AFC West: Randy Moss

ALAMEDA, Calif. -- As the purportedly rested and rejuvenated Oakland Raiders come out of their bye weekend and prepare for the Pittsburgh Steelers, one fact hovers over Oakland.

The Raiders have lost their last 10 first games after a bye -- by a combined score of 271-139.

“I think we’re all aware of that, but like I told the players today, the past has no relevance to the future,” Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Monday. “Any of the outcomes that have happened after a bye in the past won’t dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh. What’s going to dictate how we go out and play against Pittsburgh is how well we prepare during the week, and then how well … we go out and execute that plan on Sunday.”

Fair enough, but what’s that old saying about those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it?

Sure enough, a look back at the Raiders’ decade of post-bye blues reveals some interesting moments:

Nov. 2, 2003, Raiders at Detroit: Marques Tuiasosopo, Oakland’s second-round pick in 2001, makes his first NFL start and has a QB rating of 34.3 in completing six of 11 passes for 65 yards and an interception in a 23-13 loss to the Lions. “Tui” would start only one more game in his career, at the New York Jets in 2005.

Oct. 16, 2005, Raiders vs. San Diego: Randy Moss, in his first season in Oakland, went up for a Kerry Collins pass late in the first half and was hit hard by strong safety Terrence Kiel in a 27-14 loss to the Chargers. The groin injury would linger and it was the first time Moss was held without a catch in his career.

Oct. 12, 2008, Raiders at New Orleans: It was an inauspicious debut for Tom Cable as Oakland’s interim coach in the wake of the memorable overhead projector presser announcing Lane Kiffin’s firing. An ashen-faced Cable had no answers as the Saints ran all over the Raiders in a 34-3 blowout.

Nov. 21, 2010, Raiders at Pittsburgh: Richard Seymour had seen enough, so the Raiders defensive tackle went and got himself kicked out of the Raiders’ eventual 35-3 blowout loss to the Steelers. Seymour’s open-hand palm strike to the facemask of Ben Roethlisberger was as swift as it was pretty as Roethlisberger went down like a sack of Primanti Brothers sandwiches.

Oct. 14, 2012, Raiders at Atlanta: Playing their most complete game under rookie coach Dennis Allen, the Raiders were tied at 13-13 and driving for a potential winning field goal when Carson Palmer threw a 79-yard pick-six to Asante Samuel. Palmer responded by driving Oakland 80 yards for a game-tying touchdown. Alas, Atlanta kicked a 55-yard field goal with one second to play for the win.

So what should be expected out of Sunday’s game at the O.co Coliseum? The Raiders have won the last two meetings in Oakland -- 34-31 last season and 20-13 in 2006 -- and the last time the Steelers won in the East Bay was in 1995.

The Raiders’ main goal in their weekend break was getting healthy, while getting revived.

“I think we had a good plan in the bye,” Allen said. “I think we got some guys freshened up a little bit. Now the key is, we’ve got to focus in on the preparation. We’ve got to do the things that are necessary to go out and play well on Sunday.”
Moore-Streater USA TODAY SportsDenarius Moore (left) and Rod Streater could be the vanguard of a receiving rivalry in Oakland.
One of the bigger issues for the Oakland Raiders in their decadelong malaise has been the inability to develop a dynamic group of receivers.

Oakland, which has not had a winning record since the 2002 season when it went to the Super Bowl, bypassed future superstars Larry Fitzgerald (2004) and Calvin Johnson (2007) high in the draft in favor of busts Robert Gallery and JaMarcus Russell. The Raiders made a blockbuster trade for Randy Moss. He essentially took a two-year vacation when he was in Oakland before re-energizing his career after he was dealt to New England.

Particularly in the past five years, Oakland has drafted a slew of young receivers in hopes of striking it rich. Promising players such as Chaz Schilens, Darrius Heyward-Bey and Louis Murphy have all come and gone without making a major impact.

Although the receivers in Oakland’s current stable are young and, for the most part, unproven, there is hope for a franchise that is perpetually waiting for receivers to reach their potential. The Raiders enter the 2013 season hopeful the wait is nearing its end.

