AFC West: Matt Shaughnessy

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A look at whether each AFC West team has been a winner or a loser in free agency:

Denver Broncos: Yes, the Elvis Dumervil fax-machine fiasco will long be remembered. The Broncos may be guilty by association, but the ball was in the court of Dumervil's now-fired agent at the deadline, so Denver really was a frustrated bystander when it mattered. That incident shouldn’t sully an otherwise-terrific offseason by Denver. The Broncos had a plan and executed it well. It starts with Wes Welker. The slot receiver is a perfect weapon for Peyton Manning. Welker’s signing was affordable and hurt AFC rival New England -- a strong addition for a team that has Super Bowl designs. Former San Diego guard Louis Vasquez, former Philadelphia cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and defensive tackle Terrance Knighton were all smart, impact signings. This was a winning offseason.

Kansas City Chiefs: It’s difficult to find anyone who would argue that this wasn’t a winning offseason. In fact, the Chiefs might be among the biggest winners in free agency in the entire league. The Chiefs were aggressive and addressed every big need. First, they traded for quarterback Alex Smith, answering their most glaring hole with the best available player at the position. Then, they kept three key free agents in receiver Dwayne Bowe, punter Dustin Colquitt and left tackle Branden Albert. And after that, the Chiefs jumped aggressively into free agency. The additions of Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith could give Kansas City the best group of cornerbacks in the NFL. The Chiefs added in several other areas, including field-stretching receiver Donnie Avery and run-stuffing defensive lineman Mike DeVito. The new brass is determined to move on from the 2-14 disaster that was 2012.

Oakland Raiders: This is a difficult one. For the second consecutive year, the Raiders have been strapped by lingering salary-cap issues. They were forced to cut some players and saw several others leave as free agents. The exodus of young, talented players included tight end Brandon Myers, defensive linemen Desmond Bryant and Matt Shaughnessy and linebacker Philip Wheeler. The Raiders responded nicely by adding three linebackers and three defensive linemen as they totally reconstruct their defense. Players such as linebacker Nick Roach and defensive linemen Vance Walker and Pat Sims have a chance to help immediately. And yet it is difficult to think that this team, which went 4-12, has improved. Yes, the Raiders got some good players, but many holes remain. Again, it’s just a fact of life for this strapped team, whose reconstruction is very much under way.

San Diego Chargers: It would be difficult to make a case that this team has been either a winner or a loser in free agency. The Chargers have just kind of been hanging around. They haven’t lost much, but they haven’t added much, at least in terms signing players sure to fill holes. But new general manager Tom Telesco is known for finding good players at a good rate. The Chargers haven’t had a ton of cap space and have been fairly conservative. They have added some good players, starting with cornerback Derek Cox and guard Chad Rinehart; both are highly respected around the league. Running back Danny Woodhead also will help the offense. Questions remain on the offensive line and in the secondary, but it seems as though Telesco is going to work selectively to build a program his way. It remains to be seen if it will help the Chargers improve immediately.
The Oakland Raiders have done a nice job by filling their starting linebacking crew in free agency. Now they must work on their defensive line, among other areas.

Oakland, which has six holes in the defensive starting lineup, has three openings on the defensive line for players to join holdover Lamarr Houston. Matt Shaughnessy, a former mid-round pick, signed a one-year deal with Arizona.

Shaughnessy had potential and played well for Oakland, but he did not play well last season and was replaced by journeyman Andre Carter late in the season. Still, the Raiders have holes on the defensive line. Richard Seymour is a free agent and Tommy Kelly expects to be cut.

Second-year players Christo Bilukidi and Jack Crawford might get a chance. Oakland might draft Flordia’s Sharriff Floyd with the No. 3 pick. The Raiders signed Cincinnati’s Pat Sims at defensive tackle, but Sims has started just one game in the past two years.

Thus, defensive line is a priority for Oakland.

In other AFC West notes:

The Chargers re-signed running back Ronnie Brown and signed Danny Woodhead on Friday. Both are different types of backs who will back up Ryan Mathews. I can still see the Chargers bringing in a running back (probably a bigger one) in free agency or in the draft.

Arizona signed former San Diego starting cornerback Antoine Cason to a one-year deal. The Chargers didn’t have much interest in bringing him back.

