AFC West: Matthew Stafford
A look at the Raiders’ 31-20 home victory Saturday night:
Oakland's first preseason win came courtesy of some late-game offensive explosions.
Terrelle Pryor can run and he’s exciting. There’s no doubt. He lit up the stadium with a 59-yard run and a 17-yard touchdown jaunt, totaling 90 yards rushing on five carries. But most importantly, he made some nice passes and hit rookie Juron Criner for two touchdowns (39 and 76 yards) in the fourth quarter. Pryor finished 3 of 5 passing for 137 yards. If he can throw the ball consistently, he could have a future. Saturday was a promising day for Pryor, who has struggled this summer.
As for Criner, it was a nice show for the home fans after impressing his teammates in camp all summer.
Oakland quarterback Carson Palmer’s uneven preseason continued. He had his moments, but he also threw two interceptions. Palmer has thrown four interceptions in the preseason; he threw 16 picks in 10 games last season. Again, that is Palmer’s biggest area of concern.
Palmer did engineer a long scoring drive in the first half -- a promising sign.
Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski suffered a groin injury and left the game after trying to make a tackle on a 79-yard kick return. It is not known how long Janikowski -- the best kicking weapon in the NFL -- will be out. His replacement, rookie Eddy Carmona, drilled a 56-yard field goal, and perhaps he’d kick if Janikowski’s injury lingers into the regular season. Still, Oakland needs Janikowski to have a quick recovery.
Oakland’s special teams need some work. They are usually stellar, but have been a little sloppy this preseason. The Raiders have had key injuries on special teams and I don’t think it is an issue yet.
Oakland’s defense played solidly again. Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford went down with a hand injury in the second quarter; he had been pretty successful before getting hurt. His backup, Shaun Hill, took over and had some success.
Undrafted rookie receiver Rod Streater had five catches, giving him 18 for the preseason. He started Saturday because of injuries, which is a major accomplishment for an undrafted rookie. It looks like he will get a chance to contribute when the regular season starts.
The Raiders had some early penalty problems after being pretty clean in the first two games. They had four pre-snap penalties and were penalized a total of nine times for 59 yards. Cutting down on penalties has to be a priority for Oakland, which set NFL records for penalties and penalty yardage in 2011.
Oakland reserve running back Taiwan Jones had a nice game with 50 yards on 10 carries. He will be a key factor behind starter Darren McFadden.
Fellow Raiders back Mike Goodson had 18 yards on seven carries. But he didn’t fumble after fumbling twice last week.
Oakland allowed just one sack all game.
Young defensive linemen Jamie Cumbie, Jack Crawford and Christo Bilukidi all looked good and all have promise.
After striking out several times at the NFL level, new Oakland coach Dennis Allen is looking at the college ranks. ESPN's Adam Schefter reports Allen is now considering Stanford co-defensive coordinator Jason Tarver for the post.
Allen has interviewed or has tried to interview five candidates. The Raiders asked for permission to talk to Green Bay Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt, but apparently he will not be the hire.
Before going to Stanford last year, Tarver, 37, spent 10 years with the San Francisco 49ers in several roles. He was last the 49ers’ outside linebackers coach. Tarver also coaches the linebackers at Stanford in addition to his co-coordinator role.
In other AFC West news:
Baltimore center Matt Birk won the NFL Man of the year award. San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers was a finalist for the award.
Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel is excited to play for new Chiefs’ offensive coordinator Brian Daboll. Cassel played for him in New England for two seasons. The Chiefs have said Cassel will have competition for the job. The hiring of Daboll should help Cassel.
Denver linebacker Elvis Dumervil received some votes for the NFL Comeback Player of the Year award that went to Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford. Dumervil made the Pro Bowl in 2011 after missing all of 2010 with a pectoral injury.
Dumervil missed Wednesday and Thursday’s practice and he was limited Friday with an ankle injury.
There were no surprises on Denver’s inactive list. As expected, Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford is planning to play. He has been dealing with an ankle injury.
Given Phillips' status, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports that rookie linebacker Darryl Gamble might see a lot of playing time against the Chiefs.
The banged-up Chargers will also be without guard Kris Dielman, who has a concussion and will miss at least two games. Tight end Antonio Gates didn’t practice Friday, but that was reportedly part of the plan and he is still on target to play against the Chiefs.
In other AFC West notes:
Kansas City running back Dexter McCluster did not practice for an undisclosed non-injury reason.
