AFC West: Matt Leinart

ALAMEDA, Calif. – Strong safety Tyvon Branch’s attempted comeback from a fractured fibula in his right leg suffered in Week 2 came to an end Saturday as the Oakland Raiders placed their highest-paid player on season-ending injured reserve with three games remaining, including Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs.

In a corresponding roster move, the Raiders added defensive tackle Ricky Lumpkin to the active roster from the practice squad.

The 6-foot-4, 306-pound Lumpkin, 25, was signed to Oakland’s practice squad on Nov. 20. He spent most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons on Arizona's practice squad and Raiders fans might remember him for the roughing the passer hit he levied on then-Oakland backup quarterback Matt Leinart during an exhibition game last year.

Lumpkin was fined $21,000 for the blow and Leinart left the game with an injury to his right index finger. Lumpkin has appeared in one regular-season game in his NFL career, against the Detroit Lions last Dec. 16, and had one tackle. The undrafted defensive lineman from Kentucky figures to be needed for depth on the defensive line Sunday with the concussed Vance Walker doubtful to play against the Chiefs.

Branch, meanwhile, began practicing last week and seemed on track to appearing in a game for the first time since going down against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 15, when the baseball dirt infield was still in use at the Coliseum. Branch, who will make $9.5 million this season, went down while blitzing Jaguars quarterback Chad Henne on a third-and-7 play in the first quarter, after stepping from the dirt onto the grass.

It was not known, though, if the playing surface had anything to do with the injury, which has been described as an ankle issue by the Raiders all along, with ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter reporting it as being a fractured fibula.

Branch told reporters this week that he felt he could have played earlier in the season. In two games, he had nine tackles (four solo) with a sack.
SiriusXMNFL Radio reported that quarterback Terrelle Pryor will have a chance to compete with Carson Palmer for the starting job in 2013.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor, Carson Palmer
AP Photo/Ben MargotTerrelle Pryor will be given the chance to compete with Carson Palmer for the Raiders starting QB job.
Yet, I wouldn’t assume Pryor is going to be Oakland’s opening-day starter nor would I say there will surely be a quarterback controversy in training camp in Oakland.

Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie told Bay Area reporters last week Pryor must compete for his playing time.

“Right now, he’s our No. 2,” McKenzie said last week. “We’ve got Matt Leinart as a free agent. I’m going to bring guys in. I’m not penciling in anybody at any position as one, two. I’m going to have somebody in here to try to compete with everybody. So I’m not going to get into who is two or three, or number one for that matter.”

It’s standard procedure in the NFL for teams to talk about open competition early in the offseason. The key for Pryor is the offseason program.

If Pryor makes strides and comes to camp improved, perhaps he can push Palmer.

Oakland should hope Pryor can push Palmer, who is 33. Pryor has potential. This is becoming a young quarterback league. If Pryor can be part of it, it will give Oakland a chance to expedite its rebounding process.

Pryor pleasantly surprised the team with his play in the season finale at San Diego with Palmer injured. The team didn’t think Pryor was making great progress because of inconsistent practice play.

But when he got the chance to play, he seized the moment and made some nice things happen. He is still very much a work in progress. That’s why there is no guarantee that he will be ready to compete with Palmer. But he will be given the chance.

If he answers the challenge in camp and in the preseason, I wouldn’t be shocked if Pryor seizes the job from Palmer.

The time is right for Terrelle Pryor

December, 28, 2012
Dennis Allen made the right call Friday when he announced Terrelle Pryor will be the Raiders’ starting quarterback in the season finale at San Diego.

It was the only call Allen could make.

This game will be a glorified 2013 practice session for Pryor. The Raiders are 4-11 and their starting quarterback is 33. This is the perfect time to look at Pryor, a third-round pick in the 2011 supplemental pick. If Pryor is great, the Raiders will have some options going into next season. If he is OK, it gives the Raiders hope he can be the backup next season and could potentially grow into the starting role. If he is terrible, the Raiders will know he is a long ways away from being an option for the immediate future.