“It’s as green as grass,” Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently said of his group. “But there is all kinds of talent here.”

I asked Allen whether he could see himself waking up one morning in the near future and proclaiming that his group of receivers has finally arrived.

“Absolutely,” Allen said. “It’s coming. We just need the guys to step up.”

Oakland has done a nice job of drafting promising receivers late in the draft or adding them as undrafted free agents. All of the receivers projected to make the Raiders’ 53-man roster have potential to be impact players. But they also have to show they can be consistent threats.

The focal points of Oakland’s receiving group are third-year player Denarius Moore and second-year player Rod Streater. They are expected to be the starters. Moore was a fifth-round pick in 2011, and Streater was an undrafted free agent last year. Although both were training camp stars and have shown glimpses of their potential, neither has proved he is an impact player.

A lot of that has to do with their youth. Moore was a bit inconsistent last year, and he had some hands problems. Streater was incredibly fluid for an undrafted rookie, but, as to be expected, he didn’t always show up. Moore ended up with 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdown catches. Streater had 39 catches for 584 yards and three TDs. Oakland is hoping both players will make significant strides in 2013.

“I think we have a chance to be a good group,” Streater said. “There are a lot of good athletes in this group. We all are trying to get better together.”

ESPN analyst Matt Williamson likes the potential of Moore and Streater as a long-term starting tandem.

“I am really high on Moore, but he needs to stay healthy and be more consistent as a route runner,” Williamson said. “[Can he be] a true No. 1? That might be a bit of a stretch, since I rarely throw that term around, but he’s right on that cusp in terms of talent. Streater is a good complement to Moore, as he is bigger and more physical. He’s a possession guy to Moore’s explosiveness.”

Although the Raiders’ receiving success starts with Moore and Streater, the group has more to offer. Jacoby Ford has shown he can be a dynamic No. 3 receiver with explosive big-play ability. But he has had trouble staying healthy. He missed nearly the past season and a half with foot problems.

Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, impressed on a daily basis last summer with one phenomenal catch after another. Yet he was pretty quiet in the regular season. Oakland added two more prospects this year with seventh-round pick Brice Butler and undrafted rookie Conner Vernon. Vernon is a prototype slot receiver who looked good in the offseason camps.

All of these players will have the time to develop together and show they belong on their own merits. New quarterback Matt Flynn thinks positive results are possible this season.

“We have some weapons on this offense that I think we can really take advantage of this season,” Flynn said.
Randy Moss' 35th birthday present to himself was to announce he wants to come back to the NFL after taking last season off.

Moss' planned return has been the buzz of a slow February Monday. We will see if he fits with any team in the AFC West (I’ve received many questions about the idea Monday). Really, I don’t think there will be a push for Moss by any team in the division. He is declining and, remember, everyone had a crack at Moss two years ago. Why would there be a sudden interest now that he is 35 and rusty?

But let’s take a gander, anyway:

Denver: Can you see Tim Tebow and Moss being a good fit together? Neither can I.

Kansas City: Moss has a connection with Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli and quarterback Matt Cassel. Still, Pioli has passed on reuniting with Moss in the past. Maybe if Dwayne Bowe leaves Pioli would change his mind. Moss had a reputation for being a poor influence on young receivers. It probably wouldn’t be a good idea putting him with Jonathan Baldwin.

Oakland: Oakland needs to concentrate on developing its slew of young receiver talent. I can’t see the Raiders’ new leadership thinking bringing in Moss would be a good idea.

San Diego: Moss is not an A.J. Smith type of player, and the Moss-Norv Turner relationship wasn’t overly successful in Oakland in 2005. Maybe if Vincent Jackson leaves the Chargers would think about Moss. Still, I think San Diego would consider other options first.

AFC West notes

August, 7, 2011
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He is not Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco but the Raiders added receiver Derek Hagan to this roster. He has 85 catches in five NFL seasons. The Raiders looked into both Moss and Ochocinco earlier in camp as they considered giving their receiver group a veteran presence. Perhaps Hagan will stick. The Oakland Tribune thinks the 2011 Raiders will look a lot like the 2010 Raiders.

