AFC West: Rodney Hudson

Some options for the Chiefs' OL

March, 10, 2014
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The NFL’s free-agent signing period begins Tuesday. Though teams have been able to talk with the representatives of prospective free agents since Saturday, no contracts can be signed until Tuesday.

Once that moment arrives, it shouldn’t take long for the Kansas City Chiefs to lose their left tackle of their last six seasons, Branden Albert. He reportedly will sign with the Miami Dolphins shortly after the signing period begins.

The Chiefs have two other free agent offensive linemen who could strike a deal with another club. Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asamoah shared the starting right guard spot last season and one or both could depart as well. Though Albert is a Pro Bowler and plays a premium position, it would hurt the Chiefs more to lose Schwartz and Asamoah than Albert. The Chiefs began preparing for the eventuality they would lose Albert from the day they drafted Eric Fisher with the first overall choice last year. The Chiefs have Fisher and Donald Stephenson to play tackle and they believe both will soon develop into high-quality players.

The Chiefs don’t have that kind of depth in the middle of their line. In center Rodney Hudson and left guard Jeff Allen they have two young players in the same category as Fisher and Stephenson. But the rest of their offensive linemen are in the developmental category.

If the Chiefs lose Schwartz or Asamoah or both, they could turn to the draft to replace them. The Chiefs have the 23rd pick, but that’s their only selection among the top 86. They traded their second-round pick to San Francisco in last year’s deal that brought quarterback Alex Smith. One of the best guards is Stanford’s David Yankey. The Chiefs could plug him in as their right guard from the start. One problem with using a rookie there is that the Chiefs already have a young offensive line. If the Chiefs lose Albert, Asamoah and Schwartz, Stephenson becomes the oldest of their linemen and he doesn’t turn 26 until September. Hudson, with three years of experience, is the eldest of the group in that regard.

Free agency is another option for the Chiefs. The problem there is that, according to Pro Football Focus, Schwartz and Asamoah are the best available free-agent guards. PFF has them rated 1 and 2, so the Chiefs would be taking a step or two backward no matter whom they sign, in theory at least.

The Chiefs could also promote into the starting lineup one of the developmental linemen on their roster. They have three: Eric Kush, Rishaw Johnson and Rokevious Watkins. The Chiefs got a peek at all three when they started the final regular-season game last year in San Diego. Each had a negative grade in the game, according to PFF’s system. Watkins particularly struggled with his pass blocking and Kush his run blocking. Johnson distinguished himself in neither area.

One of them could wind up in the Chiefs’ starting lineup next season. Those chances increase if the Chiefs fail to re-sign either Asamoah or Schwartz.

Friday's Chiefs practice report

October, 4, 2013
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For having 14 players, including 10 regulars, on this week's injury report, the Kansas City Chiefs look like they will be in decent shape for Sunday's game at Tennessee. The only players who have already been ruled out are two rookies, starting right tackle Eric Fisher (concussion) and backup tight end Travis Kelce (knee).

Three starters are listed as questionable to play on Sunday: cornerback Brandon Flowers (knee), free safety Kendrick Lewis (ankle) and tight end Anthony Fasano (ankle/knee). Flowers didn't play in last week's game against the New York Giants, but said after practice that he was far ahead physically from where he was at this point last week and that he would play against Tennessee.

Nine players are listed as probable to play in Sunday's game, including running back Jamaal Charles (blisters on his feet). The problem was so severe early in the week that Charles had to miss practice on Wednesday. But Charles, like Flowers, said he would play against the Titans.

The others listed as probable include five regulars: guards Jeff Allen (groin) and Jon Asamoah (knee), center Rodney Hudson (shin), fullback Anthony Sherman (knee) and punter Dustin Colquitt (knee). Also listed as probable are tight end Sean McGrath (knee), cornerback Marcus Cooper (knee/thigh) and linebacker James-Michael Johnson (thumb).

Chiefs roster predictions, part I

August, 28, 2013
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Not much intrigue left to the preseason for the Kansas City Chiefs. Just trying to stay healthy through Thursday night’s final exhibition game against the Green Bay Packers at Arrowhead Stadium.

That, and the final round of roster cuts that loom afterward. The Chiefs, like all NFL teams, must trim their active roster from 75 to 53 players by Saturday evening.

Here’s my prediction on how their roster will look for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Jaguars in Jacksonville, Fla., at offensive positions and in the kicking game. I’ll post defensive predictions later today.