Finding out the answer is a necessity. Had Matt Leinart started Sunday, the Raiders wouldn’t have found any answers. Leinart is a backup and it looks as if he always will be. This is not about him. It’s about seeing what Pryor can do.

I commend Allen for recognizing that. However, it clearly wasn’t his first thought. Leinart took over for Carson Palmer in the first quarter at Carolina when Palmer was lost for the season with rib and lung injuries. Pryor played just a few plays as a wrinkle. After the game, Allen said Pryor wasn’t ready to be a base-offense quarterback. Even during the week, Pryor didn’t get all of the starter’s repetitions because the Raiders didn’t totally feel good about his decision-making.

But now, he will start. The Raiders will scale back the playbook some and let Pryor rip. This offense hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 14. It needs some life.

I know Oakland fans are excited about this decision and they should be. But don’t expect any miracles. Pryor will make some plays with his legs and his arm. He has natural ability. But he will also make some bad plays Sunday. He is raw and has poor footwork and accuracy and consistency issues.

He looked good once in the preseason and that was against Detroit’s third-stringers. But he deserves the chance Sunday. He has worked hard and has shown a good attitude.

Pryor will be the 15th quarterback drafted since 2011 to start a game. We’ve seen others become stars. Let’s see what he can do.

Plus, it adds pressure on the Chargers. Preparing for Leinart and Pryor (Al Davis’ final draft pick) are two different things. Finding out two days before the game that they must face an athletic specimen without much NFL tape has to be somewhat unsettling for the Chargers.

I expect to see a lot of sandlot play Sunday and it should be fun to watch. If Pryor wasn’t playing, would there be many other reasons to watch this game other than seeing Norv Turner walk off the Qualcomm Stadium field for the last time?

It’s Pryor Time in Oakland. He’ll get to make the case Sunday for future showings.

Chris Kuper makes progress

December, 27, 2012
Denver guard Chris Kuper was limited in practice Thursday. He didn’t practice Wednesday and he has missed the past three games with an ankle injury. I could see a scenario where Kuper is rested through the regular season. Manny Ramirez has been playing for Kuper.

Meanwhile, returner Trindon Holliday (ankle) and cornerback Tracy Porter (concussion) remained out of practice Thursday.

For Kansas City, center Ryan Lilja (back), defensive end Tyson Jackson (foot), offensive lineman Donald Stephenson (illness), tackle Branden Albert (back) and tight end Tony Moeaki (head) all did not practice Thursday for the second straight day. Running back Jamaal Charles (illness) and linebacker Tamba Hali (illness) all practiced fully Thursday after being out Wednesday.

In other AFC West news:
  • The Raiders put defensive tackle Richard Seymour on the injured reserve. He ahs been out for the past several weeks. He is a free agent and is likely done as a Raider. I will be back later with some thoughts on Seymour’s time in Oakland.
  • Oakland safety Tyvon Branch (ankle), guard Mike Brisiel (ankle) and cornerback Phillip Adams (groin) all didn’t practice Thursday.
  • Running back Ronnie Brown (hamstring) and linebacker Donald Butler (groin) missed practice for the Chargers.
  • Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel had his knee drained. He is on crutches and he might have to coach Sunday's game at Denver from the press box.
  • San Diego receiver/returner Micheal Spurlock named the AFC special teams player of the week. He returned a punt for a touchdown in a win at the Jets.
UPDATE: Oakland coach Dennis Allen will announce Friday who his starting quarterback will be Sunday at San Diego. Both Matt Leinart and Terrelle Pryor are getting first-team reps this week.

There is no clarity as to who will start at quarterback for the Oakland Raiders at San Diego in the season finale on Sunday.

However, it seems like Terrelle Pryor’s chances of getting extensive playing time are increasing.

Oakland coach Dennis Allen told reporters that Matt Leinart and Pryor split repetitions evenly Wednesday. However, Pryor told reporters that Leinart got most of the snaps, but Pryor did get more practice snaps than usual. A starter will be named later in the week.

Carson Palmer suffered rib and lung injuries early against Carolina last Sunday. Leinart took over and Pryor played a few plays in special packages. After the game, Allen said Pryor was not ready to start.

