AFC West: Miles Burris

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oft-injured running back Darren McFadden made it through his second consecutive practice unscathed and linebacker Miles Burris and free safety Charles Woodson were upgraded in the Oakland Raiders' injury report on Thursday.

Burris and Woodson both practiced a day after sitting out.

Plus, guard Lucas Nix practiced after missing Wednesday with illness, though rookie linebacker Sio Moore missed Thursday's practice with illness.

Said coach Dennis Allen, about McFadden: “He had another good day today so hopefully he'll have another good day tomorrow and I would hope that he would be able to be up and ready to go this weekend.”

The following is the Raiders' injury report for Thursday:

Did not participate: RB Jeremy Stewart (ankle/knee), DT Vance Walker (concussion), LB Sio Moore (illness)

Limited practice: Miles Burris (ankle), RB Darren McFadden (knee/ankle), FS Charles Woodson (ribs)

Full practice: TE Jeron Mastrud (wrist), G Lucas Nix (illness)

Upon Further Review: Raiders Week 15

December, 16, 2013
12/16/13
8:00
AM ET
OAKLAND, Calif. -- An examination of four hot issues from the Oakland Raiders’ 56-31 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs:

Charles
McGloin
Charles in charge: Charles Woodson laughed, sort of. The Raiders' veteran free safety was asked why the three screen passes to Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles, which went for touchdowns of 49, 39 and 16 yards, were so effective. “I have no clue,” Woodson offered. “I have no clue. You’ve seen screens get out of the gate before, but to have a team go back to it and beat you almost every time, there’s no explanation for it. ... That’s hard, man, to watch a guy run up and down the field like that, basically untouched.” Charles finished with 215 yards from scrimmage and a franchise-record-tying five touchdowns -- in three quarters (he sat the fourth quarter). “Some people find their peak at the beginning of the season, some people find their peak at the end of the season,” Charles said. “I’m known as a player that, as the season goes on, I get stronger and stronger.”

Matt McGloin, gunslinger? The undrafted rookie quarterback seems to be taking more chances of late, and really, he has to with the Raiders falling behind so early now. Which, in part, explains his four interceptions. “I mean, as a quarterback, it’s your job to protect the football,” he said. “But at the same time it’s your job to throw touchdown passes and throw first downs and complete passes downfield. I’m going to throw the ball. I’m going to take my chances. I’m going to try to get yardage and get completions in big chunks. That’s the way I play the quarterback position. That’s the way a lot of guys play the quarterback position.”

Injuries: Woodson left the game for a bit with a rib injury in the second quarter that he said has been an issue for a while. In fact, he said last week was the first time he did not wear a rib guard in a game. But linebacker Miles Burris did not finish the game after injuring an ankle making a tackle on a punt midway through the fourth quarter. Burris was the only Raiders player to not finish due to injury, said coach Dennis Allen.

Of explosive plays XIV: And now for our weekly tracking of “explosive” plays. As deemed by Allen, such a play is one that gains at least 16 yards through the air, 12 yards on the ground. The Raiders had 10 such plays against the Chiefs -- eight passes and two runs. Kansas City had seven explosive plays, six passes and one run, with four TD passes and a TD run. In 14 games, the Raiders have 104 explosive plays (75 passes, 29 runs), with eight passing TDs and four running scores. Oakland’s opponents, meanwhile, now have 98 explosive plays combined -- 77 passes (12 TDs) and 21 runs (three TDs).
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden was added to the Oakland Raiders’ injury report Thursday with a groin issue. The No. 12 overall draft pick did not practice after straining it the day before.

“He was able to finish practice [Wednesday],” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. “I wasn’t really aware of it until after I got done in here with you guys, but he wasn’t able to go today, so we’ll have to evaluate him to see how he’s doing and see how quickly that thing responds.”

Hayden
Kicker Sebastian Janikowski, though, practiced in a limited capacity a day after sitting out with sore ribs.

If Hayden is unable to play Sunday at the New York Giants, Phillip Adams would take Hayden’s place on the outside with Tracy Porter sliding into the slot in Oakland’s nickel defense.

“We’ve got all the confidence in the world in P.A.,” Allen said of Adams. “When he came in last year and had an opportunity to play, he played really well. I think that will be another of those easy transitions for us because we have a lot of confidence in him.”

Also, linebacker Miles Burris, who is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list but has his 21-day clock down to less than two weeks, sat out his first practice. And running back Darren McFadden missed his second straight practice after aggravating his right hamstring on Sunday.