Quarterback (3): Alex Smith, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray. This might be the only position where there is no intrigue. They are set and in this order on the depth chart.

Running back (4): Jamaal Charles, Anthony Sherman, Knile Davis, Shaun Draughn. The only real mystery here is whether the Chiefs keep Draughn or Cyrus Gray as the third halfback. Draughn has been more productive than Gray. The Chiefs don’t use their fullback enough to keep more than just Sherman.

Wide receiver (6): Dwayne Bowe, Donnie Avery, Dexter McCluster, Junior Hemingway, Devon Wylie, A.J. Jenkins. This position has come into focus since the Chiefs traded Jon Baldwin and released Terrance Copper. Bowe and Avery are the starters, McCluster the slot receiver. Hemingway has been steady during camp and the preseason and deserves a spot. Wiley and Jenkins are fast, and coach Andy Reid likes speed. The Chiefs might also keep undrafted rookie Rico Richardson, who caught the touchdown pass in overtime in Pittsburgh last week, but I’m not going to predict that.

Tight end (4): Anthony Fasano, Tony Moeaki, Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris. The shoulder injury to Moeaki might lead the Chiefs to place him on the injured-reserve list. Either way, the Chiefs will need to keep another tight end now, and that’s likely to be Harris. A former basketball player who didn’t play football in college, Harris needs more time to develop, so the Chiefs might be in search of veteran help at this position.

Offensive line (8): Branden Albert, Eric Fisher, Donald Stephenson, Jeff Allen, Jon Asamoah, Geoff Schwartz, Rodney Hudson, Eric Kush. Stephenson is too good to be a backup for long. He and Schwartz will be the first reserves off the bench. Kush is a developmental player.

Specialists (3): Ryan Succop, Dustin Colquitt, Thomas Gafford. They’re the only players still on the roster at their respective positions.
Our AFC West positional rankings series continues with a look at a young group of offensive linemen:

1. Ryan Clady, Denver: He was great in 2012. Denver is trying to secure him long term.

2. Branden Albert, Kansas City: Albert is not elite, but he is way above average. The Chiefs want to keep him with a long-term deal.

3. Zane Beadles, Denver: This big, athletic guard broke out in 2012.

4. Stefen Wisniewski, Oakland: I’m a big Wisniewski fan. Some scouts think he is better at guard than at his current center spot, but he is terrific anywhere.

5. Jared Veldheer, Oakland: The left tackle has gotten massive. He has big ability, but needs more consistency.

6. Eric Fisher, Kansas City: The Chiefs expect important impact at right tackle from the No. 1 overall draft pick.

7. Louis Vasquez, Denver: This massive guard was a huge pickup for Denver.

8. Nick Hardwick, San Diego: The venerable center is the anchor of a rebuilding line.

9. Orlando Franklin, Denver: A huge, nasty right tackle who fits the offense well.

10. D.J. Fluker, San Diego: Drafted with the No. 11 overall pick to play right tackle, his eventual spot may be right guard.

11. Jon Asamoah, Kansas City: A young, steady guard.

12. Max Starks, San Diego: A big mauler who will fill the left tackle hole for the Chargers.

13. Chad Rinehart, San Diego: An underrated offseason pickup that will play left guard.

14. Geoff Schwartz, Kansas City: Versatile free-agent pickup will find a way to help.

15. Jeff Allen, Kansas City: Like Schwartz, Allen can play anywhere.

16. J.D. Walton, Denver: The center is coming off an injury.

17. Rodney Hudson, Kansas City: Ditto.

18. Menelik Watson, Oakland: I think this raw but talented right tackle wins the starting spot.

19. Jeromey Clary, San Diego: Replaced right tackle is likely to start at right guard.

20. Donald Stephenson, Kansas City: This second-year player is good depth for the Chiefs.

21. Mike Brisiel, Oakland: A bad fit for the power-blocking scheme, he is likely in his last year in Oakland.

22. King Dunlap, San Diego: A lower-level swing player.

23. Tony Bergstrom, Oakland: Has a chance to start. Raiders were hoping for a quicker adjustment by the 2012 third rounder.

" Denver guard Chris Kuper would be on this list, but he is expected to be cut at some point because of injuries.
NFC Eight in the Box: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

A look at key players for each AFC West team who are coming back from injuries:

Denver Broncos: Center J.D. Walton is coming back from a broken ankle. He was lost for the season after getting injured in Week 4 last year. Walton is a young, promising center. The 2010 draft pick started all 36 NFL games for which he was healthy. He is a tough, hard-nosed player who has solid potential. Walton was building a good working relationship with Peyton Manning when he was hurt. Now that he is healthy, it’s time to continue to build that relationship.

