AFC West: Marlon McCree

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

The fact that Denver has cut five defensive starters in the past couple of days may appear more drastic than it really is.

 
  Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images
  Less than a year after acquiring Dewayne Robertson from the Jets, the Broncos discarded the former first-round draft pick.

Yes, replacing at least five starters is no easy task. But the truth is the new Denver regime can't wait to do it. The team needs a huge facelift on defense.

It began this week when the team waved goodbye to starters Dre' Bly (cornerback), Dewayne Robertson (defensive tackle), Jamie Winborn (linebacker), Marquand Manuel (safety) and John Engelberger (defensive end). Only Bly and Robertson could have conceivably been part of the makeover, but both were high-priced and neither made much of an impact last season.

So they're out.

There is more change to come. Outside linebacker Boss Bailey, who is injured, could be a candidate to be cut. Starters Ebenezer Ekuban (defensive end), Nate Webster (linebacker) and Marlon McCree (safety) are free agents and are not expected to return.

But again, many of these players were starters in 2008 because the team had no other choice.

Under new defensive coordinator Mike Nolan -- the former San Francisco head coach and longtime assistant -- the Broncos are moving toward becoming a 3-4 defense. Few of the above-mentioned players fit in the new scheme.

The Broncos have two cornerstones on defense: cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker D.J. Williams. Other than that, it's an open audition.

Pass-rush specialist Elvis Dumervil should have a place on the defense and could be moved to linebacker from defensive end. Young defensive linemen Marcus Thomas and Jarvis Moss (the team's first-round pick in 2007) will likely get a chance to play in the new scheme.

Thomas has been fairly productive the past two years and has a chance to be a good player. Moss has been a major disappointment, but he has natural pass-rush skills so there's hope he could flourish in the new system.

Young linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Spencer Larsen may get a chance to fit in the 3-4 attack. Woodyard, an undrafted free agent signed last season, is a natural playmaker and was a tackling machine last year. Larsen, a sixth-round pick last season, is a hard-nosed, versatile player. Still, there will be new competition for both.

Other than Bailey, the Broncos will likely be looking for help in the secondary.

Expect Denver to try to get at least two defensive linemen, at least one linebacker and three new defensive backs through free agency, trades and the draft. While big names such as defensive end Julius Peppers and defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth will be tempting, the Broncos may opt to target several more reasonably priced free agents than one big-ticket item because of their numerous needs on defense.

Whatever happens, the change is going to be drastic. The release of five starters this week only begins the sea change on Denver's defense.

Showdown in San Diego notes

December, 28, 2008
12/28/08
7:44
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- The temperature is supposed to be in the high 40s and it is already a hostile crowd in San Diego. The visiting Broncos are being booed mercilessly.

Rookie Jacob Hester is replacing Mike Tolbert in the starting lineup at fullback for San Diego. Tolbert is active.

Rookie Josh Barrett is replacing the injured Marlon McCree at free safety for Denver. McCree is not active.

Tatum Bell, signed last month, and Cory Boyd, playing in his first NFL game, are the only active tailbacks for Denver.

Showdown in San Diego: inactives

December, 28, 2008
12/28/08
7:22
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

SAN DIEGO -- Here are the inactive players for tonight's showdown in the AFC West in the winner-takes-the-division game between the Broncos and the Chargers:

Denver Broncos Inactives


20 FS Marlon McCree
26 CB Jack Williams
37 RB Alex Haynes
38 FB Andrew Pinnock
53 LB Niko Koutouvides
72 G Pat Murray
85 TE Chad Mustard
94 DE Jarvis Moss

San Diego Chargers Inactives


6 QB Charlie Whitehurst (third quarterback)
29 RB Michael Bennett
34 FB Billy Latsko
59 LB Brandon Siler
67 G Kynan Forney
75 T Corey Clark
80 WR Malcom Floyd
98 DT Ian Scott

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Pre-game news and notes from Denver:

Denver star left cornerback Champ Bailey is active and is expected to start against Buffalo. Bailey has missed the past seven games with a torn groin. Bailey said last week that he needed to get on the field at least once if Denver were to make the playoffs so he felt good in January.

Buffalo quarterback J.P. Losman is the Bills' No. 3 quarterback Sunday behind Trent Edwards and No. 2 quarterback Gibran Hamdan. Losman had been starting in recent week with Edwards injured.

Buffalo left tackle Jason Peters is inactive and is replaced by Kirk Chambers.