There is a chance second-round pick Stefen Wisniewski could play guard if former starting center Samson Satele wins that job. Wisniewski is supposed to be the starter at center. Its clear Oakland coach Hue Jackson is trying to identify the best offensive players on the team and then he‘ll worry about exact spots later.

Meanwhile, Denver left tackle Ryan Clady is not feeling the effects of last season’s knee injury at all.

Darrius Heyward-Bey’s injury status is making folks in Oakland wonder. The team isn’t saying much. Meanwhile, Heyward-Bey, the No. 7 overall pick in 2009, might be getting passed by other young receivers such as fifth-round pick Denarius Moore, who has been a star of Oakland’s camp.
Meanwhile, Denver left tackle Ryan Clady is not feeling the effects of last season’s knee injury at all.

What's next for the Raiders?

August, 2, 2011
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The Oakland Raiders will certainly have to add another receiving weapon for quarterback Jason Campbell after star tight end Zach Miller signed with Seattle.

He was Campbell’s favorite target and the Raiders’ most reliable receiver. He led Oakland with 60 catches for 665 yards last season. The Raiders have several young receivers, but they could use a reliable, veteran presence at either tight end or receiver.

The Raiders’ starting tight end now is Brandon Myers. He has potential, but he is more of a blocker than a receiver. He has 16 catches for 99 yards in two NFL seasons.

Al Davis could pursue Giants’ tight end Kevin Boss. He is a solid player who is from the West Coast, but the Giants have shown some interest in bringing him back. Boss is no Miller, but he could help Oakland. Other free-agent tights include Alge Crumpler and Bo Scaife.

Oakland could also look to sign a receiver. Among the receivers available are Malcom Floyd, Braylon Edwards and the Giants’ Steve Smith. Once the Raiders get their salary-cap situation completely taken care of, I could see them try to get an established veteran.

There are indications that they were already looking at receivers. Tuesday, on “SportsCenter,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the Raiders were only one of the teams that ‘mulled’ pursuing Randy Moss before he announced his retirement. Schefter indicated Moss, who had an unsuccessful stint in Oakland in 2005-06 wasn’t interested. Last week, the Raiders sought permission from Cincinnati to talk to receiver Chad Ochocinco before he was dealt to New England.

The Raiders nearly signed Baltimore left tackle Jared Gaither during the weekend, but he still has back issues that caused him to miss all of last season. If the Raiders still want a veteran left tackle, they could pursue Bryant McKinnie. He was just released by the Vikings.

With Miler out of the picture, the Raiders have to do something and there are plenty of options.

Meanwhile, Miller told the Oakland Tribune why he chose the Seahawks. The Raiders just weren’t offering much.
Some quick thoughts on the retirement of star receiver Randy Moss at 34 years old:

The valley of Moss’ career (other than his time with the Minnesota Vikings and Tennessee Titans) last season was the two years spent in Oakland, spanning 2005-06. Moss’ production dropped after the Oakland Raiders sent a huge package to Minnesota for Moss.

He started his Oakland career off well, but his production dipped and he was often accused of dogging it in Oakland. The Raiders grew frustrated and traded him to the New England Patriots for a song in 2007.

The Moss Oakland-dogging-it accusations resurfaced instantly in 2007 because he became the pre-Oakland Moss as soon as he went to the Patriots. I covered Moss from 2000-04 as a Vikings’ beat writer and he was often accused of being lazy or not giving it his all. So, the Oakland accusations probably had some merit.

Meanwhile, there was a lot of talk this offseason that a team such as the Kansas City Chiefs or the San Diego Chargers could pursue Moss. Neither team made a move nor, apparently, did many teams around the league. I wouldn’t be surprised if Moss decides to play again if there is an offer out there. I wouldn’t think it would come from an AFC West team unless a contender has a major injury at receiver.

In the end, Moss will go down as one of the most dynamic receivers ever to play the game and one of the most entertaining, yet challenging interview subjects I’ve ever dealt with.

Enjoy retirement, Super Freak.
I received several inquiries from San Diego Chargers fans since the agent of free-agent receiver Randy Moss said his client is poised for a big year in 2011 at the age of 34. This after a tumultuous 2010 season in which Moss’ numbers declined sharply as he played for three teams.

Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of Moss landing in San Diego:

Pros

He may be needed: There have been reports that No. 2 receiver Malcom Floyd will likely leave as a free agent, and there is still a possibility franchised receiver Vincent Jackson could be unrestricted, although that is unlikely. There have been reports the Chargers could pursue Carolina veteran receiver Steve Smith through a trade. Getting Moss as a free agent would be easier, and Moss could be a fairly inexpensive short-term answer.

He’d fit well with Philip Rivers: Rivers throws perhaps the NFL’s prettiest and best deep ball. Going vertical is Moss’ game. Moss is tall and fast, just the way the Chargers like their receivers. I think Rivers would be excited to throw to Moss (who played for San Diego coach Norv Turner in Oakland in 2005) for a season, as the Chargers try to cash in on their talent and advance to the Super Bowl.

Cons

He’s not an A.J. Smith-type player: San Diego general manager A.J. Smith usually stays away from players with reputations for being difficult. The Chargers have declined opportunities to pursue Moss in the past. Smith may again deem bringing in Moss as unbeneficial.

Chargers have a good locker room: The Chargers have a good, veteran-based team with solid chemistry. Bringing in a player with Moss’ past as a sometimes disruptive presence in the locker room may be frowned upon in the organization.

Conclusion: I think Moss, if he is not declining and if he is on his best behavior, could help a contender like San Diego. He’d make a potent offense even more dangerous, and Rivers would get him the ball. But, in the end, I think San Diego will stick to its course and not take a risky move like bringing in Moss, although there could be some temptation.
Jon BaldwinAP Photo/Keith SrakocicThe Kansas City Chiefs are hoping first-round pick Jon Baldwin can stretch defenses next season.

The April draft didn't just give Matt Cassel another offensive weapon. He also got himself a house guest.

In a locked-out offseason full of oddities, yet another strange dynamic developed shortly after the draft. Cassel welcomed a perfect stranger into his home -- a stranger who is 6-foot-4, can jump like a basketball star, and who gives the Chiefs’ offense a much-needed vertical threat.

Welcome to the Cassel home, Jon Baldwin. Don’t worry about wiping your feet at the door. Just make yourself comfortable.

“It was great getting to know Matt,” Baldwin said this week. “I stayed at his house. I ate dinner with him and his family. We’re really building a relationship together. We’ve talked a lot of X's and O's. It’s important. I think [the lockout] is going to crack soon and we have to be ready. We all have to stay in great shape and hit the job at 100 mph when they tell us. When the lockout is over, we have to be in Kansas City the next day, so this work together is important.”

Cassel, who has been lauded by teammates for his leadership during the lockout, contacted Baldwin shortly after the Chiefs took the big Pittsburgh receiver with the No. 26 overall pick and arranged for him to join him in Kansas City for team workouts. Baldwin said the Chiefs are planning to get together soon for more sessions.

“It’s great to meet everyone, and it’s a really good team,” Baldwin said. “I feel blessed to be part of it.”

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Matt Cassel
Joe Nicholson/US PRESSWIREMatt Cassel has provided top pick Jon Baldwin with a little offseason direction -- and housing.
In addition to bonding with Cassel at the quarterback’s home, Baldwin and his new quarterback also shared a special experience. Along with offensive linemen Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja, Cassel and Baldwin drove to Joplin, Mo., to assist in the aftermath of the horrendous tornadoes that ripped through the town. Seeing the aftermath of the tragedy not only connected Baldwin to his new teammates but it also gave him a connection to Chiefs fans and his new home state. The players helped clean up livable homes to assist Joplin residents.

“It was devastating to go into a town that was completely wiped out,” Baldwin said. “We just wanted to help the people as much as we could.”

There were reports that Baldwin initiated his involvement in the Joplin trip. While being interviewed for this story, Baldwin sounded uncomfortable talking about that aspect and said he didn't “want to take any credit” for it. Baldwin was soft-spoken and polite during the interview. He often said he was appreciative of the opportunity in Kansas City and he spoke several times of the importance of working hard and fitting in as a rookie.