Denver defensive end Elvis Dumervil was limited in practice Friday with an ankle injury after missing the first two days of practice. He is listed as questionable on the injury report.
Detroit coach Jim Schwartz did not announce if quarterback Matthew Stafford will play at Denver on Sunday, but Stafford is expected to play. He has been practicing through an ankle injury this week.
You can forget the talk of cut Chicago safety Chris Harris ending up in the AFC West. Though every AFC West team has a need at safety in some form, the Lions claimed him Friday.
The Oakland Tribune has some Raiders bye-Friday notes.
The Broncos’ victory over the Dolphins was costly for running back Willis McGahee — not only did he break his hand that will cause him to miss him at least one game, he was fined by the NFL.
The cause of death for Raiders owner Al Davis was heart failure. He died Oct. 8 at the age of 82.
- ESPN.com columnist Johnette Howard calls injured Oakland quarterback Jason Campbell the "unluckiest player in the NFL." It’s difficult to disagree. It's brutal what Campbell has to be dealing with right now.
- Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford took another step Thursday toward playing Sunday at Denver. He injured his ankle last Sunday.
- An Insider piece believes the Chiefs could be a smart play Monday night against the Chargers.
- Oakland’s Sebastian Janikowski and Denver’s Matt Prater are part of a kicking extravaganza this season.
- While he is not the ideal size for the position, Kansas City rookie receiver Jon Baldwin may be in the slot as a complement to starters Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston. To me, it doesn’t matter where Baldwin plays. That’s a pretty strong trio.
- The Broncos’ offensive coordinator is not apologizing for using a run-heavy plan for Tim Tebow.
The NFL has named the Kansas City cornerback the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his outstanding play in the Chiefs' 28-0 win at Oakland in Week 7. Flowers had two of the Chiefs’ six interceptions in the game, including one he took back 58 yards for a touchdown. He added five tackles and four passes defensed. The fourth-year player is having another strong season. He is tied for the AFC lead with four picks.
Flowers had one of the roughest days of his NFL career last November in Oakland as then-rookie Jacoby Ford roughed-up Flowers in Oakland’s comeback win. This is Flowers’ first player of the week honor.
In other AFC West nuggets Wednesday:
The Chiefs re-signed tight end Anthony Becht. Receiver Jeremy Horne was cut Tuesday.
Chiefs coach Todd Haley gave his team an early-season history lesson that may be now be paying off.
Denver rookie safety Quinton Carter knows he has to do all he can to stay a starter.
Oakland coach Hue Jackson talks about his quarterback situation in a radio interview.
Denver tight end Daniel Fells -- who has been outstanding since coming over this summer as a free agent from St. Louis -- is a believer in quarterback Tim Tebow.
Oakland running back Darren McFadden has fallen off ESPN.com’s MVP Watch.
Denver linebacker Von Miller remains atop ESPN.com’s Rookie Watch.
Detroit quarterback Matthew Stafford was practicing some Wednesday despite hurting his ankle Sunday. The Lions play at Denver on Sunday.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Below is a look at each team in the AFC West and where they stand in signing their draft picks.
It has been slow going in the division. The entire AFC West has seven draft picks signed through Wednesday afternoon. Four teams in the NFL have at least eight picks signed.
Players signed: One
How many remaining: Nine
When rookies report: Monday
Toughest player to sign: Second-round pick Alphonso Smith may not be easy to sign. He was expected to be a first-round pick. Denver swapped its first-round pick next year for the cornerback. Thus, he and his agents know the team covets him. He may want a contract worth more than a player taken at No. 37.
Players signed: Three
How many remaining: Five
When rookies report: Aug. 1
Toughest player to sign: First-round pick Tyson Jackson was the No. 3 pick. With quarterbacks Matthew Stafford (No. 1) and Mark Sanchez (No. 3) signed to monster deals, the players in between may be looking for huge, huge money. It could take some time to hash the deal out for the defensive lineman from LSU.
Players signed: Two
How many remaining: Four
When rookies report: Tuesday
Toughest player to sign: Second-round pick Mike Mitchell was taken at No. 47, several rounds higher than many teams earmarked him. Oakland could low ball him. But, ultimately, I think Oakland wants him in camp on time and Mitchell, a reasonable kid, wants to play, so there shouldn't be a big problem.