Kansas City Chiefs: Center Rodney Hudson broke his leg in Week 3 last year and was lost for the season. The injury was particularly frustrating for Hudson because he was just beginning his starting career. The 2011 second-round pick watched as a rookie. He had a strong training camp and he played well before his injury. Now, entering his third NFL season, Hudson in a lot of ways is still a rookie. There is no doubt he is a starting-quality player, but he is still learning the game as he now adjusts to playing in Andy Reid’s system and to playing with new quarterback Alex Smith. For Hudson, this is another learning year.

Oakland Raiders: Explosive receiver/returner Jacoby Ford missed all of last season with a foot injury. The same injury cost him six games the previous season. Ford has big ability as both a receiver and a returner. He has had some terrific games for Oakland. But I don’t get the sense this Oakland regime, which has never seen Ford healthy, is counting on him. The Raiders have several young, promising receivers and they just signed a similar player in Josh Cribbs. Yet, the group is a work in progress. If Ford can bounce back and stay healthy, there will be a place for him. The Raiders would happily give Ford a chance to contribute if the foot cooperates. If not, he could be on his way out in Oakland.

San Diego Chargers: The Chargers are counting the minutes to get receiver Vincent Brown back on the field. They think he can be a star. Brown came on strong toward the end of his rookie season in 2011 and then was outstanding in training camp. However, he broke his ankle in the preseason and was lost for the entire 2012 season. The Chargers’ offense badly missed him. He is now healthy, and the Chargers are going to unleash Brown. He should be a major focal point of the offense. Brown and quarterback Philip Rivers were building a strong chemistry, and they will continue to work on it in training camp.

What is Scott Pioli's future?

December, 31, 2012
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Kansas City Chiefs owner Clark Hunt is clearly mulling different options and I think he is open to keeping general manager Scott Pioli.

I think one of the ways this could happen is if Hunt decides to hire a coach who is powerful enough to run a big part of the organization and allow Pioli to operate as a top decision maker behind the scenes.

That’s how Pioli made his name in New England. He was Bill Belichick’s right-hand man. In that role, Pioli worked on personnel moves and such. For that to work in Kansas City the right coach would have to be brought in and everyone would have to be on board.

Hunt hasn’t closed the door on Pioli yet and if he does stay, it’s clear it will be in a reduced role. Hunt has said the coach and general manager will report directly to him.

Meanwhile, Kansas City center Ryan Lilja told the Kansas City Star he is retiring. He had a nice season. The Chiefs will be fine because youngster Rodney Hudson will be coming back from an injury. The team likes him. But Lilja’s leadership will be missed.

Fox Sports is reporting the Chiefs will interview Atlanta special teams coach Keith Armstrong. The Chiefs are also talking to Atlanta offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter. I think both may be long shot candidates.

Meanwhile, Hunt sent emails to season-ticket holders Monday, promising better days ahead.

In other AFC West news:

The NFL Network reported that the Chargers have been granted permission to speak to 49ers’ executive Tom Gamble about San Diego's general manager’s job. Gamble is a hot candidate.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter is reporting Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will interview with Chicago and Arizona. McCoy is also a hot candidate. I expect him to get a job.

AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky thinks recently-fired Oakland offensive coordinator Gregg Knapp could provide instant help to his former team, Houston, in the playoffs.

I wonder if the Raiders will consider making offensive assistant Al Saunders Knapp’s replacement. He did a fine job under Hue Jackson in 2011.

Oakland coach Dennis Allen said he doesn’t plan to make any other coaching changes. He needs to find an offensive coordinator, special teams coach, offensive line coach and a linebackers coach. Allen had some issues filing his staff last year as far not getting his first choice. Now, he will have a jump on the process and this will give him a chance to build a better staff.

ESPN columnist Ashley Fox thinks the Broncos are heading toward a victory parade.

Chiefs talk to former center

September, 28, 2012
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Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel confirmed that retired center Casey Wiegmann visited the team. He could join the team at some point, but nothing appears close to happening on that front. Wiegmann retired after last season.

His replacement, Rodney Hudson, is out for the season with a broken leg. Guard Ryan Lilja is now at center and rookie Jeff Allen has replaced Lilja at guard. The two played well Sunday at New Orleans after Hudson was hurt.