I've dealt with plenty of diva receivers. I covered the likes of Randy Moss and Brandon Marshall on a daily basis. My diva radar did not sound when I spoke with Baldwin. Of course, he could turn into one, but it seems like he is set on going into the NFL with a clean slate.

He built a bit of a reputation for being a diva in college at Pittsburgh. There were work ethic questions. However, Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli is known for staying away from players who are considered character risks, and the Chiefs have said they are not worried about Baldwin being a problem player in the NFL.

It seems that Baldwin is planning to do his best to take advantage of a good situation. Soon after being drafted, Baldwin received a text from mentor and fellow former Pitt receiving great Larry Fitzgerald. The veteran told Baldwin he was fortunate to be able to play for Kansas City coach Todd Haley. Haley was the Arizona Cardinals' offensive coordinator and has a good relationship with Fitzgerald.

“Larry told me I will love playing for Coach Haley,” Baldwin said. “I look forward to it.”

The feeling is mutual. In a column that appeared in this blog earlier this month, Haley said he is excited about how the big Baldwin, whom the team wants to be the No. 2 receiver to Dwayne Bowe, will diversify an offense that already is dangerous thanks to the NFL’s top-ranked running game.

“As well as we ran the ball last year, we want to build our offense with more weapons on the outside,” Haley said. “It will make us harder to defend, hopefully. The name of the game is matchups and this hopefully will create some good matchups for us. It should make Dwayne Bowe better. It should make Matt Cassel better, it should make [tight end] Tony Moeaki better and it should make the running game better. That’s the plan. Let’s see if Jon can come in and do what we think he can do.”

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. agrees with Haley that Kansas City's offense got more potent with the addition of Baldwin.

“I think they will ask Baldwin to be pretty much just a deep threat,” Williamson said. “He isn't a super quick-twitch guy, but he does have build-up speed and certainly knows how to get up and make plays on the ball deep downfield. And that ability should help Cassel, who isn't a real accurate passer deep.”

Baldwin said that the Chiefs' offense was plenty dangerous before his arrival and that he simply wants to enhance the group. If he does, he’ll likely be welcome back at Cassel’s house any time.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the Oakland Raiders -- the only team in the NFL without a first-round pick Thursday night -- want to get back into the round.

No surprise.

Owner Al Davis and coach Hue Jackson have both indicated in the past that they could be open to moving up. Once we get to the 25-32 range, there should be a few potential trade partners for Oakland. If the Raiders see a falling offensive lineman, cornerback or quarterback, I could see the Raiders trying to move up. But the price could be their second and third-round picks (No. 48 and No. 81). That is fairly steep, considering their next pick isn’t until 113.

But Jackson said last week that the Raiders don’t have a lot of needs. So if they think they can get an immediate contributor, the Raiders should consider getting back into the first round.

Oakland traded the No. 17 pick to New England for defensive lineman Richard Seymour in 2009. The Raiders have had a first-round pick every year since 1989, including 2005 when it traded back into the round after using its pick to acquire Randy Moss. Maybe we’ll see a repeat Thursday night.

Draft Watch: AFC West

April, 14, 2011
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» NFC Draft Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South

Each Thursday leading up to the NFL draft (April 28-30), the ESPN.com NFL blog network will take a division-by-division look at key aspects of the draft. Today's topic: Draft philosophy.

Denver Broncos

This is the one mystery team in the division. There is a new regime in Denver, led by the Broncos’ legendary quarterback John Elway, who is the team’s vice president of football operations. In his first year in an NFL front office, Elway has the final say. Yet, he does work closely with general manager Brian Xanders, who is a holdover from the last regime, and new coach John Fox. Xanders is expected to have more of a say now, and Fox has been in draft rooms as a head coach for the past nine years in Carolina. They all said Denver will be open minded in the draft. The brass has been at several pro-day workouts and has brought in several players for pre-draft visits. Denver needs defense, but it won’t shy away from taking the best player available. I expect this group to be willing to trade and do what it takes to bring as much talent as possible to Denver as it begins the rebuilding process.