Players signed: One
How many remaining: Seven
When rookies report: Monday
Toughest player to sign: It could be third-round pick Louis Vasquez. It could be tricky because everyone in the football world knows the guard has a chance to start. That is unusual for a third rounder heading into camp. So, potentially, there could be some issues here.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Fair or not, there is not a rookie in the AFC West who will have more pressure on him in 2009 than Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. Perhaps other than Matthew Stafford in Detroit or Mark Sanchez in New York, Heyward-Bey is facing the most pressure of any player entering the league.
Heyward-Bey seems like a good guy and he certainly didn't ask to be put in this pressure situation. Had he been drafted later in the first round (where he was projected to be taken), by a team such as Philadelphia and Minnesota, there wouldn't be much immediate pressure on the speedy Heyward-Bey.
But because he went at No. 7 and, especially because he was drafted higher than Michael Crabtree (the consensus top receiver available in the draft), Heyward-Bey is going to have a lot to prove right away as he begins his career.
Also, Oakland needs him to come through as a rookie. The Raiders are unproven at receiver and they need an impact player. Quarterback JaMarcus Russell hasn't had a reliable receiver to thrown to in his short Oakland stay. Oakland believes Heyward-Bey will be a star. With Crabtree across the Bay Area in San Francisco, Heyward-Bey will be watched closely every week.
He had a shaky start to his Oakland career during the weekend minicamp. He dropped three passes on three straight plays on Saturday after having a decent session Friday.
The honorable mention pressured rookie is Oakland second-round pick Mike Mitchell. The hard-hitting Mitchell was taken at No. 47 out of Ohio University. Mitchell, who wasn't invited to the NFL combine in February, wasn't on the draft board of four teams I spoke to. But the Raiders love him. He has to prove them right.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
We may find out soon if Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry will be in play for the Kansas City Chiefs at No. 3. ESPN's John Clayton is reporting that the Lions are working toward a deal with Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford to be the No.1 pick. It is also being reported that the Lions have a deal done with Curry if a contract with Stafford can't be completed.
Thus, if the Stafford deal falls through, the Chiefs will be out of the Curry mix. But don't count on it. With three days to go before the draft, the Lions and Stafford have plenty of time to work out a deal. It's no slam dunk that the Curry will be the Chiefs' pick if he is available, but it would be a good fit.
The 49ers say seven of the nine teams picking ahead of them Saturday are willing to trade down. It wouldn't be a shock if both Kansas City and Oakland (No. 7) are among those seven teams. The fact that so many teams want to trade makes it tougher on every team to make a deal. No trade involving a top seven pick has been dealt since 2005.
It is being reported that the Eagles are pursuing Kansas City tight end Tony Gonzalez. Gonzalez could be traded in the next few days if the price is right, but the team has made it clear it doesn't want to trade the star tight end. So, unless the Chiefs get a deal they feel they can't refuse, don't expect Gonzalez to be traded.
Remember, just because Al Davis is a renegade owner who enjoys going against the establishment that doesn't necessarily mean he'd be gung ho to sign a player with Vick's troubled background. The Raiders could pursue Vick but I believe it is shortsighted for Vick to be connected to the Raiders just because the team has signed questionable characters in the past. This case is special.
Team needs: Defensive end, linebacker, offensive line, safety.
|Paul Jasienski/Getty Images|
|Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry is the best defensive player in the draft, and one the Chiefs desperately need.|
Plan B: If Curry is off the board and if a trade down can't be worked out, the Chiefs may have to look at offensive players. Yes, defense is the team's greatest need but there aren't a lot of great defensive players at the top of the draft. But there are some good offensive players who could provide Kansas City some options. A possibility could be Texas Tech wide receiver Michael Crabtree. He'd make a nice tandem with Dwayne Bowe and give new Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel a nice group of weapons. Kansas City could also look at tackles such as Jason Smith of Baylor (if he remains on the board) or Eugene Monroe of Virginia. If the Chiefs take a tackle, they could move Branden Albert -- the No. 15 overall pick last season -- to right tackle.
Scouts Inc.'s take: "I think what Kansas City should do is draft Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji. I think he is the best fit for the Chiefs as they go to the 3-4 defense. He'd be the perfect nose tackle in that defense. I think he'd be an immediate impact player. I like Aaron Curry but I'm just sure if he fits the 3-4 defense. He can be mismatched in those instances. I really think he can be a great 4-3 linebacker but I'm not sure if he'd be a fit. It's the same thing with last year's top pick, Glenn Dorsey. I don't think he fits the 3-4 defense. If they take Dorsey and Curry in back-to-back years it would be taking two guys that don't really fit the new system. That's why I think Raji should be the guy." -- Matt Williamson, Scouts Inc.