The game-time temperatures are expected to be in the high teens in Denver. It is very cold but clear.

Denver rookie free safety Josh Barrett will start for the injured Marlon McCree.

Buffalo top pick Leodis McKelvin is starting for the injured Jabari Greer at cornerback.

Denver rookie left tackle Ryan Clady will play despite an ankle injury that kept him out of two days of practice this week.

Denver right guard Chris Kuper will play despite a hand injury that kept him out of two days of practice this week.

Denver No. 3 receiver Brandon Stokley will play despite being hobbled for the past two weeks with a foot injury.

As promised by Denver coach Mike Shanahan, there are no updates from the Chargers game in Tampa Bay on the stadium scoreboards or in the Denver locker room. The televisions in the locker room, which are usually tuned into the early action, are turned off Sunday. Denver will clinch the division in the Buccaneers beat San Diego. The Chargers are leading 27-24 midway in the fourth quarter.

AFC West notes

December, 14, 2008
12/14/08
3:47
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Here are some random AFC West notes from the Panthers' press box:

The Broncos are less than a half from clinching the AFC West championship. Kansas City has taken a 21-10 lead over the beleaguered Chargers. If San Diego goes on to lose, Denver clinches the division. The Chargers would be 5-9. Denver is 8-5.

The Chiefs-Chargers game was being played on the big screen in Carolina in the first half.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is having a bad day. He is not sharp and he had to be restrained from getting to the officials after a lost fumble. Guard Kris Dielman was ejected after throwing a punch at Chiefs' defensive end Tamba Hali on the play.

Broncos' receiver Brandon Stokley and Jake Delhomme are facing each other for the first time in their NFL careers. They were a pass-catch tandem at Southwestern Louisiana.

San Diego center Nick Hardwick was taken off on a cart with a knee injury that appeared to be potentially serious.

Denver star left cornerback Champ Bailey is inactive and will miss his seventh straight missed game against Carolina. He has a torn groin. Undrafted rookie Josh Bell will continue to spell him.

Weakside linebacker D.J. Williams is back for Denver after missing the past five games with a knee injury.

Denver safety Marlon McCree is out with a lingering ankle injury. He is being replaced by Vernon Fox.

Denver No. 3 receiver Brandon Stokley is playing after injuring his foot last week.

Denver fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen is out with a groin injury.

Oakland's defensive line has one sack in the past 13 quarters,

Denver and Tennessee both have a chance to be lead their division after every game this season. The teams to do it the 2007 New England Patriots, the 2004 Atlanta Falcons, the 1985 Los Angeles Rams.

There is a rumor circulating around the league that St. Louis interim coach Jim Haslett could get interest from Oakland. Raiders' owner Al Davis likes Haslett and has talked to him about a job in the past. A potential obstacle is that the last 11 coaches Davis has hired all have offensive backgrounds. Haslett is a defensive coach.

San Diego defensive coordinator Ron Rivera's name has popped up for some potential jobs around the league,

There are many, many empty seats at Arrowhead Stadium Sunday.

Denver running back Cory Boyd is inactive. Denver's running backs Sunday will be Tatum Bell, Selvin Young and P.J. Pope.

Pope

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here is an injury update for the Broncos, Chiefs, and Chargers:

In Denver, linebacker D.J. Williams practiced fully. He has missed five games with a knee injury. He will be monitored throughout the week. Cornerback Champ Bailey, who has missed six weeks with a groin injury, continues to be limited in his participation. Denver coach Mike Shanahan said Bailey won't run fully until Saturday. Then, the team will make a decision on whether he will play Sunday in Carolina in a game where Denver can clinch the AFC West division title with a win.

Fullback/middle linebacker Spencer Larsen (groin) and receiver Brandon Stokley (foot) didn't practice. The two players will be monitored through the week. Safety Marlon McCree practiced fully and he could play Sunday after missing several weeks with an ankle injury.

In Kansas City, center Rudy Niswanger didn't practice because of a knee injury he suffered at Denver on Sunday. Receiver Mark Bradley was limited with a calf injury that kept him out of the Denver game and cornerback Maurice Leggett, who has scored touchdown in each of the last two games, was limited with a shoulder injuries. The team is hopeful he can play against visiting San Diego on Sunday.