Following, then, is the Raiders’ injury report for Thursday:

Did not participate: SS Tyvon Branch (ankle), WR Juron Criner (right shoulder), CB D.J. Hayden (groin), LB Kaluka Maiava (ribs), RT Matt McCants (toe), RB Darren McFadden (right hamstring), RT Tony Pashos (hip).

Limited practice: C/G Andre Gurode (quadriceps), WR Andre Holmes (hamstring), PK Sebastian Janikowski (ribs)

Full practice: CB Tracy Porter (shoulder), QB Terrelle Pryor (right knee), WR Rod Streater (hip).
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Oakland Raiders linebacker Miles Burris, who has been on the mend since knee surgery in January, and left tackle Menelik Watson, who has been sidelined by a sore calf, returned to practice Wednesday. And left tackle Jared Veldheer, who underwent surgery on his left triceps in August, is closer to returning after a check-up Monday with his doctor in Los Angeles found no setbacks.

Watson
Burris
“Everything’s real positive,” Veldheer said Wednesday. “We’re on the right track. It’s getting close. This is the exciting part.”

Coach Dennis Allen concurred, pointing to the three-month recovery period initially prescribed to Veldheer.

“We’re at a point now where we can kind of ramp up the rehab a little bit,” Allen said. “I still think he’s a little bit away but indications are that he’s on schedule. Hopefully we’ll have him out there sooner rather than later.”

Technically, Veldheer is eligible to play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles. That will not happen, though.

Burris, meanwhile, is now on a 21-day clock at the end of which the Raiders must activate him to the 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

“My biggest goal is to get back on the 53-man [roster] and contribute any way I can,” said Burris, who started 15 games at weakside linebacker for the Raiders as a rookie last season but has been studying all three linebacker spots in Oakland’s 4-3 alignment in his time off.

Watson, the Raiders’ second-round draft pick this year, has dealt with injuries to his calf and knee since training camp. He was slated to start at left tackle despite only a handful of practices before knee surgery put a stop to that plan. Still, despite limited action, he could get into a game in short order, especially with offensive linemen Tony Pashos and Andre Gurode still out. Watson will work at both tackle positions in practice.

“With some of the depth issues we have on the offensive line right now, [Watson] could potentially be forced into action sooner than we’d normally want,” Allen said.

Following, then, is the Raiders’ injury report for Wednesday:

Did not participate: SS Tyvon Branch (ankle), C/G Andre Gurode (quadriceps), RT Tony Pashos (hip).

Limited practice: LT Menelik Watson (calf).

Burris, Watson to practice Wednesday

October, 28, 2013
10/28/13
5:12
PM ET
The Raiders should be getting reinforcements from their injured masses soon.

Oakland coach Dennis Allen said in his weekly news conference Monday that second-year linebacker Miles Burris and rookie tackle Menelik Watson should begin practicing on Wednesday.

Allen also said left tackle Jared Veldheer, who is on the injured reserve/designated to return list, was in Los Angeles Monday for a checkup on his surgically repaired left triceps. The results of the visit will determine when Veldheer can begin football-related activities, as he is technically eligible to play this weekend against Philadelphia. Once he starts practicing, the Raiders have 14 days to activate him or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

Burris, meanwhile, is on the reserve/physically unable to perform list, recovering from offseason knee surgery. He has been eligible to practice since before the bye week. Once he practices, the Raiders have 21 days to activate him or put him on IR. He has been working with a trainer on a side field during practice.

Watson, the Raiders’ second-round draft pick, has dealt with knee and calf issues as Allen recently surmised Watson has had all of 10 days of practice with the team.

Also, another week off should help with the health of right tackle Tony Pashos (hip) and left guard/center Andre Gurode (quad) and possibly strong safety Tyvon Branch (ankle). Center Stefen Wisniewski played for the first time since spraining his right knee on Sept. 29.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Bittersweet, or simply the nature of the business?

I asked Raiders coach Dennis Allen this in the wake of Oakland cutting a member of the first draft class in the Allen/Reggie McKenzie Era: defensive tackle Christo Bilukidi. The move was made to to make room for linebacker Martez Wilson.

Bilukidi
“Really,” Allen said, “it's the nature of the business. This is a production business and we're going to continue to try to do everything we can to upgrade our roster to help our football team. We felt like being able to take a look at Martez was a good chance for us to upgrade the roster.”

No doubt Bilukidi was a project when the Raiders used a 2012 sixth-round draft pick on the Georgia State product, the fifth player ever taken by McKenzie and Allen.