Who has final say: Scott Pioli enters his first season as Kansas City's general manager after spending the past several years as a key executive in New England.
Now On the Clock: St. Louis Rams, April 16.
|Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images|
|Jay Cutler is out of Denver, but the trade that sent the quarterback to Chicago will help shape the Broncos' roster.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando and Bill Williamson
Jay Cutler's divorce from Denver is final. Now the Broncos, armed with the picks they acquired from Chicago for the Pro Bowl quarterback, must determine how to proceed in the draft.
AFC West blogger Bill Williamson and his NFC West counterpart, Mike Sando, debate the options while exploring how the Seahawks and 49ers could affect the Broncos' future at quarterback.
Mike Sando: Quarterbacks are a high-risk proposition at the top of the draft, but that's also where teams tend to find the great ones. Nine quarterbacks drafted since 1965 have been enshrined in the Hall of Fame. Seven of them were first-round picks, including a guy named Elway. If the experts are right in saying Matthew Stafford and Mark Sanchez are the franchise quarterbacks in this draft, shouldn't the Broncos consider trading up to get one? They certainly have the firepower.
Bill Williamson: There's no way the Broncos should trade up that high if it means giving up both the 12th and 18th overall picks. Sure, Denver could get a top-five pick in return, but I don't think it's worth the risk -- even for a quarterback.
The picks acquired for Cutler are too valuable to risk on Stafford, Sanchez or a player along the lines of Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji.
The idea is to get a lot of quality players here. If Denver is going to survive the Cutler trade, it will need to maximize those picks. Trading up and drafting Raji or Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry would be great for a needy defense, but the Broncos need to address multiple areas, not just one. The Cutler trade does allow the Broncos to address several areas in the draft instead of rolling the dice on just one.
Mike Sando: More than a few 49ers fans watched with interest while the Broncos figured out where Cutler would wind up. His destination wasn't San Francisco, but the 49ers and their NFC West rivals could still shape the Broncos' quarterback situation beyond the Cutler era.
The Rams probably have too many needs and too much money invested in Marc Bulger to consider a quarterback at No. 2, but the Seahawks and 49ers could draft one. Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. told me he thought the 49ers would be crazy to pass on Sanchez at No. 10 if the USC quarterback remained available at that point. The NFC West could foul up Denver's plans if the Broncos are hoping to find a quarterback in the first round.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
- Denver coach Josh McDaniels believes new quarterback Kyle Orton may be underrated. It will be up to McDaniels to help make Orton a household NFL name.
- Denver legendary quarterback John Elway is saddened by the team trading Jay Cutler. Elway had long been supportive of Cutler.
- The Kansas City Star reasons that the Cutler trade could help the Chiefs secure Wake Forest linebacker Aaron Curry with the No. 3 pick. Now Detroit, which has the top pick and was in the Cutler mix, may take Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford.
- The Oakland Tribune examines the reported positive drug test of Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji at the NFL combine. Raji is one of the candidates Oakland could take with the No. 7 pick.
- Oakland running back Darren McFadden has been sued for an incident that occurred before he was drafted. McFadden came into the NFL with some character concerns but, by all accounts, he has been a model citizen since joining the Raiders.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
|Jeff Hanisch/US Presswire|
|Kyle Orton is not a suitable replacement for recently-traded Pro Bowler Jay Cutler.|
The problem is that Jay Cutler should have never been on the trade block. That is the bottom line. It is absolutely insane to think the Broncos just traded a 25-year-old Pro Bowl quarterback who has just 37 NFL games under his belt. The guy isn't even in his prime yet.
That's why Chicago gave up so much to get their new franchise quarterback. Here is the trade breakdown: Denver gets the Bears' No. 18 overall pick this year, their first-round pick in 2010, a third-round pick in 2009 and quarterback Kyle Orton. Denver gave up one of its fifth-round picks this year in addition to Cutler.
Indeed, the Bears gave up a lot for Cutler. But he is worth it. Teams are built around quarterbacks. That's why the Bears made this deal.
Now, Denver has to go find its new franchise quarterback. You know, like it did three years ago when it traded up in the draft to get Cutler, who did his part by developing quickly. Now, new Denver coach Josh McDaniels, who started the Cutler saga in late February by trying to trade for Matt Cassel, has to figure out who his new quarterback is going to be.
