AFC West: Robert Meachem

Most significant moves: This is a thin roster, so there weren’t a ton of standout cuts here. But there were two veteran names of note to get the axe in the first year of the Tom Telesco-Mike McCoy era in San Diego. Tackle Max Starks and receiver Robert Meachem were cut. Neither were very good this summer. Starks was signed to be the left tackle. But he was beaten out by King Dunlap and then by young Mike Harris to be the swing tackle. Meachem, signed in 2012 by the previous regime to be the No. 1 receiver, was a disaster. The team is thin at receiver and Meachem is guaranteed to make $5 million this season. Still, the Chargers decided to move away from him. Other cuts of note were center David Molk and pass-rusher Thomas Keiser. Both were expected to have roles going into camp.

Going young: This is a team that is rebuilding and the 53-man roster shows it. All six draft picks (cornerback Steve Williams is on the injured reserve) made the team and three undrafted free agents -- safety Jahleel Addae, nose tackle Kwame Geathers and defensive end Brandon Moore -- made the 53-man roster. U-T San Diego reports it’s the first time since 2007 that every draft pick made the team and the first time in 10 years that three undrafted free agents made the roster. Telesco is looking for youth to make an impact. The opportunity is there for these youngsters.

What’s next: This roster is far from set. The Chargers are going to be a work in progress. I expect Telesco will tinker with the bottom of this roster for the next several weeks, maybe even all season. As an executive in Indianapolis, Telesco was known for his eye for talent and for being able to pick up pieces off the street. Thus, this is his time to shine. He has plenty of work to do in San Diego. The Chargers could use depth on the offensive line, at receiver, on the defensive line, at outside linebacker and in the secondary. The team’s special teams was weak in the preseason. That’s a telltale sign of poor depth. So, more players are needed. Among the players San Diego could potentially look at are receivers Lavelle Hawkins, Chris Harper, Russell Shepard, Tavarres King, linemen Ben Ijalana, Fernando Velasco, Jake Scott and Danny Watkins and defensive tackle Drake Nevis.

Players cut: CB Cornelius Brown, OT Nick Becton, DE Frank Beltre, S Sean Cattouse, TE Ben Cotton, CB Marcus Cromartie, LB Phillip Dillard, CB Greg Gatson, CB Logan Harrell, DE Jerrell Harris, RB Michael Hill, CB Josh Johnson, LB Thomas Keiser, WR Robert Meachem, CB William Middleton, LB Dan Molls, WR David Molk, OT Randy Richards, TE David Rolf, G Steve Schilling, OT Max Starks, WR Luke Tasker.

Observation deck: Chargers-49ers

August, 30, 2013
8/30/13
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Random thoughts from the San Diego Chargers41-6 home loss to San Francisco:

OK, it was ugly. Ugly.

What does it mean? Well, the 49ers’ backups are much, much better than the Chargers'. San Diego doesn’t have much depth, and this was a classic fourth preseason game for Mike McCoy’s team. The starters rested. And the backups were hammered.

The Chargers’ depth on the offensive line was exposed. Left tackle Max Starks, signed to start, might not even make the team. He wasn’t very good. I can see Mike Harris being kept over Starks as the swing tackle.

San Diego's special teams were bad again, giving up a blocked punt (the second of the preseason) that resulted in a touchdown. San Diego’s special teams has been bad all preseason, perhaps a byproduct of a lack of depth. It will be something to monitor early in the season.

Receiver Robert Meachem suffered a possible concussion late in the game. He could be cut or put on injured reserve. Regardless, I don’t see a future for Meachem in San Diego, even though he will make $5 million this season.

Guard Johnnie Troutman, expected to provide depth at guard, suffered an arm injury. He missed all of last season with a shoulder injury.

Rookie quarterback Brad Sorensen wasn’t very good after playing well earlier in the preseason, throwing two interceptions. Still, I think he will be the No. 3 quarterback.

Raiders, Chargers on the bubble

August, 27, 2013
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Here are two players each from the Oakland Raiders and the San Diego Chargers who may face being cut by Saturday’s 53-man deadline date:

OAKLAND

Guard Mike Brisiel: He is not a great fit for the power-blocking scheme and he has missed time with injuries. But this is not a deep group. Oakland may not feel comfortable getting rid of him.