And while Bilukidi appeared in 13 games as a rookie and five more this season, getting a sack of Jacksonville's Chad Henne in the Raiders' home opener, it was not enough.

“No,” Allen said, when asked if he had, indeed, seen enough to warrant keeping Bilukidi and his sack.

In fact, small sample size and health issues be damned, you could say the same about that entire first draft class, which was already stretched thin due to trades under the previous regime that left the Raiders without a pick until the end of the third round.
  • Offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom, who was taken with a compensatory pick at No. 95 overall and played in nine games while starting the season finale, was placed on Injured Reserve before the season began with a Lis Franc injury to his right foot.
  • Linebacker Miles Burris, who started 15 of the 16 games in which he played, is on the Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform List after offseason knee surgery, though Allen said he hopes Burris will begin practicing next week.
  • Defensive end Jack Crawford has already played in more games this season than last -- five to four -- and has six tackles after having three last season.
  • Receiver Juron Criner has yet to be active for a game this season, Bilukidi was cut and linebacker Nathan Stupar is a special teams contributor for the San Francisco 49ers. He was was cut by the Raiders before last year's season opener.

In fact, two undrafted rookie free agents from 2012 start for Oakland now: receiver Rod Streater and left guard Lucas Nix.

“I think part of the draft process is picking up some players, and if you have numbers and volumes of players, your percentages of hitting on those guys are pretty good,” Allen said.

“I think we'll see some good things, not only out of the 2012 guys, but some of these guys we drafted this past season. I think that as we keep moving down the road, I think those guys will help us.”

Just not right away.
ALAMEDA, Calif. – The bye week will not only give the walking wounded on the Oakland Raiders’ active roster time to heal, but also two starters who have yet to play a down this season.

Burris
Ayodele
Veldheer
Left tackle Jared Veldheer, who underwent surgery on his left triceps in training camp, and linebacker Miles Burris, who had knee surgery in the offseason, are inching closer to making their 2013 debuts. Still, there is work to be done.

Burris, who is on the physically unable to perform list, actually became eligible to practice this past week, but the Raiders declined to move him off said list to begin his 21-day clock. The moment Oakland moves him, the team has three weeks to put Burris on the active 53-man roster or place him on season-ending injured reserve.

Veldheer, meanwhile, is on the injured reserve–designated for return list and is not eligible to play until Oakland’s home game against Philadelphia on Nov. 3. Once he starts practicing – he is already eligible to practice – the Raiders have 14 days to activate him or IR him.

“I don’t think either one of them is ready yet,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Wednesday, before players departed for the NFL-mandated four-day break.

“The plan is for Jared, obviously, when he’s healed … we begin to get him into football-related activities.”

And with Burris?

“Really, Miles it’s really a matter of putting a few days back-to-back and being able to come out without any type of soreness or anything like that,” Allen said.

“We’re getting closer with both those players. I don’t think we’re there yet. We won’t do anything to activate those two guys until we feel confident that they’re ready to go.”
The Oakland Raiders got down to the 75-man roster limit Tuesday, but not without some pain.

The Raiders put rookie running back Latavius Murray on the injured reserve list. The team had said he had a minor ankle injury. Earlier in the offseason, it appeared as if Murray would have a chance to be Darren McFadden’s primary backup with a chance to be a major contributor. The sixth-round draft pick from Central Florida is big, fast and skilled.

Yet, he will have to wait a year to try to make an impact. Rashad Jennings will remain McFadden’s backup.

Oakland also placed reserve cornerback Joselio Hanson on injured reserve. He was decent in backup role last year.

Linebacker Miles Burris was placed on the physically unable to perform list. He has been out all offseason. Burris, a rookie starter last year, has fallen out of the starting mix, at least for now. But he will miss at least the first six games of the season.

Oakland signed kicker Justin Medlock just so it can give Sebastian Janikowski a rest Thursday at Seattle. Cornerback Mitchell White was cut.

Seattle cut cornerback Will Blackmon. He was in Green Bay with Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie and Oakland safety Charles Woodson. The Raiders could always use veteran experience, especially with Hanson out. I wouldn’t be shocked if Oakland considers Blackmon.

Starting receiver Rod Streater is practicing Tuesday. He suffered a concussion Friday against Chicago.
NAPA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders have reached out to Omar Gaither once again.

With Miles Burris and Kaluka Maiava injured, the Raiders have re-signed Gaither. He finished last season at middle linebacker after the team suspended Rolando McClain, who has since been cut. Gaither is a solid veteran backup who gives good depth. Both Burris and Maiava will be out for an undisclosed amount of time.