However, Wednesday, Allen said it may be time to see what Pryor can do now that Leinart was given a chance. Leinart was not impressive when he took over for Palmer.

I think Allen needs to go with Pryor. We all know what Leinart is -- a career backup. Pryor, who was taken in the third round of the supplemental draft in 2011, is an unknown quantity. At 4-11, the Raiders have nothing to lose by playing Pryor.

Still, I think the decision should have been made already. If Pryor is going to play extensively, he needs to practice extensively. If Pryor is going to play a lot, why is Leinart still getting starter’s reps?

Perhaps they will both play. Time will tell. But four days before the game, it seems like Pryor will be heading toward, at least, some playing time Sunday.

Waiting to announce the starter does give Oakland an edge against the Chargers. Preparing to defend against Leinart and Pryor are two different things, so the Chargers' defensive game-planning has to be affected some this week.

AFC West Stock Watch

December, 26, 2012

Terrelle Pryor's chances of being a starter anytime soon: I disagreed with the Oakland Raiders' decision to use Matt Leinart instead of Pryor as Carson Palmer's injury replacement at the Carolina Panthers. They know what they have in Leinart. He’s a career backup. Why wouldn’t a four-win team see what they have in Pryor? I think the reality is clear -- Pryor must be nowhere near being considered a starter in Oakland. The team didn’t think he was ready to play in a meaningless game. He’s not going to be ready to take over an offense next season. There are many exciting young quarterbacks taking over this league. It doesn’t seem like Pryor, taken in the third-round of the supplemental draft in 2011, will be given the chance soon. Still, Oakland would be smart to let Pryor play Sunday in the season finale at San Diego just to see what he can do.

Chances the Kansas City Chiefs will keep their current brass: We all hear the rumors that Scott Pioli and Romeo Crennel are on their way out and we hear rumors of possible replacements. The Chiefs are 2-13 and it is becoming increasingly likely that ownership will feel it has no choice to make but to make sweeping changes.

The San Diego Chargers' chances for a top draft pick: The Chargers have won on the road in two of the past three weeks. They are now 6-9 and they are on pace for the No. 10 pick. A couple of weeks ago, it seemed like the Chargers could be poised for a top-five pick. That's no longer true.


Appreciation for Jamaal Charles: It’s a shame Charles’ wonderful comeback campaign is being lost in the misery of the Chiefs season. Charles has been spectacular. He has 1,456 yards this season and he is 12 yards from setting a personal season best. Charles has three runs of 80 yards or more this season and is tied for the most in an NFL season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Charles is also the all-time NFL career leader in per carry average with 5.82 yards a carry. He is a tremendous player, and he is, by far, the best tailback in this division.

The 36-year-old Peyton Manning: According to ESPN Stats & Information, if Manning has three touchdown passes against the Chiefs on Sunday, he will set an NFL record for touchdown passes by a quarterback 36 years or older. Manning has 34 touchdown passes this season. Y.A. Tittle and Steve Young were both 36 when they tossed 36 touchdown passes.

San Diego rookie defensive lineman Kendall Reyes: There will be a new coach in San Diego next year and he will inherit some good young talent on defense. Reyes is one of them. The second-round pick had 3.5 sacks Sunday at the Jets and he has a chance to be a dominant player. The likely departing A.J. Smith gets dinged a lot, but Reyes could be a nice parting gift from Smith.

Time to look at Terrelle Pryor

December, 24, 2012
We know Carson Palmer will not play in the Oakland Raiders’ season finale on Sunday in San Diego.

We do not, however, know who will be the Raiders’ starting quarterback.

Oakland coach Dennis Allen said Palmer will not play against the Chargers after the veteran QB suffered cracked ribs and a bruised lung early in a 17-6 loss at Carolina. Matt Leinart took his place. No. 3 quarterback Terrelle Pryor played in a few change-of-pace looks.

On Monday, Allen said he will announce his starter later in the week. The team’s decision to play Leinart was a strong indication that it doesn’t trust Pryor to play in a base offense and Allen confirmed it after the game when he said Pryor -- a third-round supplemental draft pick in 2011 -- isn’t ready.