San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes left his visit with the Jets without a deal.
The Oakland Raiders continued their theme of adding young starters on defense in an attempt to rebuild the team.

Oakland has signed Chicago linebacker Nick Roach. He is 27 and versatile. He was a strongside starting linebacker but played in the middle for Chicago when Brian Urlacher was hurt. He is considered to be an average player, but he will help Oakland as the starting middle linebacker.

The reportedly cap-strapped Raiders gave Roach a multiyear deal worth $3 million to $4 million a year.

Oakland just signed Cleveland’s Kaluka Maiava. He started several games at weakside linebacker for the Browns.

I expect the Raiders’ starting linebackers will be Roach, Maiava and second-year player Miles Burris. This group is not great but has a chance to grow together (Roach is the oldest of the group), and that is what Oakland needs -- youth and stability.

Philip Wheeler left for a big deal in Miami, and former first-round pick Rolando McClain is expected to be cut. Oakland also signed defensive tackle Pat Sims (Bengals) and defensive end Jason Hunter (Broncos). All of these players are decent, inexpensive pickups.

Meanwhile, another Raider has left the team and created another hole. Running back Mike Goodson has signed with the Jets. There is a hole behind starter Darren McFadden, especially considering the team is planning to move Taiwan Jones to cornerback.

Goodson, acquired in a trade with Carolina for guard Bruce Campbell last year, had 221 yards on 35 carries. Oakland will need to find a backup either in a weak free-agency class or with one of its five draft picks. While Oakland is making some signings, it still has plenty of needs.

It could lose another player. Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy is visiting Arizona. He has visits on tap to Tennessee and Philadelphia, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Shaughnessy could help the Raiders, but he fell out of favor late in the season.

In other AFC West notes:

• The Chiefs are talking to Minnesota guard Geoff Schwartz.

• New England is visiting with Colts pass-rusher Dwight Freeney. He is an option for Denver if it releases Elvis Dumervil. That decision is expected later Friday.

• The Jets are looking at San Diego pass-rusher Antwan Barnes.

Chat wrap: Raiders' keepers on D

December, 20, 2012
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A look at some of the highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

John from Boulder: Looking ahead, assuming the Broncos are at home, how do you think they match up with the Patriots in the divisional round? The defense hasn't been able to stop them in the past two years and they now have Hernandez back. They also appear to be playing better on defense since trading for Talib. Should I be afraid?

Bill Williamson: I think New England is Denver's worst matchup, especially because of the tight ends. Denver has to get that game at home. That's why last week was so big.

Kansas City

Josh from Kansas City: Who is going to be the Chiefs #1 WR next year? Is Bowe good as gone?

BW: Very good question. Depends on the regime. Maybe Bowe is re-signed. Baldwin sure doesn't look like he is ready.

Oakland

Tarek from NYC: If you were the Raiders who on defense would be safe for 2013?For me it's Houston, Wheeler, Burris, Huff, Branch and Adams.

BW: At first glance, that seems about right. Adams is just a backup-type. Maybe put Shaughnessy in there. Bryant too.

San Diego

A.J. from Richmond CA.: Assuming SD brings in a new GM and coach, how far off are they from competing for a SB?

BW: They got a QB and a good, young defense. Rest of offense has to be on fixed.

 

One guy to watch

December, 20, 2012
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One player to watch for each AFC West team in Week 16:

Denver, returner Trindon Holliday: Holliday almost lost two fumbles in the Week 15 victory at Baltimore. Holliday has twice scored on returns as a Bronco -- but he also has trouble holding onto the ball and makes some questionable decisions. If he makes a big miscue in the final two weeks, Denver may have to reconsider its return options for the postseason. All the Broncos have to do is look at San Francisco last season to see how return-game woes can ruin Super Bowl dreams.

Kansas City, receiver Jamar Newsome: The receiver signed off the street has been getting some late-season snaps -- it's audition time in Kansas City. Newsome has good size and the team likes him. He is playing for his future.