McDaniels clearly has an eye for quarterbacks and he needs to identify one in this draft. The Broncos have the No. 12 and No. 18 picks. One of those picks should be spent on USC's Mark Sanchez if he is still on the board, which may be wishful thinking. I don't think Denver should package both picks to secure Sanchez or Matthew Stafford. Denver has too many needs on defense that have to be addressed.
It will be tempting for Denver to take two defensive standouts at No. 12 and No. 18 or to package the two picks (perhaps all the way up to Seattle at No. 4) to get a defensive star such as Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji.
But I don't know if Denver can ignore its quarterback position for a year. I'm sorry, but Orton is not the answer.
|The Broncos traded Jay Cutler to the Bears.|
He is serviceable. He is an accurate thrower who you can compete with. Orton is a game manager but he is not special. Cutler is special. Cutler always gave Denver a puncher's chance because of his strong arm and his overall abilities.
McDaniels is a system coach and Orton is a system quarterback so maybe this can work to some extent, but Denver will need to score a lot of points with a young defense. I'm not sure if Orton can be a scoring machine even with a solid supporting cast. Cutler shined with Denver's weapons.
With Cutler entering his prime, Denver was ready to compete now, at least on offense. The Broncos are already young. They didn't need to get younger. They needed to get better. I'm not so sure the Broncos are better today without Cutler on the roster. Yes, they got draft picks but often draft picks don't pan out.
While this trade certainly downgrades Denver's quarterback position, it does deserve a hat tip for getting so much out of Chicago. There were several teams pushing for Cutler and Denver squeezed as much as it could. In the proposed Cassel trade, Denver was going to trade Cutler straight up for Cassel, so the Broncos did better in the end.
It was likely the third-round pick Chicago gave up that made this trade possible. Washington and Tampa Bay just couldn't compete with the Bears' offer.
On paper, this trade looks good for Denver. But it still has to find its quarterback. You just can't trade Jay Cutler and move on. A capable replacement is needed. Now, Denver has to go find him.
It has to be somebody. It can't be new backup quarterback Chris Simms, can it?
I wouldn't think so. The following is a list of potential replacements for Cutler, in alphabetical order:
Jason Campbell: Since the day the Cutler saga started, I have quietly heard that Washington could be involved in a deal to get Cutler, offering Campbell in a package. Campbell may not be the answer, but at least Denver could play with him now as it tries to regroup from the Cutler disaster.
Matt Cassel: He is, after all, the smoking gun in this whole deal. New Broncos coach Josh McDaniels would love him. But would Kansas City give McDaniels a chance to reunite with Cassel? Doubtful.
Jeff Garcia: He is the top veteran free agent available. He is a stopgap option, but Denver may not have another choice for this year.
Matt Leinart: He may be worth pursuing. He is stuck as a backup in Arizona. Leinart (drafted one pick higher than Cutler in 2006) could be a decent option who could fit in well with McDaniels.
Donovan McNabb: There is a belief he could use a change of scenery. This is a long shot, but Denver could do worse than McNabb for the next few years.
Brady Quinn: If Denver trades Cutler to the Browns, it could get Quinn in return. This could be one of the best options. Quinn played under Patriots disciple Charlie Weis at Notre Dame and knows McDaniels' system.
Mark Sanchez: If Denver gets another fairly early pick in a trade for Cutler, it may have to snag the USC quarterback. He would be a nice fit in McDaniels' offense even though it would be starting over with a rookie.
Matthew Stafford: If the Broncos get the No. 1 pick from Detroit, they would have to consider taking the Georgia quarterback even though, as with Sanchez, it would mean starting over.
Vince Young: There is a faction that wants Cutler in Tennessee. But Denver would have to get a lot more than Young (who was taken eight spots higher than Cutler) in a deal.
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson
Catching up on the AFC West after the Jay Cutler bombshell:
• The Lions had a great private workout with Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. Does that mean they will not be part of the Cutler sweepstakes? Denver would love that No. 1 pick if the Lions are willing to part with it in a Cutler deal.
• Add Connecticut running back Donald Brown to the running backs San Diego is studying prior to the draft.
• Among some of the more interesting names on Denver's pre-draft visit list? Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji, West Virginia quarterback Pat White and Pitt running back LeSean McCoy. Denver is also visiting with Ohio State running back Chris "Beanie" Wells.
• The Broncos cut running back Corey Boyd, who signed with the team last year when it suffered several in-season injuries at the position. Boyd almost started a game last season but ended up playing in just one game for Denver.