Oakland receiver Jacoby Ford remains out. He was injured Sunday. He hasn’t played since midway through the 2011 season because of foot injuries.

In other AFC West notes:
  • Fullback Vonta Leach re-signed with Baltimore. He was previously linked to Kansas City. But the Chiefs never made a big push for him.
  • Houston signed linebacker Joe Mays. He was recently cut by Denver.
  • Max Starks was working at left tackle Monday in San Diego. King Dunlap was working there for the first four days of camp. Starks is expected to have a strong chance to win the job.
Our AFC West positional rankings continue with a look at a strong group of linebackers:

1. Von Miller, Denver: A complete player. One of the top defensive players in the NFL.

2. Tamba Hali, Kansas City: Still a strong pass-rush presence.

3. Justin Houston, Kansas City: A dynamic player. His star is rising.

4. Derrick Johnson, Kansas City: Steady, underrated tackles machine.

5. Donald Butler, San Diego: He is flashing big-time skills. The Chargers need to re-sign him.

6. Dwight Freeney, San Diego: The Chargers hope he can still be a sack master.

7. Wesley Woodyard, Denver: He had a tremendous 2012 season. Good overall player.

8. Jarret Johnson, San Diego: Hard-nosed player who fits the defense well.

9. Nick Roach, Oakland: Raiders are thrilled about this free-agent acquisition. Defense could begin with him.

10. Manti Te'o, San Diego: Chargers expect instant production from this instinctive rookie.

11. Shaun Phillips, Denver: The Broncos think he can still help as a pass-rusher.

12. Kevin Burnett, Oakland: Smart player who helps the Raiders.

13. Kaluka Maiava, Oakland: He might not start, but will help.

14. D.J. Smith, San Diego: Former Green Bay player could be a steal for the Chargers.

15. Miles Burris, Oakland: Even if he doesn’t start, he will find a way to help.

16. Danny Trevathan, Denver: This kid looks like he could be a starter for years to come.

17. Sio Moore, Oakland: I could see the 2013 third-round pick in the top 10 next year.

18. Nate Irving, Denver: He gets first crack in the middle for the Broncos.

19. Nico Johnson, Kansas City: The Chiefs like the fourth-rounder -- and he could start.

20. Stewart Bradley, Denver: He’s there if Irving fails.

21. Larry English, San Diego: Clock is ticking for the 2009 first-round pick.

22. Akeem Jordan, Kansas City: Could be insurance if Nico Johnson isn’t ready.

23. Steve Johnson, Denver: At the very least, he’s a solid special-teamer.

Second-year San Diego outside linebacker Melvin Ingram would have been ranked in the top eight to 10 had he not suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in May.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

Cougar Wilson from Charlotte, NC: How are the Denver Broncos handling the Ryan Clady contract situation?

Bill Williamson: Just waiting and seeing. What to make sure he comes back from the rotator cuff injury as expected. Expect a deal to get done at some point.

Kansas City

Jamey from Kansas City: What is your best guess what Alex Smiths stat line look like at the end of the season.

BW: Probably average. But that's OK. The key is cutting down on turnovers in Kansas City and Smith can do that.

Oakland

Nathan Cathey from Lewisburg, TN.: Where do you see Sio Moore and Miles Burris lining up for the Raiders this fall?

BW: It really depends on how everything pans out. Oakland has a lot of linebackers so we need to see how it shakes out. I do expect Moore to get a lot of early playing time. I like him. I like Burris too.

San Diego

Ross from Iowa: Do you think the Chargers could potentially sign another defensive back? If Gilchrist is moving to safety who will be the nickel and dime corners?

BW: All TBA. I can see them adding someone in the waiver-claim period right before the season. The San Diego secondary is a work in progress.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

With the draft in the rearview mirror, what is the most pressing issue on each AFC West team’s agenda?

Denver Broncos: The Broncos had a good free-agency period and they had a good draft. They made a good team better. There is no doubt this team thinks it is ready to make a serious run in 2013. So now it’s time to find some chemistry. Quarterback Peyton Manning, entering his second season with the team, recently talked about the importance of getting on the same page with his receivers. Manning said it often takes four years to totally be in sync with the players on the other end of his passes. Manning not only has to continue to strengthen his connection with incumbent receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker but also with a new weapon, Wes Welker, one of the free-agent prizes in the NFL this offseason. The group worked together on its own last month and is in the midst of the Broncos’ offseason program. Manning had great success with Thomas and Decker last season, and I’m sure he will work well with Welker, too. The passing game will be the key to whether Denver can be a Super Bowl team, so building a special chemistry is the team’s most pressing issue as Denver inches toward the 2013 season.

