

In another sad story, ESPN.com looks at the death of former Denver receiver Kenny McKinley. He killed himself two years ago while on the injured reserve.

Mailbag: Berry-Weddle revisited

October, 6, 2012
10/06/12
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Weekend mail call:

Andrew Varnell from Boulder, Colo., wants to know what 2011 Denver quarterback would make the better starter for his current team.

Bill Williamson: You bring up a great point, Andrew. There are brewing controversies involving all three signal-callers who moved on during or after last season, a tumultuous one in Denver. Brady Quinn could push Matt Cassel in Kansas City, Tim Tebow could push Mark Sanchez with the Jets and there have been some calls for Kyle Orton to take over for Tony Romo in Dallas. I’m not sure if any of those scenarios will happen. The longest shot is Orton taking over for Romo -- I can’t see Jerry Jones pulling the plug. That said, I think Orton is the best of the three former Broncos. Perhaps Kansas City should have tried harder to keep Orton in free agency. I’d have a better feeling about him taking over for Cassel than Quinn.




Joseph McGready from Los Angeles wants to know if I still rank Kansas City safety Eric Berry over San Diego safety Eric Weddle.

BW: A lot of fans seem all hopped up over this. I had both players ranked in the top 15 in the division. It’s not like I dismissed Weddle, who is one of my favorite players. I went with Berry because he was younger and has a huge ceiling. But Weddle is a special player, too. And right now, four games into the 2012 season, Weddle has been the better player -- indeed, he has been one of the best safeties in the game. He has had a tremendous start and is a key cog in a much-improved defense. Berry is still coming back from a major knee injury. He will be great. But, yes, Weddle has been better this season, no doubt.




Todd Ouellette from Missouri wants to know what I think of Oakland defensive lineman Desmond Bryant.

BW: A lot of Oakland fans are excited about Bryant, because he has made some plays from a reserve role and because veterans Richard Seymour and Tommy Kelly both appear to be slowing down. Bryant, 26, is athletic and I bet he will see more playing time as the season progresses if Oakland’s starters continue to struggle.


Von Miller piling up fines

September, 28, 2012
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Von Miller is one of the NFL’s best young players. He is also becoming one of the NFL’s most fined players.

The second-year Denver pass-rusher was fined $15,750 for roughing the passer in a 31-25 loss to the Texans last Sunday when he hit quarterback Matt Schaub. Specifically, Miller unnecessarily drove the quarterback to the ground, an NFL spokesman said.

Miller -- the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2011 -- has been fined at least $63,250 in his short NFL career.

The NFL fined Miller, according to a league spokesman, $7,500 for unnecessary roughness in Denver’s 45-10 loss at New England in an AFC divisional playoff game last season. Miller was fined at least three times last season, including $25,000 for a November hit on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

Miller addressed his bad habit of earning fines last year, but it looks like he has more work to do in the area.

Miller’s hit on Schaub came just before fellow Denver linebacker Joe Mays hit Schaub with a helmet-to-helmet shot in which Schaub lost a piece of his ear. Mays was suspended for Sunday’s home game against Oakland and fined $50,000 by the NFL. Both Miller and Mays were penalized 15 yards by the replacement officials on the plays.
Tebow-mania may be over in Denver, but by no means, is it dead.

In a lot of ways, it is just revving up.

Tebow
Tebow
Sanchez
Sanchez
That’s what happening when the most polarizing athlete in the world is sent to the world’s biggest media market. Broadway Tim. Is anybody ready for it? As the drama unfolds, I can’t help but think it is a bad fit.

It seems the Jets wanted Tebow for the wrong reasons. The Wildcat? Really? Isn’t that a thing of the past?

I think the Jets’ leadership was swayed by the perfume of Tebow-mania. I don’t think they fully understand its power. The Jets just turned Mark Sanchez into Kyle Orton.

Sanchez should immediately call and ask Orton for any advance on how to handle being the starter on a team in which Tebow was the backup. Orton can tell him a short story because he was yanked in the fifth game last year amid major fan pressure.