Oakland, defensive end Matt Shaughnessy: Shaugnessy had a strong 2010 but was lost for much of last season with an injury. He has started every game this year but hasn’t produced much. He saw veteran Andre Carter take some of his reps last week -- not a good sign. Shaughnessy is 26. Carter is 33 and a stop-gap player. If Shaughnessy can’t play over Carter, you have to wonder what the Raiders' brass thinks of him.

San Diego, running back Curtis Brinkley: Brinkley is like Newsome -- playing for his future. He was brought back to the roster a few weeks ago and got a chance when Ryan Mathews went down with a broken clavicle in Week 15, an injury that will sideline him for the final two games. Brinkley has a chance to impress the team down the stretch.
A melee in Cincinnati last Sunday cost five players a grand total of $131.250.

Four Oakland Raiders and one Cincinnati Bengal were fined $26,250 for participating in a wild fight late in the Bengals’ win. Oakland's Lamarr Houston, Tommy Kelly, Desmond Bryant and Matt Shaughnessy, and Cincinnati left tackle Andrew Whitworth were fined for their roles in the fight.

The fight started when Houston knocked down Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton after the whistle blew. Whitworth went after Houston, and the wild fight ensued. During the week, Withworth called several unnamed Raiders “cowards” for their role in the fight. He said it was between him and Houston.

In other AFC West news:

For Kansas City, safety Kendrick Lewis (shoulder) is doubtful, Ryan Lilja (knee), Branden Albert (back) and linebacker Tamba Hali (knee) are questionable to play against Carolina. Receiver Dexter McCluster (head) is probable.

As expected, San Diego linebacker Donald Butler (groin), receiver Eddie Royal (hamstring), and safety Darrell Stuckey (hamstring) are out Sunday. Because of the injuries, linebacker Jonas Mouton and safety Brandon Taylor are expected to make their NFL debuts Sunday against Cincinnati. Also, linebacker Jarret Johnson (back) is questionable.

For Oakland, running backs Darren McFadden and Mike Goodson have high ankle sprains that kept them out of the past three games and are questionable to play Sunday against Cleveland. They will be game-time decisions. Meanwhile, No. 3 quarterback Terrelle Pryor is expected to be active, and he might play some Sunday. It will be interesting to see what kind of packages are prepared for Pryor.

If the Raiders, 3-8, keeping losing and Pryor looks good in a limited role, I could see him get a chance for more playing time later in the season.

For Denver, defensive end Robert Ayers is questionable to play against Tampa Bay. He has missed all week because he has been with his family after the death of his father.
NAPA, Calif. -- One of the biggest curiosities in the NFL this summer is what is occurring in Wine Country. Graced with the prettiest training camp setting in the league, the Oakland Raiders are changing in front of our very eyes.

On the same practice field where the late Al Davis used to famously stalk practice from a nearby golf cart, the Raiders are a drastically different franchise as they enter their first full season since Davis died last October at the age of 82.

The team is now run by first-time general manager Reggie McKenzie, a respected former Green Bay executive and former Raiders linebacker. He was handpicked by several of Davis’ closest confidantes. McKenzie chose Dennis Allen, who at 39 is the NFL’s youngest coach, to take over the team.

For a franchise that was closely ruled by Davis until his death, the Raiders are hoping a dose of NFL modern structure will pay dividends. Even though it has been 8-8 in the past two seasons, Oakland hasn’t had a winning record in 10 years and it is tied for the second-longest playoff drought in the league.

Perhaps McKenzie and Allen are the winning combination for Oakland.

“I think everybody is interested to see what happens,” said Oakland safety Michael Huff, who has been with the Raiders since 2006. “I’ve only known one way. To have this new structure is new to me.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. Keep McFadden healthy: The Raiders’ best player is running back Darren McFadden. He has to stay healthy, but that hasn’t been easy for the fifth-year player. He has missed at last three games in each of his four NFL seasons. He missed the final nine games of last season with a serious foot injury. If McFadden can stay healthy, the Oakland offense will be dangerous and it will help quarterback Carson Palmer make a difference in his first full season in Oakland. If McFadden can’t stay healthy, the Raiders could be in trouble. They are not deep behind him and lose a major dimension with McFadden sidelined. McFadden has looked good so far, but the key is that he looks healthy.