In San Diego, defensive tackle Jamal Williams didn't practice Wednesday which has become a routine. Safety Clinton Hart (shoulder) and fullback Mike Tolbert (shoulder) were practicing on a limited basis. Tolbert missed the past two games.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here is the injury report from the Broncos and Chiefs. The two teams meet in Denver on Sunday:

In Denver, cornerback Champ Bailey and linebacker D.J. Williams did not make any progress Friday. Williams is listed as doubtful to play against the Chiefs. He has missed four games. Bailey is listed as questionable on the injury report. He has missed five games.

Linebacker Nate Webster is expected to play. He has missed the past three games with a knee injury. Defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban (back), safety Marlon McCree (ankle) and fullback/linebacker Spencer Larsen (hip) are all questionable.

In Kansas City, the Chiefs will be without receiver Mark Bradley. He has been outstanding since being signed earlier in the season. But Bradley appeared on the injury participation list with a calf injury Thursday. He didn't practice Thursday or Friday and he was ruled out Friday for the game. Bradley practiced on Wednesday.

Linebacker Donnie Edwards (hamstring, knee) and Patrick Surtain (quadriceps) are both out as well. Linebacker Pat Thomas (hamstring) and guard Adrian Jones (ankle) are questionable.

Chiefs, Broncos injury update

December, 4, 2008
12/04/08
4:42
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here's a Chiefs-Broncos injury update ahead of Sunday's game in Denver:

Denver linebacker D.J. Williams took a step backward and cornerback Champ Bailey didn't make any progress Thursday. Williams was limited in his participation Thursday after he practiced fully the day before. Williams has missed four games with a knee injury.

Bailey continued to be limited. It is unlikely Denver will play Bailey unless he practices fully. With the Broncos on the verge of qualifying for the playoffs, so they likely won't push Williams or Bailey.

Meanwhile, defensive end Ebenezer Ekuban practiced on a limited basis after he didn't practice Wednesday with a back issue. Safety Marlon McCree, who has missed several games, practiced on a limited basis Thursday. He has an ankle injury.

In Kansas City, the only significant change was that receiver Mark Bradley didn't practice with a calf injury. He wasn't on the injury list Wednesday. Bradley has been one of the Chiefs' best offensive players at times this season.

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

With five games to go, the AFC West appears to be a two-team race between Denver and San Diego. The only reason why the 4-7 Chargers are still in the race is because Denver refuses to run away with it. The Broncos would be 7-4 and making January plans had it not been blown out at home against Oakland.

The Broncos are 6-5 and don't have the look of a team ready to go for the kill. Thus, the Chargers are still in the race. Theoretically, Oakland, at 3-8, could get back in the mix if a few things fall the Raiders' way in the next few weeks.

Here are five things both Denver and San Diego need to do to win the West, which is in danger of forever being remembered as the first division ever to have a winner with a losing record in a non-strike season.

(Read full post)

AFC West areas of improvement

November, 27, 2008
11/27/08
1:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here is one area that each AFC West team needs to improve in this week:

Denver
Safety play:
The Broncos have been flip-flopping safeties all season and they have been especially busy with Marlon McCree injured. Rod Rogers (who was cut Tuesday) replaced Calvin Lowry last week. Still, there was no spark. Denver coach Mike Shanahan said this week he is waiting for someone who can anchor the defense. It hasn't happen and it is hurting both the run and pass defense.

Kansas City
Allow fewer points:
This one is easy. Kansas City allowed Buffalo to score 54 points on Sunday. It was a Kansas City record for most points allowed Kansas City has allowed 84 points in the past two games. Yes, the Chiefs' defense is both young and injured but this is silly. The Chiefs play Oakland's offense, which until Sunday against Denver has been terrible. It has to find a way to stop letting teams run all over them.

Oakland
Throw more:
It's petty difficult to poke holes in what Oakland did last week in Denver. So we may be stretching here. Quarterback JaMarucs Russell threw the ball just 11 times. Yes, he completed 10 of those passes but if Oakland is going have balance in its offense, it needs to throw more.

San Diego
Don't break down late on defense:
Ron Rivera has made San Diego's defense better in the past three weeks since he took over as the coordinator for Ted Cottrell. Still, the Chargers are breaking down late on defense. In each of the past three games, opponents scored in the final minute. The only time San Diego won was when Kansas City finale to convert a two-point conversion. This defense has tightened when it counts.

Chargers, Broncos injury update

November, 26, 2008
11/26/08
7:15
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here is an injury update from Denver and San Diego:

In Denver, star rookie receiver/returner Eddie Royal did not practice because of a toe injury. His status for Sunday's game against the Jets is not known at this time.