Tight end Richard Gordon: It would be a surprise, because he is a fine blocker. But Oakland is pretty wide open at tight end. If the Raiders feel like their other young tight ends offer more potential than Gordon, he could be sent packing.

SAN DIEGO

Receiver Robert Meachem: If Meachem wasn’t guaranteed $5 million, there would be no doubt he would be cut. After a poor first season in San Diego last year the new brass isn’t seeing much from Meacham this year. The Chargers are not deep at receiver. But a lack of confidence in him could make his release possible.

Tackle Max Starks: He is battling the young Mike Harris for the swing tackle spot. Starks was signed to be the left tackle, but it seems like that is King Dunlap's job. I could easily see the Chargers go with Harris’ potential over Starks if the team doesn’t think Starks can start.
A look at keys for the San Diego Chargers on Thursday night when they head to Chicago for their second game of the preseason. The game will be shown live on ESPN at 8 p.m. ET:

Stay healthy: There have been numerous injuries in the NFL this summer and arguably no team has been hit as hard as the Chargers. They have had several key players go down. San Diego did not have much depth to begin with, it cannot afford to absorb many more serious injuries. This team has been ravaged by injures the past few years, and, sadly, it seems like the Tom Telesco-Mike McCoy era is starting with the same adversity.

The receivers: With Danario Alexander and Malcom Floyd out with injuries, receivers like Vincent Brown, rookie Keenan Allen and backups Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem must step up now and show they can have a strong bond with quarterback Philip Rivers.

The running backs: Starter Ryan Mathews was solid in a cameo role last week. Versatile backup Danny Woodhead should make his debut in this game. With the receiving crew thin, the Chargers will have to show they can run the ball.

The offensive line: The first unit played well against Seattle last week and many members of the organization is confident in the group. Another strong outing against a good defense will further instill confidence in a unit that's one of the biggest concerns for the team.

Dwight Freeney: He played well last week in a limited role. Freeney put pressure on the quarterback and showed a good burst. He needs to do it again. The Chargers are depending on Freeney as the team’s best pass-rusher. Star safety Eric Weddle said opposing teams will have to game plan for the 33-year-old Freeney.

Last week, when starting San Diego receiver Danario Alexander was lost for the season with a torn ACL in his knee, both general manager Tom Telesco and coach Mike McCoy said the Chargers had enough depth at the position not to worry about finding a veteran receiver.

They have to re-evaluate that plan even after it appears the team dodged a huge problem. Initially, the Chargers thought the team’s other starting receiver, Malcom Floyd, suffered a torn ACL on Monday. However, the team says initial results showed he has a knee strain. Floyd will be further examined.

ESPN’s Ed Werder reported that Floyd will send the MRI results to other specialists, including Dr. James Andrews, to confirm the initial diagnosis of a strained knee. Even if the initial diagnosis is accurate, it is expected that Floyd will not return until the regular-season opener and possibly not until Week 2.

This scare should be a lesson to the Chargers’ brass. They must go find a veteran.

Going into training camp, the Chargers’ receiving crew was considered fairly deep. But the potential problem was nearly every player in the group had big injury histories, including Alexander and Floyd. The other four receivers in the rotation, Vincent Brown (who missed all of last season with an ankle injury), rookie Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem have all been considered fragile in the past.

Thus with these issues already popping, San Diego needs to go find some insurance.

One of the reasons the Chargers didn’t sign a receiver when Alexander was hurt was the team wasn’t thrilled with the available class of veterans. Now, with the need growing, the Chargers may not have the luxury of being choosy. Two veterans initially come to mind -- Brandon Lloyd and Laurent Robinson. Lloyd played for McCoy in Denver and Robinson was in the Chargers’ camp two years ago and has worked with quarterback Philip Rivers.

Neither one of these players would come in as top-of-the-rotation players, but they would add depth to a position that is becoming increasingly vulnerable in San Diego.
SAN DIEGO -- Gone is the omnipresent GM lurking from the large deck that hovers over the practice field.

Gone is the comfortable head coach who went at his own pace.

It’s a new day for the San Diego Chargers. There is new energy in America’s Finest City.

Change was badly needed. The Chargers arguably had the best roster in the NFL five years ago, but it never paid off. The lack of success finally cost general manager A.J. Smith and coach Norv Turner their jobs after another lackluster season in 2012.