2. Improve on defense: Allen is the first defensive-minded head coach of the Raiders since John Madden, who was hired in 1969. There is a reason McKenzie went with a defensive coach: the Raiders need the most help on that side of the ball. Oakland has been sloppy and has allowed too many big plays on defense. Allen helped change the defensive culture in Denver last year during his one season as the defensive coordinator there. His quest to improve Oakland’s defense begins now.

[+] EnlargeDarren McFadden
AP Photo/Derek GeeA healthy Darren McFadden is crucial for Oakland's success.
3. Cut down on penalties: The Raiders set NFL records for penalties and penalty yardage last season. It has long been a problem in Oakland. Now, it is up to Allen to get it figured out. Playing disciplined, correct ball is a focus of every camp. It has to be drilled into this team on a daily basis. To his credit, former coach Hue Jackson tried to fix penalties on a weekly basis last year and it didn’t work. It's now one of Allen’s greatest challenges. Allen stresses the importance of discipline every day and he will need to change this self-destructive trend.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

This roster has a lot of talent on it. The Raiders were on the edge of the playoffs last year, and there are lot players who think they are capable of taking the next step. Palmer has talked playoffs, and McKenzie says he thinks his team is headed in that direction.

The offense has the capability to score a lot of points, and the defense is loaded up front. It’s not like this team is going to be horribly overmatched on a weekly basis. You can watch training camp and you see good players on the field.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

This team is pretty thin at a lot of places because of the loss of several players through free agency, salary dumps and small draft classes the past two years. Again, there is talent assembled in this camp, but there are holes on this team. Positions such as running back, tight end, offensive line, linebacker and the secondary cannot afford too many injuries.

This camp is about keeping the top players healthy and hoping it all comes together. If injuries occur, Oakland will have to get creative to stay competitive.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The offense looks crisp. The pace of practice has been fast as the team adjusts to playing in the West Coast offense under coordinator Greg Knapp. The unit does not look behind.
  • Carson Palmer
    Harry How/Getty ImagesCarson Palmer threw for 2,753 yards in 10 games with the Raiders last season.
    Palmer throws a pretty deep ball. With the Raiders’ speed at receiver, they should parlay that combination into a lot of fast scores this season.
  • There is a lot of talent at receiver. I can see this team using five receivers in a game. There will be a lot of options.
  • Defensive lineman Tommy Kelly looks to be in good shape. He is one of the more underrated defensive linemen in the league.
  • Defensive linemen Matt Shaughnessy is looking good after missing much of last season with a shoulder injury. He is known as a stronger pass-rusher, but he can also stop the run. He is aiming for a big year.
  • I don’t anticipate a big adjustment period for second-year player Stefen Wisniewski as he moves from guard to center. He has played center before and he originally projected as an NFL center. He is a smart player who seems comfortable at the position.
  • Don’t expect too much from quarterback Terrelle Pryor right away. He is a work in progress and he will be up and down in camp. I think Matt Leinart has a pretty strong hold on the No. 2 job as of now.
  • Second-year cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke has a chance to make a push for a starting job. He opened camp as a starter with Ronald Bartell out with a hamstring injury. I could see Van Dyke pushing Bartell or Shawntae Spencer at some point.
  • The team is impressed with rookie linebackers Miles Burris and Nathan Stupar. Both players are instinctive and professional. I wouldn’t be surprised if Burris earns major playing time.
  • The team is high on third-round guard Tony Bergstrom. The game doesn’t look too big for him, and he is a mature player.
  • New defensive coordinator Jason Tarver has a lot of energy. Watching him operate with his lively personality and blond hair invokes memories of a young Jon Gruden wearing the Silver and Black. Like Gruden, the intelligent Tarver is a young coach to watch.
  • I think we will see tight ends Brandon Myers, David Ausberry and Richard Gordon all get ample playing time in the preseason. I think that can continue into the regular season if each player carves their own niche.
  • Safety Mike Mitchell is the early leader in the clubhouse to replace Rock Cartwright, now in San Francisco, as the punt protector.
  • Receivers Denarius Moore and Jacoby Ford will get most of the camp looks at punt returner for now.
  • Undrafted rookie receiver Rod Streater has taken off where he left off in the OTAs. He has been an early camp star.
  • I could see a scenario in which the Raiders keep fullback Owen Schmitt in addition to Marcel Reece. The tough Schmitt and the versatile Reece offer different things to the offense.