Injured defensive starters Champ Bailey, D.J. Williams and Nate Webster all practiced on a limited basis. Bailey has missed four games, Williams has missed three games and Webster has missed two games. Bailey appears to be the closest to playing Sunday at the New York Jets. He was been practicing lightly for a couple of weeks.

Williams and Webster may need more time but the fact that they are on the field is a good sign. Starting safety Marlon McCree did not practice and likely will miss his fourth straight game this week with an ankle injury. Backup running back Selvin Young was limited in practice with a groin injury. He missed six games.

In San Diego, rookie fullback Mike Tolbert didn't practice with a shoulder injury. He was hurt Sunday against Indianapolis. If Tolbert can't play Sunday against the visiting Falcons, rookie Jacob Hester will play. Hester finished the game against the Colts and played well.

Defensive end Luis Castillo practiced on a limited basis. He missed the Indianapolis game with a groin injury. He didn't practice all last week. The fact that he hit the field Wednesday could be a good sign that Castillo plays Sunday.

AFC West injury update

November, 19, 2008
11/19/08
9:16
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here is an AFC West injury update for Wednesday:

In Denver, star cornerback Champ Bailey was limited in practice with a groin injury. He has been out since Oct. 20. Bailey practiced on a limited basis last Thursday and Friday but he did not play at Atlanta.

The Broncos will be very cautious with Bailey this week. The weather forecast for Denver on Sunday is 53 degrees and clear skies so the weather likely won't play a factor in whether he plays Sunday. Defensive starters, linebackers D.J. Williams and Nate Webster, and safety Marlon McCree all will not play Sunday.

Running back Selvin Young, who has been hampered by a groin injury since Oct. 5, did not practice. There is a strong chance he won't play Sunday.

In Oakland, quarterback JaMarcus Russell was limited with knee and ankle injuries. He didn't play Nov. 9 against Carolina with a knee issue and he suffered an ankle injury Sunday at Miami. Defensive end Derrick Burgess did practice fully Wednesday and he should be on target to play Sunday at Denver. Burgess has missed the past six games with a triceps injury.

In San Diego, defensive lineman Luis Castillo did not practice with a groin injury. He had to leave the game in Pittsburgh on Sunday with the injury. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie has been hobbled by a hip injury and he was limited in practice Wednesday.

AFC West injury update

November, 12, 2008
11/12/08
10:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Broncos halftime thoughts

November, 6, 2008
11/06/08
9:53
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Here are some Broncos halftime notes as they trail Cleveland, 20-10:

Brandon Marshall looks distracted. He has dropped passes and he has run the wrong routes. Jay Cutler doesn't look overly sharp, but Marshall has helped out that perception with some uncharacteristically sloppy play.

The Broncos are using a spread offense with Cutler in the shotgun because they don't have any running backs. They are down to fullback Peyton Hillis at running back. Starter Ryan Torain is out with a leg injury. Backup Selvin Young is not healthy yet because of a groin injury. Michael Pittman and Andre Hall were put on injured reserve this week. Denver is in bad shape at running back if Torain's injury is serious.

Speaking of bad injury situations, now all three of Denver's starting linebackers are injured. Middle linebacker Nate Webster is out with a knee injury. He is not expected back. Strongside linebacker Boss Bailey is out for the year with a knee injury and weakside linebacker D.J. Williams will be out for the next month with a knee injury. Left cornerback Champ Bailey is out for a month with a groin injury and safety Marlon McCree is out with an ankle injury. This defense is just not talented enough to withstand these injuries.

Broncos pre-game thoughts

November, 6, 2008
11/06/08
8:10
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

Pre-game Broncos news and notes:

The Broncos are without three defensive starters Thursday night. Safety Marlon McCree is out with an ankle injury. He joins cornerback Champ Bailey, who has a groin injury and weakside linebacker D.J. Williams, who has a knee injury.

The Broncos will have the services of tight end Tony Scheffler and running back Selvin Young against the Browns. Both players and missed the last three games with groin injuries. They were listed as questionable to play Thursday night.

Young will likely backup rookie Ryan Torain at tailback and Scheffler will resume his role as one of quarterback Jay Cutler's favorite targets. Cutler has struggled without Scheffler and Denver is 0-3 in the games that he missed.

There is a bit of a surprise in the starting lineup. In place of Williams, Denver is starting Wesley Woodyard. He is an undrafted rookie from Kentucky. Woodyard has been an excellent special teams player and has made strides at linebacker.

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