Every time Sanchez throws an incomplete pass, there will be calls for Tebow to be put in. It happened in Denver and it will happen in New York. For a young quarterback who needs to take the next step, putting Sanchez in the Tebow pressure cooker may not be a great idea. Add an already tumultuous locker room and the intense media coverage of New York, and Tebow-mania has a chance to implode this team.

Also, I don’t think it is a good move for Tebow’s career. Being reduced to a gimmick player is not what he wants. Tebow would have been much better off going to a place like Green Bay or New England where he could learn from a great quarterback. Even Jacksonville would have been a better professional and personal situation than in New York.

Tebow-mania may be shifting from the AFC West, but it will still be a major NFL focus as it has ugly potential.

Video: Tim Tebow 'excited to be a Jet'

March, 22, 2012
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Tim Tebow talks about joining the Jets, his role on the team, and his relationship with Mark Sanchez.
Peyton Manning's visit to Denver is complete, but the pursuit of Manning continues. He is expected to head to Arizona. The Chiefs have also expressed interest, though Miami, where Manning owns a home, is considered the favorite to land the mega-star quarterback in some league circles.

"There is absolutely no preferred choice at this time,” a source told ESPN. “This is typical [Manning] doing his own research because it's a first-time and only-time process from a free-agent vantage point. Physically seeing facilities and the geography of cities that he is not acquainted with is part of his own research."

The Broncos and Chiefs have less competition for Manning after Friday night.

The blockbuster trade between St. Louis and Washington -- the Redskins will send three No. 1 picks and a 2012 second-round pick to the Rams for the No. 2 overall pick in April's draft -- means the Redskins are all but out of the Manning chase.

The Jets have extended the contract of quarterback Mark Sanchez, thus they too are no longer in the hunt for Manning.

I think the fact that the Redskins won the right to draft whichever quarterback the Colts do not at No. 1 may make Denver push for Manning even harder. The Broncos liked Baylor's Robert Griffin III and they could have been tempted to make a move for him. (They could never have beaten Washington’s offer, though).

Meanwhile, does the Redskins’ move mean they will make a huge push for San Diego free-agent receiver Vincent Jackson on Tuesday?

Von Miller's fine total rises

January, 20, 2012
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Von Miller is going to have to pay for losing his temper in a losing effort.

The NFL fined Miller, according to a league spokesman, $7,500 for unnecessary roughness in Denver’s 45-10 loss at New England in an AFC divisional playoff game Saturday night.

Miller -- the No. 2 overall draft pick and a leading candidate for the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award -- lost his cool after New England quarterback Tom Brady punted on third down late in the game. Miller shoved New England’s Dan Connolly seemingly without being provoked. That started a melee that spilled over to the New England sideline.

Miller was fined at least $47,500 in his rookie season. He was fined $25,000 for a November hit on Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez just weeks after being fined $15,000 for a hit on Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer.

Von Miller vows to adjust approach

November, 25, 2011
11/25/11
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While 2010 No. 2 overall NFL draft pick Ndamukong Suh is being heavily criticized for dirty play, 2011 No. 2 overall pick Von Miller is starting to pile up the fines. Unlike Suh, though, Miller is taking responsibility for his actions and he is willing to make the necessary adjustments to play within the rules of the game.

Miller -- who has 9.5 sacks and who is the leading candidate to win the defensive rookie of the year award -- was fined $25,000 for roughing the passer when he struck Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez in the chest area with his helmet in a 17-13 Denver win Nov. 17. He was fined $15,000 for a similar hit on Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer a few weeks ago. Miller was fined the large amount because he was a repeat offender.

Miller told reporters in Denver on Friday that he understands that fines are in place to promote player safety and he will do what it takes to avoid fines.

“I definitely don’t want to get fined, but its part of the game now,” Miller said. “I’ve definitely got to make those adjustments to not get fined again … I fully think that I can make those adjustments. We all get compensated in this league to play the game we love, and we get compensated to make those adjustments. I’m fully confident that I can make those adjustments … You just can’t aim up high like that. I’ve definitely got to be more conscious of the way I’m approaching the quarterback and the angles [at which] I’m approaching the quarterback and what I’m using when I’m taking them down.”