The Chargers’ fans demanded new leadership for the stagnant franchise. They got their wish. The Chargers now have some of the youngest, freshest leaders in football as the team moves past the stale days of the Smith-Turner era.

Smith was famous for watching practice from the deck of his office. New general manager Tom Telesco, 40, watches practice from the sideline. There are no messages of pecking order being sent from the general manager’s office. Telesco, in a camp-issued T-shirt and shorts, could easily be mistaken for an equipment manager.

The head-coaching switch from Turner to Mike McCoy, 41, is almost as distinctive as the change at GM. McCoy’s practices have appeared to be crisper and more detailed-oriented than in the past. There isn’t much downtime in San Diego’s practices. Everyone’s moving at all times. That wasn’t always the case under Turner.

“I think we’re getting a lot done,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “Coach McCoy clearly has a plan. It’s been impressive. ... The big thing is everyone has bought in to him. The reality is we are .500 over the past three years. It was pretty easy to buy in what’s now going on here.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

[+] EnlargePhilip Rivers
AP Photo/Lenny IgnelziPhilip Rivers threw 15 picks last season to just 26 touchdown passes.
1. The quarterback: Rivers is a major focal point of this training camp. Telesco hired McCoy, Denver’s former offensive coordinator, with an eye toward fixing Rivers. The quarterback has struggled the past couple of years, particularly with turnovers. McCoy and new offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, the former head coach of Arizona, form a strong quarterback-coaching tandem and quarterback coach Frank Reich is also highly regarded. All three men believe in Rivers, and it seems to be paying off. Rivers has looked fantastic in training camp. His confidence is high, and his passes are accurate. It is vital for both Rivers and the Chargers that he has a good season and the team continues build around him. If not, it could be a crossroads season for both the franchise and Rivers’ career.

2. The offensive line: Because of injuries, this unit has been terrible the past couple of years. No matter how much Rivers improves, he won’t have much of a chance if he doesn't have protection. The Chargers' line has four new starters. It is not a great unit, and there will be some growing pains. But the group is getting rave reviews for being athletic and tough. Rivers is impressed and trusts the group. He thinks it’s deeper with players such as rookie D.J. Fluker at right tackle and veterans King Dunlap and Max Starks competing at left tackle. Dunlap is leading the race. But if there are injuries, this group appears better equipped to weather them than last year's squad.

3. The rookie linebacker: The Chargers are thrilled with inside linebacker Manti Te'o. He will start in the team’s 3-4 schemes. He has looked good in training camp and has fit in with the locker room. The hoax he was involved in at Notre Dame is not a factor. The Chargers love the way he works and practices. He is instinctive, and he plays faster on the field than his combine times suggested. The Chargers think Te’o is ready to make a big impact.

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

[+] EnlargeManti Te'o
Christopher Hanewinckel/USA TODAY SportsThe Chargers are happy with the progress of second-rounder Manti Te'o, who's slated to start at inside linebacker.
The Chargers are loaded with young talent on defense. Any defense that has Eric Weddle at safety, Te’o and Donald Butler at inside linebacker and Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes at defensive end is an impressive group.

I think these players will be the core to one of the better defenses in the coming years. The Chargers are doing backflips over the combination of Liuget and Reyes. Liuget is entering his third NFL season, and Reyes is entering his second. Liuget was terrific all of last season, and Reyes showed serious pass-rush potential toward the end of the season.

While this defense has some holes, there are some exciting pieces here.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

The Chargers are pretty thin in a lot of places. I think this team is on the rise, but it may not be a quick fix. There are too many positions where depth is an issue.

San Diego has dealt with the injury bug already. Pass-rusher Melvin Ingram, the No. 18 overall pick in 2012, suffered a torn ACL in May. Starting receiver Danario Alexander and backup linebacker Jonas Mouton suffered the same injury during camp.