Kansas City Chiefs: The Chiefs have to get the Branden Albert situation settled. They talked to the Miami Dolphins about a deal for several weeks prior to the draft. It was never completed. Neither has closed the door on a trade, but the odds are good that Albert will stay in Kansas City -- although it's not totally out of the question that some other team gets into the picture. I think the Chiefs need to get Albert prepared to play in Kansas City. He wants a long-term deal, and if he doesn’t get one, he might pout. He has stayed away from voluntary workouts but said he will be with the team when mandatory sessions start. The team would still like to give Albert an extension after taking Central Michigan left tackle Eric Fisher with the No. 1 overall pick. Albert must realize that if he has a good season in Kansas City, it will increase his value in free agency next year if a long-term deal is not signed. This situation could be awkward, but both the Chiefs and Albert need each other for at least a year -- and they must all do it with a smile.

Oakland Raiders: It’s time for the Raiders to figure out their defense, where they might have as many as nine new starters -- a mind-blowing reality. It seems only defensive lineman Lamarr Houston and safety Tyvon Branch are safe. Second-year linebacker Miles Burris will have a role, but he will have to fight for a starting slot. Oakland must use upcoming organized team activities to build chemistry and explore which players are suited to which roles. Oakland could stay in a 4-3 base but also should utilize multiple looks and will likely see some 3-4 hybrid looks. Head coach Dennis Allen and his staff have to see these players on the field to figure out the right sets for the right players. Oakland is essentially starting with a blank canvas on defense -- exciting, unusual and scary all at once.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers have a potentially strong group of young receivers. The once-weak area can become a strength not only for the immediate future, but for the long term. It’s time the Chargers figure out an attack utilizing Vincent Brown, Danario Alexander and rookie Keenan Allen, who could quickly become the centerpiece. Allen, a California product, was expected to be a top-30 pick, but a manageable knee issue dropped him all the way to the third round, where San Diego took him 76th overall. Former Indianapolis Colts general manager and current ESPN analyst Bill Polian said Allen could have a Reggie Wayne-like impact. Brown had a strong rookie season in 2011 and a great training camp before a broken ankle in the preseason ended his 2012 campaign. He is now completely healthy. Alexander starred after the Chargers signed him off the street during last season. These three players can be major toys for quarterback Philip Rivers. Figuring out how to get the most out of this trio must be a primary goal for new coach Mike McCoy, who proved in Carolina and Denver that he can have successful passing games.
Mid-week mail call:

Eric from San Jose wants to know if I think Oakland linebacker Miles Burris has a strong future.

Bill Williamson: Sure, Burris did a nice job as a rookie last year. A lot of scouts I talk to think he will be an average linebacker, but there’s nothing wrong with that. Oakland brought in some veteran linebackers on short-term deals and drafted Sio Moore, but I think Burris will have a role in Oakland for the foreseeable future.

Josh Edwards from Manhattan, Kan., wants to know if I think the Chiefs can sign Brian Urlacher.

BW: Anything can happen and the Chiefs could use a veteran at inside linebacker, but I just don’t see it at this point and time. But, I guess things can always change.

Rich Mahler from New York wants to know if the Broncos have plans for Ben Garland.

BW: The former Air Force player is a team favorite. They like him so much they are giving him another chance. He is being moved from defensive tackle to offensive tackle. He has been developed on the practice squad. Coaches and players really like him. He has some skills and he works hard. But he will have to show he has a future on offense or his NFL dream may end.
The one time that it is good to have a roster full of holes is during the draft. No matter where the Oakland Raiders focused on adding players, it was at a position that helped.

The Raiders added two more players who have a chance to help Oakland now and in the future.

Oakland took intriguing tackle Menelik Watson of Florida State in the second round. The English import is raw, but has big ability. Many scouts think Watson can play left tackle, but the Raiders already have the solid Jared Veldheer at the position. I think Watson will get a chance to fight veteran Khalif Barnes for the right tackle job. Watson was a right tackle for the Seminoles.

An offensive line core of Veldheer, Watson and center Stefen Wisniewski bodes well for the future.

In the third round, Oakland took Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore. He is a solid outside linebacker that does everything well. I see him having a productive starting career. The Raiders signed three veteran linebackers and they have second-year linebacker Miles Burris, who started as a rookie. Moore won’t be pushed to start as a rookie, but if he earns it, he will find playing time.