However, the fact that Allen isn’t ready to announce a starter for Sunday is an indication that the coaching staff may be, at least, considering playing Pryor.

I realize Oakland’s staff is concerned that Pryor isn’t prepared to run a base offense in an NFL game. But what’s the risk at this point? Oakland is 4-11. We already know what Leinart is -- a career backup.

Give Pryor some experience.

Perhaps he will show Oakland something. I know he had just one good preseason game and I know there will likely be a lot of moments of frustration if he plays a full game. But there are no risks.

The best trend in the NFL right now is the emergence of young quarterbacks. I’m not saying Pryor is one of these players. But we will never know if he stays on the bench.

Palmer will turn 33 on Thursday. The Raiders have a young quarterback and they need to see what they have in Pryor, regardless if he is ready or not. This is the perfect opportunity to do it. Oakland needs to take advantage of it.

Meanwhile, could Palmer have played his final game in Oakland? There has been some speculation the Raiders will move on because he has a huge contract for 2013. I can see a restructuring of Palmer’s contract, but I’d be surprised if he wasn’t in Oakland next season. There just aren’t any better options and Oakland has much bigger needs than quarterback going into the offseason.

Oakland Raiders: Moving On

December, 24, 2012
Here are some areas the Oakland Raiders need to focus on after a 17-6 road loss at Carolina on Sunday:

Recap: The Raiders fell to 4-11 and lost their seventh game of their last eight. Oakland was lackluster once again. It didn’t help that quarterback Carson Palmer suffered a rib injury in the first quarter and did not return. Backup Matt Leinart was ineffective as Palmer’s replacement.

Biggest area to fix: Touchdowns. The Raiders haven’t scored a touchdown since Week 14. Oakland has scored seven field goals in the past two games.

Biggest area to build on: Points allowed. Oakland is still not playing great defense, but the points barrage has slowed way down. Giving up 17 points on the road to a solid quarterback like Cam Newton is solid football.

What to watch for: The Raiders close out the season at San Diego. The Chargers won in Oakland in Week 1.

Wrap-up: Panthers 17, Raiders 6

December, 23, 2012
A look at another lackluster Oakland showing:

What it means: It’s another loss in a lost season. The Raiders, who ended a six-game losing streak last week with a 15-0 shutout win over the Chiefs, are now 4-11. They are on pace for the No. 3 pick in the draft. Oakland is 1-6 on the road and it went 0-4 against the NFC South.

Palmer hurt, Pryor still sits: Carson Palmer was lost for the game in the first quarter with a rib injury and we found out the answer to the Terrelle Pryor question: The Raiders will only use him in spot duty. Matt Leinart took over for Palmer and Pryor played three plays in a wrinkle offense. After the game, Oakland coach Dennis Allen said the obvious: The team doesn’t think he is ready. So, it seems if Palmer can’t play in the season finale, Leinart will play at San Diego. I think Pryor should play. So he’s not ready. Who cares? The season is lost and we know Leinart is not the answer. Give Pryor some experience. Does it matter if it costs the Raiders a game at this point?

Allen safe? Prior to the game, CBS Sports reported that owner Mark Davis will keep Allen. Several weeks ago, Davis said he wants to see progress. A touchdown-less win over the Chiefs and six losses really isn’t progress. Still, I’d be surprised if Allen is shown the door. His coordinators, especially offensive coordinator Greg Knapp, may suffer a different fate, though.

Touchdown drought: The Raiders haven’t scored a touchdown since Week 14 against Denver. The Raiders have seven field goals in the past two games. It is tied for the longest touchdown drought in the NFL.

East Coast blues continue: The Raiders lost their 10th straight game in the Eastern Time Zone.

Chippy game: There was a lot of pushing and shoving between these non-rivals. In all, there were 16 penalties for 167 yards. Several players, including Carolina quarterback Cam Newton, who got away with a kick at Oakland defensive tackle Tommy Kelly, could be fined.