Kansas City Chiefs

One of the reasons Scott Pioli is effective as a general manager is that he is a careful drafter. He was part of a strong drafting team in New England, and his second effort in Kansas City was one of the league’s best. Pioli believes in taking low-risk players. He usually doesn’t pursue players with character issues. He’d rather get a solid player who is a good citizen than a terrific player who is an off-field risk. The Chiefs haven’t been aggressive in draft trades in the Pioli era. I get the feeling he’d rather trade down than up. Pioli is fond of players from the SEC. Both of his first-round picks are from the SEC, and the Chiefs’ first three picks from last year’s draft are from the conference. The reasoning is that if players can excel at the highest level of collegiate play, they have a chance to succeed in the NFL.

Oakland Raiders

The Raiders have one of the most famous draft philosophies in the history the NFL. It’s All Al Davis. And right now, that’s not such a bad thing. After whiffing on several first-round picks, Davis put together one of the most complete drafts in the NFL in 2010. Davis had a draft resurgence by sticking to the basics. He drafted good college players who also tested well at the combine in the offseason. In recent years, Davis seemed more fixated on combine scores and measurables than college production. He took several chances on players who looked the part but didn’t necessarily have the college résumé to back it up. Last year, he drafted proven college players. If Davis can continue that trend, the Raiders will be in good shape. Davis has never worried about the size of the school the player has come from, so he is willing to draft anyone. That worked in the third round last year, when he drafted tackle Jared Veldheer from tiny Hillsdale College. As far as trades go, Davis has been known for trading picks for veteran players such as Randy Moss, DeAngelo Hall, Richard Seymour, Kamerion Wimbley and Jason Campbell in recent years. If the lockout continues, trading picks for veterans won’t be an option. It will be interesting to see whether Davis tries to deal to trade up and recoup the first-round pick that was surrendered in the Seymour deal.

San Diego Chargers

A.J. Smith’s philosophy is to be ready for anything. Smith prepares for any scenario. The San Diego general manager is feeling particularly powerful this year because he has an extra pick in the second and third rounds thanks to the 2010 trades of cornerback Antonio Cromartie and third-string quarterback Charlie Whitehurst. Smith is looking for the best scenario, whether that means keeping the five picks in the first three rounds, trading up for a big score or trading down for several picks. In recent years, Smith has traded up to get players such as running backs Ryan Mathews and Jacob Hester. I can see that being the case this year. The key to Smith’s philosophy is college production. He goes for high-effort, high-production players. He doesn’t go for many projects in the early rounds.
Pat Kirwan of NFL.com offers a redo of the 2004 draft. He has the San Diego Chargers taking quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

The Chargers, of course, took quarterback Eli Manning and traded him to the New York Giants for a package of picks including Philip Rivers, who the Giants took at No. 4. Kirwan reasons that Roethlisberger and his two Super Bowl rings are difficult to argue with. That’s true. However, would Roethlisberger really be better than Rivers in San Diego?

We addressed that subject prior to the Super Bowl. Both Gary Horton and Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. said they believed the Steelers would be just as good with Rivers as they are with Roethlisberger. However, they don’t know if the Chargers would be as successful with Roethlisberger as they are with Rivers because of the way Rivers fits Norv Turner’s offense.

With Roethlisberger in San Diego in his redo, Kirwan had Oakland taking Rivers instead of Robert Gallery, who has had a so-so career and said he will leave this offseason as a free agent.

The Raiders likely would have been in much better shape during those lean years in the middle of the last decade with Rivers. You also have to wonder if the Randy Moss experiment would have worked better if he had a young gun like Rivers throwing him the ball.

What does Kirwan’s exercise all mean? Nothing at all. But it’s fun to ponder.

In other AFC West nuggets Saturday:

Pro Football Focus has a nice piece on Oakland defensive lineman Matt Shaugnessy. It calls the third-year player a “secret superstar.” Shaugnessy is overshadowed by bigger names on the Oakland defensive line, but he has been an impact player. It will be fun to watch him continue to develop.

The San Diego Union Tribune has an update on the Chargers’ quest for a new stadium.

NFL Live has a look at Denver’s draft needs.
The Minnesota Vikings' decision to place the franchise tag on linebacker Chad Greenway could have an effect on the AFC West.