Despite making the adjustments, Miller vowed to stay aggressive.

“I’m still going to have relentless pursuit to the ball,” Miller said. "I’m still going to play with a fanatical effort to the ball, but the thing that I need to change is my approach to engage in contact with players. I think I can definitely make that adjustment, and that’s about it.”

I admire Miller’s attitude and approach. Instead of whining or complaining about being fined, Miller realizes the game is bigger than him, and he is the one who must conform and modify his approach on the field. It will be interesting to watch Miller in the coming weeks to see if his adjustments alter his game at all.

He has come into the league known as a smart, studious, team-oriented player. So, I don’t expect any major issues as he learns from his $40,000 lesson. Perhaps Suh could learn from Miller.

Chargers adding another O-lineman

November, 19, 2011
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The San Diego Chargers, according to the San Diego Union Tribune, are adding their third offensive lineman to the 53-man roster this week. The paper reports rookie Colin Baxter is being promoted in time for the Chargers’ game at Chicago on Sunday.

Baxter spent camp with the Chargers and spent time on the Jets’ 53-man roster before going on San Diego’s practice squad. The Chargers will be without starters Kris Dielman (who is out for the year because of a concussion), left tackle Marcus McNeill (stinger) and guard Louis Vasquez (ankle) Sunday. The San Diego Union Tribune reports that this will be the team’s starting offensive line Sunday. Tony Moll and Ike Ndukwe were signed earlier this week.

In other AFC West nuggets:

The Chiefs have ruled out linebacker Demorrio Williams for Monday night’s game at New England because of a groin injury.

Former Giants’ receiver Amani Toomer is the latest pundit to chime in on Tim Tebow. Count Toomer as among those in Tebow’s corner. In fact, the ex-Giant would take the Broncos’ quarterback over Jets’ quarterback Mark Sanchez if he was building a franchise. Not a bad argument considering Thursday’s results in which Tebow outplayed Sanchez when it counted in the Broncos’ 17-13 win over the Jets.

The Oakland Tribune expects Carson Palmer to have a big day Sunday against a depleted Minnesota secondary.

Five things to watch: Broncos-Jets

November, 17, 2011
11/17/11
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The Denver Broncos have a key game against the visiting New York Jets on Thursday night. Denver has won three out of the past four games under new quarterback Tim Tebow. The Broncos have gone from a serious contender to win the Andrew Luck sweepstakes to a 4-5 team that is one game off the pace in the AFC West. Let’s look at what Denver must do against the 5-4 Jets, who are 1-4 in the past five road games in the regular season:

Keep your options open: Perhaps the Broncos are bringing the 1950s back, but as long as they continue to win with the option offense, it will continue to be used. Denver has been using the option (it even broke out the triple option Sunday at Kansas City) well under Tebow. It will be challenged Thursday night because New York coach Rex Ryan is known as a creative defensive coach. Still, Denver will give Ryan plenty of chances to stop it. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Broncos gained 95 yards on 16 rushes at Kansas City. Tebow kept the ball four times for 31 yards while using the option. Tebow ran the ball nine times and passed it just eight times at Kansas City. According to Elias, Tebow became the first quarterback with more rushes than passes in a game in which the quarterback threw every pass for his team since 1974 when Buffalo’s Joe Ferguson threw twice and ran 10 times in a game that was affected by high winds. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Tebow dropped back to pass on 14.3 percent of the Broncos’ plays at Kansas City. It’s the lowest percentage of drop backs by a team in a game since the start of 2008. Don’t expect Denver to suddenly change course on a short week and have Tebow unleash 40 passes. The option offense should continue.