McFadden a non-factor: Darren McFadden’s lousy season continues. He had 33 yards on 17 carries. He had nothing going Sunday.

What’s next: Oakland wraps up its season at San Diego. The Chargers beat Oakland in Week 1.
We are getting our answer about how the Oakland Raiders’ coaching staff feels about Terrelle Pryor.

Oakland starting quarterback Carson Palmer went out in the first half with a rib injury and he will not return to the game against Carolina.

Yet, instead of taking a look at the raw Pryor, whom the Raiders took in the third round of the supplemental draft in 2011 -- the Raiders went with backup Matt Leinart.

Like he did last week, Pryor made a cameo appearance Sunday as a wrinkle.

But he isn’t getting any playing time with the base offense. Oakland is 4-10 and Palmer will turn 33 Thursday. You’d think the team would take this opportunity to see what Pryor can do.

But the team has hinted that Pryor has not shown enough fundamental consistency in practice to play on a regular basis. Sunday’s decision to go with Leinart indicates that Oakland simply doesn’t trust Pryor yet.

Brady Quinn unpopular? Not in K.C.

October, 25, 2012
I don’t think this poll was taken in Kansas City. Not recently, at least.

A Forbes poll come up with the top 10 most and least liked NFL players. Curiously, at No. 10 of the least liked players is Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Brady Quinn.

Quinn was named the starting quarterback in Kansas City this week, replacing Matt Cassel. Chiefs fans are delighted by the move.

I find it strange that Quinn would be on the list, anyway. Until Week 6, when he replaced an injured Cassel, he hadn’t started a game in three years. Perhaps there are a lot of Cleveland Browns fans who are still mad at Quinn for flopping as a first-round pick in 2007.

The same theory may be at play for Oakland Raiders backup Matt Leinart. He is No. 5 on the least-liked list. Sounds like a lot of angry Arizona fans are upset at the former 2006 first-round pick. I just can’t buy Quinn and Leinart being these villain types.

Meanwhile, Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is No. 4 on the most-liked list. No surprise there. He’s a future hall of famer, he’s uber recognizable because of his countless commercials and he’s always been a positive person in the community.

In other AFC West news;

The most popular 14-year-old boy in the Denver area? None other than Peyton Manning. The other Peyton Manning in town said he has invited his namesake out to meet him and his Broncos’ teammates.

Our ESPN experts’ Week 8 picks are in and they expect a lot of wins from the AFC West.

John Fox explains snapper choice

August, 27, 2012
The biggest name in the AFC West to be cut so far is Denver Broncos long snapper Lonie Paxton.

He was considered one of the best in the NFL at his position and there were no indications he was in trouble. Paxton will be replaced by rookie free agent Aaron Brewer. In a conference call with media members Monday, Denver coach John Fox explained why the team chose Brewer over Paxton.

“He’s an exceptional athlete,” Fox said of Brewer, a San Diego State product. “A lot of times with a snapper one of the things you look at is the protection element. He is like a center on the offensive line. He picked that up very, very quickly. He’s very athletic so he’s a really good cover guy for a center. A lot of times, people on punt returns don't count that guy. We just felt great about his upside and his performance in the preseason games.”

In other AFC West news:

CSN Bay Area is reporting receiver Jacoby Ford is out of a walking boot. The Raiders' No. 3 receiver sprained his left foot in the second preseason game.

CSN Bay Area also reported backup quarterback Matt Leinart returned to practice. He injured a finger on his non-throwing hand in the second preseason game.

Report: Andre Carter not ready

August, 22, 2012
The Boston Herald reports former New England pass-rusher Andre Carter is not ready to return to the field. He was lost last season with a quadriceps injury. Carter worked out for the Raiders Tuesday and then he was off to see the Rams.

If the Raiders feel the same way, perhaps he could be an option down the road.

In other AFC West news:

CSN Bay Area reports Oakland backup Matt Leinart was not taking snaps at practice Wednesday. He has a finger injury on his non-throwing hand. I could see Leinart being held back until the regular season. Don’t be surprised if No. 3 quarterback Terrelle Pryor plays the last quarter or so against Detroit after Carson Palmer is pulled Saturday.