Alexander's and Ingram’s injuries are particularly worrisome. This team can’t afford to lose high-end talent before the season starts. Other positions vulnerable to injuries include the offensive line (even though the depth is better than in the past), defensive tackle, edge rushers and the secondary. There isn’t much wiggle room on this roster.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The Chargers appear to be well-coached. The influx of offensive coaches and the return of several defensive coaches, led by coordinator John Pagano, makes for a nice mix. Most of the new blood was needed on the offensive side of the ball.
  • The team feels great about Dwight Freeney, who was signed to replace Ingram. The Chargers are convinced Freeney still has something left in the tank and will be a difference-maker.
  • The Chargers like the progress of nose tackle Cam Thomas, who they think is ready for a breakout year. Coaches and teammates are talking him up big.
  • San Diego is looking to add depth on the defensive line. Free agent Justin Bannan on is still on the team’s radar. I think we will see the Chargers be active on the waiver wire at a few positions.
  • Free-agent guard Chad Rinehart is showing solid leadership skills.
  • The team loves free-agent running back Danny Woodhead. He has been a camp star and should take pressure off starter Ryan Mathews. Expect to see Woodhead used in several different ways. He could be a poor man’s Darren Sproles, perhaps.
  • Yes, tight end Antonio Gates hasn’t had a superstar season in years because of injuries, but the team likes what they see from him. He may have another year or two left in the tank.
  • Ladarius Green, Gates’ potential successor, is still growing. But he has shown flashes. He has natural pass-catching ability.
  • While there are questions at cornerback, the Chargers feel like Derek Cox and Shareece Wright will be an upgrade over last year’s starting duo of Quentin Jammer and Antoine Cason.
  • Rookie quarterback Brad Sorensen has been up and down. He has a good enough arm to keep him on the 53-man roster.
  • Cornerback Johnny Patrick has looked good. He could see a lot of action in nickel situations.
  • Fifth-round pick Tourek Williams is getting looks at both defensive end and outside linebacker. The team would like for him to contribute at linebacker.
  • Robert Meachem, a big-money, free-agent bust last season, has been given new life after Alexander’s injury. Still, I have my doubts that Meachem will make much of a difference. He hasn’t been a standout in camp.

Chargers camp notes

August, 7, 2013
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SAN DIEGO -- Thoughts from the Chargers’ training camp practice Wednesday:

Coach Mike McCoy spoke to his team for an extended period at the conclusion of practice. He has the attention of this team.

McCoy, 41, was asked to reflect on his journey to coaching on the sideline Thursday night against visiting Seattle in his first game as a head coach. He credited several coaches in his life all the way down to his Little League days and his parents’ upbringing.
  • U-T San Diego reports starting receiver Vincent Brown will not play Thursday. It is not surprising. He is coming back from a hamstring injury. It doesn’t appear that running back Danny Woodhead will play, either. He has been out with an undisclosed injury for nearly a week.
  • McCoy backed up general manager’s Tom Telesco’s tact that the Chargers have good depth at receiver even after the season-ending knee injury starter Danario Alexander suffered Tuesday. Alexander’s career has been intercepted by major knee injuries since his college days. McCoy expressed how badly he felt for Alexander. Fellow receiver Robert Meachem called the injury “heartbreaking.”
  • McCoy expressed how little the current depth chart means. He said all it is, at this point, is “a piece of paper.” Lots of jobs still to be won and lost, starting with Thursday’s preseason opener.
SAN DIEGO -- There is no doubt the San Diego Chargers were delivered a rough blow Tuesday when starting receiver Danario Alexander suffered a torn right ACL injury, putting him out for the season.

However, the injury is not forcing the team to do anything rash at the position. San Diego general manager Tom Telesco said Wednesday that he likes the group of receivers the Chargers have.

“It hurts a lot because Danario worked so hard, he’s a good player and a good kid. We thought he had a chance to be a bona-fide playmaker this season,” Telesco said. “But we feel pretty good about the position. Fortunately, that is one of the positions where we have some depth.”

The projected starters will likely be Malcom Floyd and Vincent Brown. Other key players will be rookie Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem. If the group can stay healthy, the Chargers should be fine there, although they will miss Alexander’s size and big-play ability. However, all five of these players have injury history, so there is some concern.

Still, Telesco is confident the group will be fine. Plus, Telesco said the open market at any position at this time of year is not great. He’s right. Players are unemployed in August for a reason.

When pass-rusher Melvin Ingram went down with the same injury as Alexander in May, the team rushed to sign Dwight Freeney. It appears no such deal will happen as a result of Alexander’s injury.