Raiders' camp notes

June, 12, 2012
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The Bay Area News Group has some nice tidbits from the Oakland Raiders’ minicamp session. Here are some highlights:

Defensive end Matt Shaugnessy was back to practice Tuesday for the first time since September when he was lost for the season with a shoulder injury. Don’t discount the return of Shaugnessy. He is a solid player, who will help this defense. He was missed in 2011.

Punter Shane Lechler expressed interest in staying with the Raiders after his contract runs out. He is on the final year of a deal that made him the richest punter in NFL history. He will very likely keep that title with his next deal. While the Raiders will have other areas to address, I’d expect them to do what it takes to try to keep Lechler. He is a unique weapon.

Receiver Denarius Moore hurt his hamstring. He is likely done for the minicamp, but he should be fine for training camp when it starts at the end of the July.

Meanwhile, David Ausberry is getting most of the repetitions at tight end. Ausberry, a converted receiver, Brandon Myers and Richard Gordon will all get playing time. The Raiders formally announced the signing of tight end Tory Humphrey. He has 13 career catches.

In other AFC West news:

The Kansas City Star has some thoughts on the Chiefs’ minicamp session.

CBSportsline reports the Broncos are following the recovery of former Cincinnati pass-rusher Antwan Odom. Denver would not be averse to adding another pass-rusher behind the powerhouse duo of Elvis Dumervil and Von Miller. The reports states Odom would like to sign with a team this summer.

U-T San Diego reports the Chargers claimed undrafted tackle Taylor Dever off waivers from the Cowboys. The Chargers want some depth at the position.

Raiders OTA observations

May, 15, 2012
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Observation from the Raiders’ OTA day on Tuesday:

Oakland is opening up its OTA days with a four-man defensive front. New coach Dennis Allen is adamant the Raiders will use multiple sets and we will see some 3-4 sets.

Running back Darren McFadden practiced fully for the first time since last October. He missed the final nine games of the season with a foot injury. He looked good. Allen said McFadden is at full speed.

Even if the Raiders sign fullback Owen Schmitt (who is here on a tryout basis), don’t expect Marcel Reece to be moved to tight end on a permanent basis. Reece is versatile and he will line up at tight end in some packages, but I expect him to stay a fullback.

Reece has not signed his restricted free-agent tender and he was among the players who were not at the voluntary camp Tuesday. Defensive lineman Richard Seymour was not at this camp. Allen said Seymour was at a previous camp and he has been in contact with the coaching staff. Allen called missing this session a “tradition” for Seymour. Middle linebacker Rolando McClain also was absent from the session, instead dealing with legal issues in Alabama.

Safety Mike Mitchell has a knee injury and was not practicing. Among the other injured players are defensive end Matt Shaughnessy (shoulder), center Stefen Wisniewski (he had a minor shoulder procedure this offseason) and guard Mike Brisiel (hamstring). None of the injuries appear serious and Allen said Shaughnessy is doing well in his rehabilitation from the injury that prematurely ended his 2011 season.

Quarterback Carson Palmer looked good. Backup Matt Leinart looked so-so and third-string quarterback Terrelle Pryor was often off-target. Pryor very much remains a work in progress.

Allen said he likes his stable of running backs, but he is on the lookout (like at all positions) for more help if the situation is right.

Receiver-turned-tight end David Ausberry has bulked up to help him as a blocker. Allen said he still sees Ausberry as a pass-catching tight end.

Allen said the emphasis to cut down on penalties -- the Raiders set a record for penalties last season -- has begun in the meeting room and will continue to evolve.

The Raiders are one of six NFL teams to participate in the launching of a new helmet for youth football programs to promote increased safety.

Matt Shaughnessy out for year

October, 19, 2011
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There have been indications over the past couple of weeks that Oakland defensive end Matt Shaughnessy could be out for the season with a shoulder injury. The Raiders made the news official Wednesday when they put Shaughnessy on the injured reserve to make room for newly-acquired quarterback Carson Palmer.