ESPN Stats & Information has a post on how New Denver quarterback Peyton Manning could be the team’s defensive MVP.

Defensive lineman Curley Culp, who began his career in Kansas City, is a senior committee nominee for the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Often, senior committee nominees are elected into the hall of fame. The final vote will be in February.

Our best wishes go out to the Raiders’ fan that was shot outside the team’s game at Arizona last week.

No list of NFL coaches on the hot seat would be complete without San Diego coach Norv Turner. If Turner doesn’t bring the Chargers to the playoffs, he very likely will be dismissed.
The Oakland Raiders have started late-summer window shopping we all expected them to do. CSN Bay Area reports the Raiders worked out pass-rusher Andre Carter on Tuesday.

Carter, who went to nearby Cal and who resides in the Bay Area, would provide solid pass-rushing depth to a unit that needs edge rushers after Kamerion Wimbley was cut. Carter has 76 career sacks since coming into the league in 2001. He had 10 sacks for New England last season before a quadriceps injury ended his season.

Carter, 33, would help Oakland on passing downs. He has experience as a 3-4 pass-rusher and he can fit in when the Raiders use some of those schemes. Teams have not been beating down Carter’s door, so I’d think if the Raiders like what they saw in his workout, they’d be able to cement a deal.

In other AFC West notes:

Safety Jim Leonhard practiced for Denver for the first time since signing with the Broncos earlier this month.

In an Insider piece, Mel Kiper thinks there are some AFC West rookies Insider that could make become top 200 players next year.

Backup quarterback Matt Leinart and receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey returned to practice for the Raiders on Tuesday. Both players were shook up in Friday’s preseason game at Arizona.
A look at the Raiders’ 31-27 loss at Arizona:

Oakland’s first-team defense continues to look to be ahead of the offense. That may not necessarily be a bad thing. The defensive side of the ball is the unit that needs to improve the most. Oakland has too much talent on offense to stall in the regular season. If the defense can made strides, it will signal overall progress as a team.

Quarterback Carson Palmer was shaky. He overthrew another pass that was intercepted. He did it in the first preseason game and he threw 16 picks last season. He needs to work on it.

Backup running back Mike Goodson had a rough night. He had five yards on six carries and he fumbled twice. The book on Goodson, acquired in a trade from Carolina earlier this year, was he fumbled too much. Goodson’s fumbling issues and the Raiders’ troubles in short-yardage situations in the preseason may make the Raiders re-think their need for more help at the position.

Goodson suffered a shoulder injury on a night the Raiders were banged up a bit.

Third receiver Jacoby Ford sprained his foot and was on crutches. Backup quarterback Matt Leinart has a finger injury on his non-throwing hand and Darrius Heyward-Bey has a sprained shoulder. Oakland coach Dennis Allen said he will know more about the injuries Saturday.

Defensive tackle Tommy Kelly looks great this preseason. He is all over the field and he nailed Arizona quarterback Kevin Kolb for a safety. Also, Kelly made news when, after the game, he said Kolb was “scared” and “skittish.” Scouts have been saying that for a while and now Kelly has publicly made the claim.

Oakland was penalized just four times. This team appears to be making major strides in that area. Kudos to all involved. Oakland set an NFL record for penalties and penalty yardage last season. Allen seems to be improving the defense and making the team more disciplined. That has to be an encouraging sign.

The Raiders showed solid pass-rushing skills. They finished with four sacks.

Undrafted rookie Rod Streater had seven catches. He has 13 catches in two games. He’s a keeper.

Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke had another poor showing in the preseason. He was great in camp, bad in games. Fellow second-year cornerback Chimdi Chekwa is playing better and he could be the young cornerback vying for a starting job.

I wouldn’t worry too much about the blocked punt Arizona had for a touchdown. Marquette King is not Shane Lechler. Things will change in the regular season.

Third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor threw just three passes. We likely won’t see much of him until the final preseason game Aug. 30. Then he’ll likely be put in mothballs for the regular season, as far as game action goes.