Meanwhile, Crennel said tight end Kevin Boss is not expected to play for the second straight week because of a concussion. Running back Peyton Hillis (ankle) is doubtful, Crennel said. Defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey may be a game-time decision.
Rodney Hudson -- the center of the present and future in Kansas City -- has been lost for the season with a knee injury. The Chiefs placed Hudson on the injured reserve list Wednesday.

This blow is two-fold. One, it dramatically changes the Chiefs’ offensive line, and two, it stunts the development of a good, young player.

For the immediate future, the Chiefs will likely do what they did Sunday when Hudson got hurt. Guard Ryan Lilja moved to center and rookie Jeff Allen took his place at guard. Newly signed Russ Hochstein can challenge or give insurance to Allen at guard if this is the way the Chiefs go. The team was hoping Allen would start next year. Hochstein can also play center.

The team also signed center Bryan Mattison. He has four NFL starts. He will provide depth at center.

For Hudson, this ends a promising first year as a starter. The team was very happy with his play. Hudson will be back next year, but instead of getting a full season’s worth of experience in his second NFL season, he will be beginning his third season with just four games (he started once last year) of starting experience.

Ultimately, I think the Chiefs will survive this move because of the experience of Lilja and the insurance of Hochstein if Allen struggles.

UPDATE: Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel confirmed Wednesday that Lilja will be the starter at center and Allen will start at guard moving forward.

Report: Chiefs sign vet O-lineman

September, 25, 2012
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With starting center Rodney Hudson dealing with a knee injury, the Kansas City Chiefs have reportedly signed veteran offensive lineman Russ Hochstein.

Hochstein was in New England with current Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli and head coach Romeo Crennel. Hudson was replaced by Ryan Lilja last week and rookie Jeff Allen took Lilja’s spot. The Hochstein signing gives the Chiefs flexibility if Hudson is going to be out for awhile.

Meanwhile, receiver Tori Gurley tweeted that he has signed with the Raiders. The team has not announced the signing or a corresponding roster move. The Raiders are thin at receiver, especially with starter Darrius Heyward-Bey dealing with concussion and neck injuries that hospitalized him Sunday after a big hit against Pittsburgh. The team expects Heyward-Bey to fully recover, but there has been no word on how long he will be out.

Gurley was on the Vikings’ practice squad. He was previously with Green Bay. He is the third former Packer that Oakland general manager Reggie McKenzie has signed in the past week. McKenzie is a former Green Bay executive.

Schefter: Joe Mays could face ban

September, 24, 2012
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Catching up from a tricky travel day.

There is a chance the Denver Broncos could be without starting middle linebacker Joe Mays for a game.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that the NFL is considering suspending Mays for his violent hit on Houston quarterback Matt Schaub on Sunday. Schaub’s helmet popped off, he fell to the ground and grabbed his head. He later said he lost a piece of his ear on the play. Schefter reports that Mays will at least be fined.

San Diego coach Norv Turner said the Chargers may limit Ryan Mathews' carries in certain areas because of his fumble problems. He lost a fumble near the goal line Sunday in his season debut.

Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel said the team will know more in the coming days about a few key players who were injured in the Chiefs’ overtime win at New Orleans. Receiver Dexter McCluster (elbow), running back Peyton Hillis (ankle) and center Rodney Hudson (knee) were all hurt. It seems like Hillis may have the best chance to play, but it is very early in the process.

Great news that Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey is expected to fully recover from a violent hit he suffered Sunday in the Raiders’ win over the Steelers. Heyward-Bey spent the night in an area hospital, was discharged Monday.

The NFL confirmed Denver coach John Fox was fined $30,000 and defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio was fined $25,000 for their actions against the officials last Monday night at Atlanta. Like I said in a post Sunday, the NFL needed to make some examples and Fox and Del Rio will serve that role for other coaches as the replacement officials continue to work.

The Chargers signed lineman Reggie Wells and cut cornerback Greg Gatson. The past two Saturdays, Gatson has been signed and Wells has been cut because of a need at cornerback.

For the first time, San Diego fans voted a player into the team’s hall of fame. The fans voted wildly popular punter Darren Bennett into the hall of fame.

 
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- This isn’t a training camp for the leisurely.

Armed with the best roster the franchise has seen in years, the Kansas City Chiefs are moving quickly under new coach Romeo Crennel. For those who visited the Chiefs camp last year, this pace is foreign.