Meanwhile, the team was shocked to hear Alexander was hurt so severely. He showed no immediate signs of suffering a significant injury after it occurred.
The San Diego Chargers are two days away from their first preseason and they have already lost two key players for the season due to a torn ACL in their knees.

In a non-contact drill in May, pass-rusher Melvin Ingram, a 2012 first-round pick, was lost for the season. Tuesday, after a freak contact play with cornerback Shareece Wright, Danario Alexander suffered a torn ACL in his right knee. Initially, the team did not think it was serious.

But Alexander is now out for the year.

A serious injury was the Chargers’ greatest worry about Alexander. He turns 25 Wednesday, but this is his sixth major knee injury dating back to his college days. Injury concerns were the reason why the Chargers didn’t give Alexander a long-term deal in the offseason. He was a restricted free agent.

Now, sadly, we all have to wonder if Alexander will ever enjoy the health to go along with his immense ability. Last year, Alexander showed how he can make an impact if healthy.

Alexander signed off the street and made an instant impact in San Diego. He had 37 catches, 7 touchdown catches and averaged 17.8 yards per catch last season. Alexander had a strong camp and was expected to be a key part of San Diego’s offense. Quarterback Philip Rivers raved about Alexander to me today before the extent of his injury was known.

Alexander earned the respect of the San Diego locker room for coming back from injuries and making such a quick impact last year. I spoke to one prominent San Diego player who said he was almost in tears because he feels so bad for Alexander.

However, the Chargers won’t have much time to dwell on the injury. They will have to march on without Alexander.

When Ingram was hurt, the Chargers had little depth at pass-rusher and had to go out and pay for Dwight Freeney. I don’t think that will be this case at receiver.

I am sure the Chargers will consider adding a player, and the best available receiver is Brandon Lloyd. He played for new San Diego head coach Mike McCoy in Denver.

But the Chargers have a deep group that includes Malcom Floyd, Vincent Brown, rookie Keenan Allen, Eddie Royal and Robert Meachem. Like Alexander, most of these players have had some trouble staying healthy. If the group can stay healthy, they should be solid, although Alexander’s big-play ability will be missed.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

What are the three key camp issues facing each AFC West team?

DENVER BRONCOS

Offense: The Wes Welker Factor
Peyton Manning has a new toy. But with the wealth of options in this offense, it seems unlikely Welker will match his production from his days with Tom Brady. Manning will love exploiting the mismatches Welker creates from the slot. Welker’s experience in New England's up-tempo offense should pay off as Denver transitions to a similar pace. It is difficult to find weaknesses in the Broncos’ offense right now.

Defense: Pass-rush issue
Elvis Dumervil is now playing for Baltimore. Von Miller is one of the league’s premier defensive players and pass-rushers, but more is needed. Where will it come from? Derek Wolfe showed some flashes as an inside pass-rusher during his rookie season and on passing downs. Robert Ayers should also be effective when moved inside. Will the edge player opposite Miller -- Ayers on early downs and Shaun Phillips, most likely, on passing downs -- be able to produce? The wild card here is rookie Quanterus Smith.

Wild card: Pass coverage in the middle
Denver had a lot of problems last season covering opposing tight ends in the middle of the field. On paper, it doesn’t look as though the problem has been addressed. Denver’s safety play is average at best, but the middle linebacker spot manned by Joe Mays is the real issue. Look for opposing offenses to keep Denver in base defensive personnel and attack the middle of the field.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Offense: The Alex Smith Factor
Smith needs plenty of resources to be successful. But if he just makes fewer mistakes at the position than Matt Cassel did a year ago -- something that seems highly likely -- then Kansas City will be much more competitive. Smith also has underrated running skills, and the Chiefs should orchestrate plenty of designed quarterback movement and runs.

Defense: Interior pass rush
The Chiefs were among the worst defenses in the NFL last season at creating pressure on the quarterback between the tackles. Although the team made drastic changes across the roster, this area was not addressed. Unless Dontari Poe steps up in his second season -- and pass rush isn’t really his game -- little should change for Kansas City.