Shaugnhessy has been out for the past three games and Oakland coach Hue Jackson recently indicated that he could be out for the long haul. The third-year end makes a lot of plays and still has a strong future. The Raiders are deep on the defensive line, though. Desmond Bryant, Trevor Scott and Jarvis Moss will all continue to work in the rotation to replace Shaughnessy.

In other AFC West nuggets Wednesday:

Denver 2010 first-round pick Demaryius Thomas admits he's worried that his rash of injuries could lead to him being a bust and being cut. The oft-injured, but talented, Thomas may make his 2011 debut Sunday at Miami.

The Chiefs are trying to find out about what kind if offense it truly has.

The Broncos lost practice-squad receiver Eron Riley to the Jets’ 53-man roster. Denver signed D’Andre Goodwin to the practice squad to replace him. He is a rookie from Washington.

In this Insider piece, Insider Adam Schefter writes the Raiders can win the AFC West.

Jackson talks about the Palmer trade in a radio interview.

Denver coach John Fox talks in a radio interview about starting the Tim Tebow era.

Oakland running back Darren McFadden remains on ESPN’s MVP Watch.

Denver linebacker Von Miller remains on top of ESPN’s Rookie Watch.

Schefter reports cornerback Lito Sheppard visited the Raiders on Tuesday. He was with the team for a short time in the summer.

More on Raiders' quarterback search

October, 17, 2011
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ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that it doesn’t appear Trent Edwards is interested in returning to the Raiders at this point. He was cut this summer when Kyle Boller beat him out for the No. 2 job behind starter Jason Campbell. Campbell is out for several weeks, and perhaps the season, with a broken collarbone.

I think the only way the Raiders would bring back Edwards is if he was a backup to Boller. Oakland coach Hue Jackson said Monday the team is preparing to go with Boller, but it will continue to look at other options.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis reiterated that quarterback Carson Palmer is retired in the eyes of the organization. The Raiders reportedly have tried to acquire Palmer. The trade deadline is Tuesday. With David Garrard unavailable because of a back injury, it appears the Raiders’ best bets are either sticking with Boller or trading for Kyle Orton from Denver.

UPDATE: NFL.com is reporting the Raiders will work out quarterback Todd Bouman this week. He is 39. I’m sure it’s simply as a backup. It is another indication the team is leaning toward going with Boller.

In other AFC West news:

Denver defensive lineman Ryan McBean was arrested on stalking charges.

The Raiders had a memorial for Al Davis on Monday.

Jackson told reporters that defensive end Matt Shaughnessy may be out for an extended time. He’s missed the past three weeks with a shoulder injury.
Al Davis knew in recent years that he would not be around forever. Rebuilding his beloved Oakland Raiders was his lone mission.

[+] EnlargeJaMarcus Russell
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireJaMarcus Russell won seven games in three seasons with Oakland.
With his health declining steadily, Davis worked diligently at reconstructing his franchise. That was a primary reason why he cut JaMarcus Russell –- the No. 1 overall pick in 2007 –- in May 2010. In a meeting to tell Russell he was being cut, Davis told the quarterback he wished he could devote several years to Russell’s development, but he simply didn’t have time.

Davis wanted to build a Super Bowl winner right away.

The Raiders aren’t quite there. In the final game he witnessed his team play, this past Sunday, the Raiders were outclassed by a better New England team. However, the Raiders are going in the right direction.

In his final couple of years, Davis showed he could still be a top evaluator.

Yes, he had some major draft, free-agent and trade whiffs in the past decade. Davis’s decision-making was the reason the Raiders were bottom feeders for the past decade. That’s undeniable.

However, his decision-making of recent years is the reason the Raiders are considered a team on the rise. Also, undeniable.

Davis’ last great call of his life may be Denarius Moore. He could forever be known as Davis’ last gift to the Raiders.

Davis drafted Moore in the fifth round this year out of Tennessee. He has quickly developed into a top receiver for the Raiders and draft gurus are admitting Moore was one who got lost in the shuffle. Davis also scored in the fourth round last year with explosive receiver Jacoby Ford. Other mid- or late-round finds include tackle Jared Veldheer, defensive ends Matt Shaughnessy and Trevor Scott, safety Tyvon Branch and receiver Louis Murphy.