The Raiders added Houston cornerback D.J. Hayden yesterday with the No. 12 pick. I like all of these choices. Oakland is starting the rebuilding process and all three of these players have a chance to be part of team's long-term plans.

AFC West checkpoint

March, 23, 2013
3/23/13
1:00
PM ET
Free agency is 11 days old, and the heavy lifting has been done. The Denver Broncos and Kansas City Chiefs were among the busiest teams in the NFL this offseason. Elsewhere in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers have taken more measured approaches because of salary-cap constraints.

There are still bargains out there, and I expect Oakland and San Diego to cherry-pick the remaining scraps in free agency to bolster their rosters. And then there's the draft, coming up in a little more than a month.

Let’s do a late-March checkpoint for each team:

Denver Broncos

Where are they strong? Denver doesn’t have many holes, and its offense got more potent with the addition of slot receiver Wes Welker. His signing was one of the stories of the offseason. He is a perfect addition and a new toy for quarterback Peyton Manning. Pair Welker with Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and Denver has arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL. Denver added cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, defensive tackle Terrance Knighton and middle linebacker Stewart Bradley to a defense that finished 2012 rated No. 2 overall in the NFL.

Where are they weak? The Broncos could use a safety, some clarity at middle linebacker, perhaps another pass-rusher and a running back.

Biggest remaining question: Where is Denver going to go with the No. 28 pick in the draft? The John Elway regime is known for taking the best available player. If there is a safety such as Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro or a running back such as Alabama's Eddie Lacy available, I can see Elway pouncing. Either could come in and play a major role.

Kansas City Chiefs

Where are they strong? The new regime has done a nice job of beefing up, making the Chiefs better in a lot of spots. They were already good at linebacker; now they are strong in the secondary after adding cornerbacks Sean Smith and Dunta Robinson. Along with Brandon Flowers, this might be the best group of cornerbacks in the NFL. Throw in young safety Eric Berry and this is a powerhouse.

Where are they weak? You never want to go too crazy about a team coming off a 2-14 season, but the Chiefs don’t have a ton of holes. They have improved in key spots and don't have glaring holes. The biggest improvement, of course, was at quarterback, where Alex Smith takes over for Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn. Smith is not elite, not even close. Still, he is far from terrible. With that problem fixed, the Chiefs might look to get stronger on the offensive line, and they also could use another inside linebacker and another body on the defensive line. But that’s average stuff. Pretty good for a 2-14 team.

Biggest remaining question: Will the Chiefs trade left tackle Branden Albert? The franchised player could command a second-round pick in return. That would make up for the second-round pick Kansas City lost in the Smith trade. The Chiefs could be interested in such a move. If that deal happens, the team probably would take Texas A&M left tackle Luke Joeckel with the No. 1 pick and find an answer elsewhere for the hole at right tackle.

Oakland Raiders

Where are they strong? This team has talent despite the exodus the past two offseasons. I think the most interesting group right now is the linebackers after the addition of free agents Nick Roach, Kevin Burnett and Kaluka Maiava. The Raiders also have second-year player Miles Burris, who started as a rookie. The front seven will vary, but the Raiders are expected to remain a 4-3 base defense -- so there is some versatility on this unit.

Where are they weak? The Raiders have holes on both sides of the ball as they rebuild after years of wild spending by the previous regime. They need big help on the secondary and must continue to work on the defense as a whole. Tight end and offensive line are other positions of need.

Biggest remaining question: Second-year general manager Reggie McKenzie has added some nice pieces at bargain rates in free agency after seeing several good players leave. Can McKenzie continue to find more help? This team still needs six to nine starters.

San Diego Chargers

Where are they strong? This is a good team on defense. It was underrated last season, especially the front seven. The Chargers also have quarterback Philip Rivers. Yes, he has had some issues the past two years, but new coach Mike McCoy has often said the key is to build around Rivers.

Where are they weak? OK, well, the Chargers have to continue to build around Rivers. The offensive line still needs two or three starters, and another skill-position weapon is a must. Cornerback Derek Cox was a good get, but the Chargers need Shareece Wright or Marcus Gilchrist to take the next step at cornerback. Another safety might be needed, as well.

Biggest remaining question: How are the offensive line holes going to get fixed? The team probably will draft a left tackle with the No. 11 pick, but this unit needs to get better or Rivers will have no chance to succeed.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Insider

AFC WEST SCOREBOARD