Wild card: Secondary receivers
The Chiefs are very light at wide receiver outside of Dwayne Bowe. They have three strong tight ends and could employ plenty of multiple-tight end sets. Jamaal Charles should see plenty of passes thrown his way, but another outside threat needs to step up. Donnie Avery has the speed to open up room for others, but his hands are highly inconsistent. Jon Baldwin and Dexter McCluster have yet to find their place in this league. Keep an eye on Devon Wylie.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Offense: Man-blocking scheme
For some unknown reason, the Raiders switched in 2012 from a predominantly man-blocking scheme, in which Darren McFadden thrived, to a zone-blocking scheme. That was a failed experiment, especially for McFadden, who is entering the final year of his contract. Switching back could allow him to be the foundation of Oakland’s offense.

Defense: No pass rush
I fear the Raiders will be among the worst defenses in the NFL next season at rushing the passer. Lamarr Houston is a very talented player, capable of greatness, but he isn’t a typical edge pass-rushing defensive end. Andre Carter has had success in this area, but his best days are behind him. I like the additions of Pat Sims and Vance Walker at defensive tackle, but both are run-stuffers. Opposing quarterbacks are going to have a lot of unobstructed time in the pocket this season. Calling Jadeveon Clowney ...

Wild card: Building blocks
The Raiders are not going to win the Super Bowl. Instead, they must determine which players are their building blocks. I was impressed by the way the front office, despite many limitations, addressed the team's needs during the offseason. But many of their signings were only one-year deals. Which players do they want to bring back? Many players on Oakland’s roster are auditioning this season.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Offense: Pass protection
Philip Rivers needs to be protected, which San Diego hasn’t been able to do lately. Although the Chargers used a first-round pick on D.J. Fluker, who is a much better run-blocker than pass-blocker, I don’t see noticeable upgrades on the offensive line. I also don’t see much upside or potential star power in the group. Changing the scheme could help by getting the ball out of Rivers’ hands quicker, but he could be headed for another punishing season.

Defense: Time to step up
The Chargers have several promising young defensive players who could be ready to break out. Eric Weddle is among the league’s best safeties, and Corey Liuget has already established himself as a real force on San Diego’s defensive line. Kendall Reyes might not be far behind Liuget and should become more of a household name this season. Manti Te’o could have an instant impact in his rookie season and pair with Donald Butler to be one of the better inside linebacker tandems in the league.

Wild card: Receiver situation
Antonio Gates isn’t what he once was, but he still makes plays and Rivers trusts him. The Chargers have many other receiving options now: Danario Alexander, Malcom Floyd, Keenan Allen, Vincent Brown, Robert Meachem, Eddie Royal, John Phillips, Ladarius Green, Danny Woodhead and Ronnie Brown. How will that sort out? My favorites are Allen, Vincent Brown and Green. Getting these young weapons plenty of reps could pay off in the long term for San Diego.
Mid-week mail call:

Marco from San Jose wants to know which, free-agent cornerback pickup, Mike Jenkins or Tracy Porter, will help the Oakland Raiders more this season.

Bill Williamson: I think Jenkins has the first chance to start opposite first-round pick, D.J. Hayden, assuming Hayden’s recovery from surgery goes as expected. I think the Raiders see Porter as the No. 3 cornerback. All three will be on the field a lot, but I think Jenkins has more ability than Porter at this point.

Derek from San Diego wants to know if I think the Chargers could trade receiver Robert Meachem before the season starts.

BW: I highly doubt it. The Chargers have to find a desperate team. Meachem is owed $5 million guaranteed. It is virtually impossible to think any team would take on that type of money for a bottom-of-the-rotation player.

Benjamin Ford from Ramona, Calif., wants to know if I think the Raiders could re-sign JaMarcus Russell now that he is trying to get back in the league with an inexpensive contract.

BW: I appreciate the question, Benjamin, but no. No. No. No. I don’t care if Russell offered to play for free, there is no way I could see the Raiders reigniting that relationship.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held earlier Thursday:

Denver

Marty from San Diego: Alex Gibbs is back in Denver, Montee Ball is a great one cut runner, Denver looking to improve run game- does this all add up to more zone blocking? Hasn't really been Fox or Manning's MO.

Bill Williamson: Gibbs is there mostly to work with the young linemen who don't get many reps. The plan is not to change schemes. There will be some ZBS but not a ton. At least, that is the current plan.

Kansas City

Josh from Texas: How is Tony Moeaki doing?