Davis also deserves credit for making Hue Jackson a head coach. Jackson is changing the culture in Oakland and he is intent on seeing through Davis’ last wishes of making the Raiders a winner again.

If the Raiders do win their fourth Super Bowl title in the foreseeable future, Davis’ fingerprints will be on the Lombardi Trophy. Just like the first three.

2009 AFC West draft rewind

February, 11, 2011
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This is the second in a three-part series of an examination of the past three draft classes of each AFC West team leading up to the NFL scouting combine at the end of the month. Last week, we looked at the 2008 class.

Our second part is the 2009 class:

Denver

First pick: No. 12, running back Knowshon Moreno

Total picks: 10

Stars: No player has stood out yet. First-round picks Moreno and defensive end/linebacker Robert Ayers, have not established themselves. Both could end up being good players, but there is also a bust possibility for each.

Duds: Again, Moreno and Ayers need to show something soon. Second-round pick Alphonso Smith was a disaster (more about him in the next section). Fellow second-round picks safety Darcel McBath and tight end Richard Quinn, have done very little as well. Moreno, Ayers, Smith, McBath and Quinn were all taken in the first 64 picks, partly because of the Jay Cutler trade. Yet, Denver has gotten very little out of this group.

The Smith whiff: This is one of the reasons why Josh McDaniels was fired after 28 games. McDaniels made several questionable personnel decision, and this one was particularly poor. Denver traded it 2010 first-round pick (which turned out to be No. 14) to take Smith at No. 37. Smith was replaced four times as a rookie (including by an undrafted rookie), and Denver gave up on Smith last preseason. It traded him to Detroit for backup tight end Dan Gronkowski.

What’s the future of this class? It all depends on the five players from the first two rounds. This was supposed to be a nucleus draft. But if these players don’t develop quickly, this class will be looked at as a total failure.

Kansas City

First pick: No. 3, Tyson Jackson, defensive end.

Total picks: Eight

Star: The player who has been the most productive out of this class so far was kicker Ryan Succop. He was the final pick of the entire class. Yes, the fact that Succop has been the best player of this class says a lot.

Duds: It may be too early to call Jackson a bust, but he hasn’t been overly productive. Jackson has had his moments, and he may turn into a reliable, productive player. But I’m not sure he’ll ever become a player worthy of being taken No. 3. The Chiefs may regret not taking nose tackle B.J. Raji. He went to Green Bay at No. 9 and has become an integral part of the Packers’ 3-4 defense. The Chiefs run the same defense.

Slow start to Pioli era: The first two seasons of the Scott Pioli era in Kansas City have been mostly golden. His 2010 draft class was terrific, and he has made good veteran pickups. But his first draft class doesn’t look overly impressive.

What’s the future of this class? If Jackson doesn’t develop -- 2008 top pick Glenn Dorsey came on in his third year so there’s time for Jackson -- the class will be looked at as being very weak. However, it has to be noted that the team did score linebacker Jovan Belcher as an undrfated free agent. He was a 15-game starter in 2010, and he looks like he has a fine future.

Oakland

First pick: No. 7, receiver, Darrius Heyward-Bey

Total picks: Seven

Stars: Third-round pick defensive end Matt Shaughnessy and fourth-round pick Louis Murphy; both could be longtime contributors for the Raiders. Neither may end up being a star, but they should be productive players who ended up being good-value choices.

Duds: You have to continue to question the choices of Heyward-Bey and second-round pick Mike Mitchell. Both players were considered large reaches on draft weekend and neither has established themselves as a sure things. Both players have potential, but it may be unrealistic to think either will be stars.

Why not Crabtree? Until Heyward-Bey starts playing like a top pick, he will be compared with San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree, who was taken three picks later. Crabtree was considered a much better all-around prospect than Heyward-Bey, who impressed Oakland owner Al Davis with his great speed. So far, Crabtree has been the better pro. Crabtree has 103 catches and eight touchdowns in 27 NFL games. Heyward-Bey has 35 catches and two touchdowns in 26 NFL games.

What’s the future of this class? If Heyward-Bey and Mitchell make big strides, this will be a pretty good draft. If not, it will be remembered as one of missed opportunity. But again, Shaughnessy and Murphy are good players, and seventh-round pick Brandon Myers is a nice role player. So, at least, Oakland is getting something out of this class, and it may be the best class in the division from 2009.