The Vikings’ decision to tag Greenway and not receiver Sidney Rice means the receiver position has gotten even more loaded in free agency. Rice joins strong free-agent receiver class that includes the likes of Braylon Edwards, Malcom Floyd, Santonio Holmes, Steve Breaston, Randy Moss, Santana Moss, Steve Smith (Giants, not Panthers) Terrell Owens and Mike Sims-Walker.

Rice is now at the top of the loaded class.

That should interest Kansas City and Oakland. I could see both teams adding a receiver in free agency. The Chiefs may be more aggressive. They need a No. 2 starter to pair with Dwayne Bowe. I could see Kansas City either spending a lot on a receiver or considering using the No. 21 pick on a receiver.

Oakland will likely look for an older receiver to complement its talented, but raw group of receivers that includes Jacoby Ford, Chaz Schilens, Louis Murphy and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Because Oakland likes its young receivers, I’m not sure it would spend big on a receiver but this class is now deeper and Oakland could get a veteran receiver at a better price.

San Diego has to be closely watching the receiver class as well. If Floyd leaves, the Chargers will need a receiver. Rice could be a very interesting fit if the Chargers (who recently put the franchise tag on Vincent Jackson) if they want to spend big money. I can see the Chargers adding at the position (perhaps early in the draft) even if Floyd is re-signed. Keeping Floyd may have gotten easier now that Rice has joined the free-agent class. Rice will likely be more sought after than Floyd, so it the Chargers may have an easier time keeping him if they don’t decide to make a push for Rice.

I don’t see Denver being major factors at the receiver position right now even though young receivers Eddie Royal (hip) and Demaryius Thomas (Achilles) are currently hurt. I think Denver will concentrate on fixing the NFL's worst defense.
Aaron Rodgers' trip to the Super Bowl has to be a harsh reminder of a mistake made by many of the 23 teams that bypassed Rodgers in the 2005 draft. The Cal product was taken by Green Bay with the No. 24 overall pick. He has become an elite-level player.

Rodgers
Rodgers
Of course, the team that has to feel the worst about overlooking Rodgers is San Francisco. The 49ers bypassed the local boy with the No.1 pick to take Utah quarterback Alex Smith. We know what a terrible misuse that was. Let’s take a look at the AFC West teams and how it worked out for them after not taking Rodgers.

San Diego, No. 12: The Chargers took linebacker Shawne Merriman. San Diego can’t be dinged here. Merriman was a dominant player for three years before a series of injuries altered his career. Plus, the Chargers took Philip Rivers the year before. There was no need for a quarterback.

Kansas City, No. 15: In retrospect, there could have been an argument for the Chiefs to take Rodgers. But at the time, I don’t think it was a terrible choice. The Chiefs took linebacker Derrick Johnson. He’s been a fine pick. Sure, Rodgers would look good in a Chiefs uniform, but he’d look good in many uniforms. The Chiefs didn’t have a pressing need at quarterback at the time, so I can’t bash this decision. Still, the team clearly was in the market for a young quarterback. The Chiefs took quarterback James Kilian in the seventh round in 2005 and they took Brodie Croyle in the third round the next season. So, taking a falling Rodgers at No. 15 could have been tempting.

Oakland, No. 23: This is where it hurts. The Raiders moved up to No. 23. They earlier traded the No. 7 pick to Minnesota in the Randy Moss trade. It appeared that Oakland would end Rodgers’ fall and keep him in the East Bay. Instead, Oakland took cornerback Fabian Washington. Instead of a taking a franchise quarterback-in-waiting, the Raiders -- who were entering the second season of an uninspiring two-season Kerry Collins era -- took the speedy Washington out of Nebraska. Washington was traded to Baltimore for a fourth-round draft pick after three seasons. While Oakland didn’t whiff on Rodgers as badly as San Francisco, you have to wonder where this franchise would be now had the Raiders addressed a need and pleased the home folks by taking Rodgers instead taking Washington.

Denver didn’t have a first-round pick. It traded the No. 25 pick to Washington four days before the draft. The Redskins took Jason Campbell one pick after Rodgers was taken. He is now Oakland’s quarterback.

Kansas City is getting offensive

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Don’t look now, but the Kansas City Chiefs are an offensive juggernaut.