BW: The key with him is health. It seems the new regime is really high on rookie Travis Kelce. Moeaki has skills, but if he is not careful he will be passed by Kelce.

Oakland

Dan Martin from Florence, Colo.: With Rod Streater's performance last year as a rookie Raider, do you think he will be Oakland’s top receiver this year? All I've heard about is Moore and Criner.

BW: I wouldn't be shocked if Streator becomes an upper-level player. Like him a lot. He'll be a big part of it.

San Diego

Derek from Bristol, Va.: Do you see Malcom Floyd being a Charger next year after his contract expires? And do you also see Royal and or Meachem having a bounce back year?

BW: Maybe on Floyd is if he has a really nice season. But the Chargers are moving forward with the idea of having Brown, Allen and Alexander as their top guys. As for Royal and Meachem, anything they can offer this year will be a bonus.
We continue our AFC West positional rankings with a strong group of receivers:

1. Demaryius Thomas, Denver: Thomas is developing into one of the best receivers in the NFL. He has it all -- and he has Peyton Manning.

2. Wes Welker, Denver: Welker has a specific role, but you can’t argue with his production. He is a special player.

3. Dwayne Bowe, Kansas City: Bowe was No. 1 on this list last year. He hasn’t regressed. He is still top-notch. But the group is better.

4. Eric Decker, Denver: Decker completes what is probably the best trio of receivers in the NFL.

5. Donnie Avery, Kansas City: There is a drop-off here. But Avery is a pro. The free-agent pickup will help the Chiefs.

6. Denarius Moore, Oakland: Moore is a good, young player. He didn’t make the strides he was expected to in Year Two, but the skills are there.

7. Vincent Brown, San Diego: Brown can zoom up the list this season. Big things were expected in 2012, but he missed the entire season with a broken ankle.

8. Danario Alexander, San Diego: He came off the street and made a difference last season. He has big ability. Health is the only question.

9. Malcom Floyd, San Diego: How much has this group improved? Floyd was second on this list a year ago.

10. Rod Streater, Oakland: I wouldn’t be surprised if Streater makes a big leap on this list next year. He was very polished as an undrafted free agent in 2012.

11. Jon Baldwin, Kansas City: The Chiefs are still waiting for the talented 2011 first-round pick to develop.

12. Keenan Allen, San Diego: I expect the rookie to be an instant contributor. The Chargers got a steal in the third round of the draft.

13. Jacoby Ford, Oakland: If he can stay healthy, Ford can make an impact.

14. Dexter McCluster, Kansas City: McCluster can finally make an impact in Andy Reid’s offense.

15. Juron Criner, Oakland: He opened eyes in camp as a rookie, but didn’t do much last season. Still, a solid developmental player.

16. Robert Meachem, San Diego: He can still show something after being a total dud as a free-agent pickup last season.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

How does each team look at wide receiver and what still needs to be done?

Denver

The Broncos made the biggest free-agency splash in the AFC West by signing New England slot machine Wes Welker.

He has led the NFL in receptions over the past six seasons and is joining a quarterback, Peyton Manning, who has long had a connection with his slot receivers. The Welker addition gives Denver arguably the best group of receivers in the NFL.

Welker joins young receivers Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker. Both players flourished while playing with Manning last season. With these skilled players, someone is going to be open. Finding a way to defend this trio will be a major task for every defensive coordinator that faces Denver.

Kansas City

This position is going to be in the spotlight because new head coach Andy Reid loves the passing game.

It all starts with top receiver Dwayne Bowe. There is a reason the new Kansas City brass gave Bowe a huge contract to keep him from leaving in free agency. Reid is going to build his passing game around Bowe. Bowe has big ability and can be a top receiver. Yes, he still drops passes and he has to show he will still be hungry after getting the big contract. But he can play.

The Chiefs made an underrated addition in Donnie Avery. He had 60 catches for the Colts last season. He can stretch the field. Reid will find ways for Avery to help. Reid is also a fan of tiny Dexter McCluster, who can line up in several different spots. Perhaps he can fill a DeSean Jackson-like role for Reid.