Keep on running: Tebow’s presence has made Denver a great running offense. It his averaging more than 200 yards on the ground in the past five games and has led the NFL in rushing in that time span. For the season, Denver is second in the NFL in rushing, averaging 158.2 yards per game. The presence of Tebow has enhanced the Broncos’ running backs. Willis McGahee, who is enjoying a career resurgence at the age of 30 and in his first season in Denver, had 640 yards this season. He suffered a hamstring injury at Kansas City. But the Broncos hope he can be a factor. With Knowshon Moreno out for the year with a torn ACL, new backup Lance Ball will be given a chance to continue to impress. He had 96 yards on 30 carries against the Chiefs. Expect the Broncos to try to ram the ball down the Jets’ throats. The Jets are giving up 116 yards on the ground per game, which is 15th in the NFL.

Doing it Fox’s way: This game will give the Broncos a chance to show a national audience they are improved under first year John Fox. He deserves a lot of credit for this turnaround. The Broncos are starting to play just the way Fox likes -- by running the ball and by stopping the run on defense. Denver’s ownership has to be thrilled with the work Fox is doing with this young roster that is still very much rebuilding.

Hit Mark Sanchez: The Broncos have become a strong pass-rushing team in recent games with Elvis Dumervil finally becoming healthy. Dumervil and rookie Von Miller are a nasty pass-rushing duo. Denver had four sacks and constantly harassed Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel (who suffered a serious hand injury in the game) Sunday. Watch for the Broncos to try to unleash Dumervil and Miller -- who has eight sacks and who is a legitimate defensive rookie of the year candidate -- on Sanchez.

Secret weapon: Denver punter Britton Colquitt has become a strong weapon for the Broncos in his second full season with the team. He has become particularly solid in pinning opponents inside their own 20-yard line. He pinned the Chiefs between their own 7- and 15-yard line four times in Week 10. Putting New York in poor field position will be critical in this game.

McFadden's injury is not serious

September, 26, 2011
9/26/11
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The Oakland Raiders got good injury news the day after their biggest win in years.

Oakland coach Hue Jackson said he is not worried about the groin injury that caused star running back Darren McFadden to leave the Raiders’ 34-24 win over the New York Jets in the fourth quarter. That backs up what McFadden said Sunday.

That’s fantastic news for Oakland, which is heading into a huge game against visiting New England on Sunday. McFadden leads the NFL with 393 rushing yards. Also, receiver Jacoby Ford may soon be back. He’s missed the past two games with a hamstring injury. An interesting receiving crew will only get better with Ford in the picture.

In other AFC West nuggets upon my arrival home from San Diego on Monday:

The last time Mark Sanchez was in Oakland, in 2009, he left with a full belly and a win. Sunday, he left with a slightly broken nose and a loss. No hot dog for you, sir.

The already thin Chargers’ defensive front took a hit when Jacques Cesaire was lost for, at least, two games. Watch for the Chargers to look to someone who can play in the rotation while Cesaire is out.

New Denver coach John Fox is being questioned in Denver after a key fourth-quarter call backfired in a loss at Tennessee Sunday. Does this mean Fox was the wrong hire? Of course not. It just means he missed a call. Onto the next game. You can already see Fox’s toughness is rubbing off on his team. The Broncos are already improved on defense.

Monday, Fox didn’t hide from talking about the call.

“I think we have to coach it better; we’ve got to execute it better,” Fox said. “As I’ve mentioned many times, we’re still learning about our team. We could be sitting here 3-0, or we could be sitting here 0-3. We’ve had two three-point games and one two-point game. The reality is we’ve won one of them, and in the fourth quarter in both the first game and the most recent game, we didn’t make those plays; in the Cincinnati game, we did. Yesterday was no different. If you’re in the fourth quarter, first-and-goal at the two up 14-10, and you’ve got an opportunity to make it 21-10, as I mentioned yesterday, I’d do it again. Hopefully we execute it better, and then with a 14-10 lead, you can’t let an opponent go 95 yards and get the winning score. At the end of the day, it’s on all of us.”

Todd Haley is keeping the faith in Kansas City.

The Broncos took Sunday’s loss as hard as any in recent memory.

The Raiders got tricky Sunday in their win over the Jets. When you have speed players like the Raiders do, trick plays can be a serious weapon. Expect the Raiders to unleash the magic tricks often this season, which will sure worry defensive coordinators to no end during the week.

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