San Diego

First pick: No. 16, linebacker Larry English

Total picks: Eight

Star: Third-round pick Louis Vasquez may be the best player of this class in the entire division. He has been a starter in San Diego since Day One. He looks like he’ll be a 10-12 year starter. He was a terrific value pick.

Duds: There wasn’t much value of this draft beside Vasquez. English -- like the four other first-round picks in this division --- could end up being a bust. English has been injury prone and unimpressive. He was drafted as a pass-rusher, but he has just five sacks in 24 NFL games. He is a hard worker who could still develop. But he has to show something in 2011.

Message to Merriman: The drafting of English was the Chargers’ first public indication that they were losing patience with Shawne Merriman. English was clearly taken to be Merriman’s replacement. The oft-injured Merriman was cut in 2010.

What’s the future of this class? The Chargers have hope for fourth-round picks defensive end Vaughn Martin and guard Tyronne Green. If they can develop, there will, at least, be some value in the class other than Vasquez. But if English turns out to be a bust, this class will be remembered as a failure.

Raiders could easily move to 3-4

January, 21, 2011
1/21/11
6:20
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There’s talk that the Oakland Raiders could look to hire a defensive coordinator who runs a 3-4 defense.

That may be a good idea, since the Raiders already have the necessary pieces to run the scheme. Usually, the most difficult part of moving from a 4-3 to a 3-4 defense (or vice versa) is personnel. However, in the past two years Oakland has been collecting players who appear to be a perfect 3-4 fit. Oakland has been a 4-3 defense, but it did use the 3-4 some last season.

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said he believes that a 3-4 defense -- three defensive linemen and four linebackers opposed to four defensive linemen and three linebackers -- is the best way to go because it creates more options for a defense. More teams are turning to a 3-4 and Williamson thinks Oakland would be wise to consider it.

“They have the personnel for it,” Williamson said. “I’ve long said they have the right guys for the 3-4. They’ve been adding 3-4 guys the past two seasons, so it would make sense. I think it would be beneficial.”

Let’s look at how the Raiders would look in the 3-4:

Defensive line: Williamson thinks the Raiders have three perfect fits for the 3-4: Richard Seymour, Lamarr Houston and Tommy Kelly. Williamson calls Seymour, who was a defensive tackle in Oakland in 2010, “the best 3-4 defensive end of this generation.” Williamson thinks Houston would be a fine 3-4 end because of his athleticism. Williamson doesn’t think Kelly is an ideal nose tackle, but he could get by there and could also play end.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if Oakland drafted that classic 6-foot-2, 340-pound nose tackle,” Williamson said.

Williamson said he thinks young defensive Matt Shaughnessy is not a 3-4 player and “he would suffer the most by this move.”

Linebackers: Williamson could see Shaughnessy and Trevor Scott (who has played both end and linebacker) as pass linebackers in this scheme. He thinks starting linebacker Kamerion Wimbley would be a perfect 3-4 pass-rushing linebacker. Wimbley was a 3-4 player in Cleveland before he was traded to the Raiders last season. Williamson thought Wimbley, who had nine sacks for Oakland last season, had his best season in 2010 since his rookie season in 2006.

Williamson thinks Quentin Groves, who started as an outside linebacker last season, is a decent player, but he thinks Shaughnessy (if he makes the transition to 3-4) and Scott may be better options. Williamson thinks middle linebacker Rolando McClain would be a perfect 3-4 inside linebacker.

“He’s a bigger, stronger take-on player,” Williamson said. “I’d like him the 3-4.”

Williamson said no one currently on Oakland’s roster stands out as a clear starter at the other inside linebacker spot. But what Oakland has now is a very good start if it, indeed, does move to a 3-4.

Richard Seymour is inactive

December, 26, 2010
12/26/10
2:39
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OAKLAND -- The Oakland Raiders will be without standout defensive lineman Richard Seymour on Sunday against Indianapolis.

Seymour is one of the Raiders’ inactive players. The team said Friday he’d be a game-time decision. Seymour didn’t practice all week. Expect Matt Shaughnessy to play a bigger role Sunday with Seymour out.

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