The team also has a slot option in Devon Wylie. A big question mark, of course, is 2011 first-round pick Jon Baldwin. He has made little impact. He looks good in camp but disappears on the field. Reid gave him a lukewarm endorsement recently. Baldwin has talent, but it’s time he shows it. I think we could see the Chiefs draft another bigger receiver in the middle rounds, but I think the team will try to rely on Bowe, Avery and McCluster this season and hope others develop.

Oakland

The Raiders have a familiar theme at this position. They are young and promising, but they are also unproven. That has been the story with this unit for a few years. They Raiders have loaded up on young receivers, but none have shown they can be a proven starter.

The team released 2009 No. 7 overall pick Darrius Heyward-Bey this year. He joins fellow young, promising receivers Chaz Schilens and Louis Murphy as those who have been jettisoned in the recent past after not fulfilling hopes. But the cupboard is not bare. Again, we need to see these players take the next step.

The two players who probably will get the first chance are Denarius Moore and Rod Streater. Moore, a fifth-round pick in 2011, had a decent season last year -- 51 catches for 741 yards and seven touchdowns. But he was inconsistent and didn’t make the expected strides after his rookie season. Still, he has ability, and the Raiders need him to show he can be a No. 1 receiver. Streater had 39 catches as an undrafted rookie. He looks very promising and is a hard worker. If Streater and Moore can grow together, the Raiders might be onto something for the future.

Small receiver Jacoby Ford has big-play capability, but he is injury prone. Still, he will get a chance to show he can help. Juron Criner, a fifth-round pick last year, was a camp star and made a few plays in the season. He has a chance to develop as well. The Raiders have a lot of needs, but I can see them adding another receiver to the mix. Again, this group is full of potential. Now it’s time Oakland gets major production from that potential.

San Diego

The Chargers can use some receiving help. They have other needs, but I can see them taking a receiver as early as the second round. If the season started now, Malcom Floyd would be the team’s No. 1 receiver and he is more of a No. 2 receiver.

But there is hope. Danario Alexander made an impact last season. He was a former prospect who fell through the cracks because of injuries. He is a restricted free agent, and it wouldn't be out of the question for another team to sign him to an offer sheet. The Chargers would like to keep him. He has great size, big ability and he forged a nice chemistry with quarterback Philip Rivers.

The team is also excited about Vince Brown. He missed all of last season after suffering a broken ankle in the preseason. He came on strong as a rookie and will have a role. There also are Robert Meachem and Eddie Royal. Both signed last year and both gave minimal production.

They will be given a chance, but the Chargers want to see Alexander and Brown continue to develop. It would not hurt the team to go find a young receiver it could try to develop quickly.

Wrap-up: Chargers 34, Steelers 24

December, 9, 2012
12/09/12
5:27
PM ET

A look at an impressive 34-24 win for the San Diego Chargers:

What it means: The Chargers finally played like a winning team Sunday. They had lost seven of eight games going into this game and looked incapable of winning. But they went on the road and hammered a team with designs for the playoff. San Diego is 5-8 and has faint playoff hopes. It was the first time San Diego has won at Pittsburgh in the regular season after going 0-14 there.

Doesn’t change much: The win very likely won’t change the fact that coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith will probably be fired after the season. There have been multiple reports that ownership will make a change. Turner was saved by the team’s strong play at the end of the previous season. That likely won’t work this year, but it's a nice win for Turner.

Rivers is sharp: San Diego quarterback Philip Rivers had a good day. He threw three touchdown passes and did not commit a turnover despite playing without three starting offensive lineman and without center Nick Hardwick at times.

Yardage woes continued: The Chargers had 294 yards of offense, marking the fourth straight game they had fewer than 300. The last time that happened was 1999.

Running game still lacking: Last week, the Chargers ran the ball just 11 times. They went back to the run this week as they ran for 94 yards on 36 carries. Ryan Mathews had just 65 yards on 25 carries.

Alexander continues to shine: Receiver Danario Alexander, signed off the street earlier this season, had 88 yards on seven catches. Alexander has a chance to be a big part of the Chargers’ future. He has 33 catches for 555 yards in seven games. Newly signed Michael Spurlock had seven catches for 64 yards. Big-ticket free-agent pickup Robert Meachem? No catches. He hasn’t had a catch in the past three games and he has just 14 catches this season. And yes, his contract is guaranteed next season.

What’s next: The Chargers go home to face Carolina and former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera in Week 15.

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