Kansas City has scored a total of 102 points in the past three games and head into December prepared for what should be a terrific AFC West race with San Diego. The Chargers have won four straight games and haven't lost a December game since 2005. The Chiefs, 7-4, lead the Chargers, 6-5, by one game in the division.

While San Diego is surging, the Chiefs are showing they are not losing ground because of their dynamic offense. Kansas City fans were waiting for head coach Todd Haley and offensive coordinator Charlie Weis' impact on the team. Well, it’s happening. This is a well-coached unit with dynamic play, even featuring “The Deep Freeze" Insider. Make no mistake, this offense is hot.

It starts with maligned quarterback Matt Cassel. He’s been the picture of efficient quarterback play. Cassel has thrown 18 touchdowns and has been intercepted just once in the past seven weeks. Overall, Cassel has thrown 22 touchdown passes this season and he has been intercepted just four times.

Cassel has plenty of help. Running back Jamaal Charles broke the 1,000-rushing yard barrier Sunday. He is second in the NFL with 1,021 rushing yards. Charles leads the NFL by averaging 6.3 yards per carry. He had 173 of the Chiefs’ 270 rushing yards Sunday as the team solidified it ranking as the No. 1 rushing team in the NFL.

Charles is starting to believe anything is possible for this team, a week after his teammate Dwayne Bowe said the Chiefs will “win it all.”

Why shouldn’t the Chiefs think big? And Bowe can say anything he wants. No player in the NFL been as dominant as Bowe in the past three games. He has 32 catches and seven touchdowns during the stretch.

Bill Barnwell of the Football Outsiders Insider breaks down Bowe’s impressive stretch. Barnwell says Bowe’s hot streak started after he dropped a key pass in the loss to the Colts during Week 5. Since then, Barnwell writes this: Bowe has caught 49 passes for 733 yards and a whopping 13 touchdowns. Bowe only made it to 589 yards in 11 games last season, and he had a total of 16 touchdowns as a pro coming into this season.

Bowe, who has caught a touchdown in a team record seven straight games, also has a team record 14 touchdown catches. According to Keith Hawkins of ESPN Stats & Information, since the merger in 1970, the only player who had more touchdown receptions in the first 11 games of the season was Randy Moss in 2007, who had 16.

The Chiefs are putting up special numbers and it is resulting in big points on the scoreboard. Because of this offensive explosion, the Chiefs must be accounted for by the rest of the NFL as we enter December play.

AFC West mailbag

November, 10, 2010
11/10/10
4:00
PM ET
Midweek mail call:

Scott from Phoenix wants to know if I think San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers has a chance to win the NFL MVP award?

Bill Williamson: Well, he is playing as well as anybody. He is on a record pace for yards thrown. He has put San Diego on his back. The fact that he threw for 295 yards and four touchdowns in a six-point win at Houston despite not having his top four receivers and tight end Antonio Gates was remarkable. But the problem is San Diego is 4-5. It will have to rip off a bunch of wins for Rivers to get serious MVP consideration. Now, if Rivers continues his torrid season and the Chargers end up in the playoffs, yes, I think he has a real shot.


Tim from SLC wants to know if I think Oakland rookie receiver Jacoby Ford will take some playing time away from Darrius Heyward-Bey.

BW: I could see it. Ford has to stay on the field. The fourth-round draft pick had six catches for 148 yards Sunday in the Raiders’ big win over the Chiefs. But most importantly, Ford, who also returned a kickoff for a score in the game, made clutch plays. Heyward-Bey had no catches Sunday. He has had two good games this season and in seven games he was a non-factor. With Louis Murphy likely returning from a lung injury soon, there is a decision to be made. I think Ford needs a chance to show what he can do. He looks very polished.


SJL from Portland wants to know why I think San Diego passed on putting a waiver claim on Randy Moss, but signed journeyman receiver Kelley Washington the next day.

BW: I think they are two separate issues. San Diego has some temporary injury issues and that’s why Washington was brought in. There was no interest in Moss because the Chargers like their receivers in the long term, and adding a controversial personality like Moss is out of character for San Diego.

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