“There are no wasted moments,” said quarterback Matt Cassel.

The final training camp under former coach Todd Haley will live in infamy in the Heartland. Last season's camp was essentially a three-week walk-through exercise. Haley chose to go that route because he wanted to ease the players back into the program after a lost offseason due the lockout. The plan didn’t work, because the Chiefs were physically and mentally behind the rest of the league. They suffered several major injuries early in the season, were drubbed in early games, and it set the tone for a disappointing season.

However, speed is back in vogue as Crennel tries for success in his second go-round as a head coach. The tempo change has paid off so far. The Chiefs have looked crisp in practices and they were dominant on both sides of the ball against Arizona in the preseason opener last week.

The idea is to keep the forward tempo moving into the season as Kansas City tries to win the AFC West for the second time in three seasons.

“It’s exciting to see what is happening here,” Cassel said. “We have a lot of work to do, but we are all on the same page and all want to have success together.”

THREE HOT ISSUES

1. The ACL Club: In addition to bringing in several free agents, the Chiefs are getting back three standouts. Safety Eric Berry, running back Jamaal Charles and tight end Tony Moeaki all suffered torn ACLs last September, but all are on pace to be major contributors this season.

“All of those guys look great,” Cassel said. “They’re going to help us a lot.”

2. Dwayne Bowe’s absence: It is over now. Bowe signed his franchise tender Friday, a day after camp ended. The Pro Bowl receiver did not participate in the offseason workouts, either. Bowe likely reported in time to learn the system of new offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and get into football shape. With him being out, the Chiefs' offense clicked and it gained a lot of confidence. Having Bowe back heading out of camp should only make this unit stronger

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Romeo Crennel
Denny Medley/US PRESSWIREChiefs coach Romeo Crennel has the respect of his players.
3. Good vibrations: This team is in a good place. The players love playing for Crennel. One of the reasons Crennel was promoted from interim coach was the players’ respect for him. It has continued now that he is the permanent coach. He is the polar opposite of Haley, who was known as somewhat of a loose cannon. Crennel offers a calm, steady hand. Players love that he’s organized and up front. There is a lot of trust.

“They’ve worked hard and they know the possibilities this team has," Crennel said. “Every team feels good about itself this time of year, but this team’s attitude is in the right place.”

REASON FOR OPTIMISM

This is the best overall roster in the AFC West. It is one of the deepest rosters in the AFC. There is proven talent throughout the roster and the team has the right mix of veteran and young players. Still, the Chiefs are the youngest team in the NFL. They are the only team in the league not to have a player over the age of 30.

“When I was on my visit, I just looked up and down this roster and saw so much talent,” free-agent pickup, tight end Kevin Boss said. “It is just loaded with talent.”

When you look at this roster, there isn’t much not to like.

REASON FOR PESSIMISM

The Chiefs will be dismissed as playoff contenders until Cassel proves otherwise. Many don't believe in them because they don’t believe in Cassel, even though he has already delivered a division title in Kansas City. Many scouts don’t think he can be a difference-maker, and that because he is the least talented of the four quarterbacks in the AFC West, he will not be able to overcome the other teams in the division. I believe there is enough talent on the roster to help Cassel lead the Chiefs deep into the playoffs, but he must prove his mettle.

OBSERVATION DECK

  • The rap on No. 11 overall pick Dontari Poe is that the defensive tackle wasn’t productive at Memphis. The Chiefs didn’t feel that way. They reviewed every college snap he ever played and were impressed that he played 60 percent of the snaps at 346 pounds. For what it’s worth, Poe’s college statistics and combine measurables compare favorably to Green Bay’s B.J. Raji, who has become a star after being the No. 9 overall pick in 2009. Poe is two inches taller and nine pounds heavier than Raji, yet he ran a 4.9 40-yard dash at the combine compared to Raji’s 5.23. Poe had nine more tackles and four more quarterback hurries than Raji in college despite the fact Raji played 16 more college games. This is not to suggest Poe is going to be a better NFL player than Raji, but it does take some steam out of the argument that Poe wasn’t a productive college player.
  • [+] EnlargeKansas City's Dontari Poe
    John Rieger/US PRESSWIREThe Chiefs like what they've seen from first-round pick Dontari Poe so far.
    When Bowe held out, Jon Baldwin thrived under the professional guidance of veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper. Some folks in camp think Baldwin is making strides because he is taking cues from Copper and Breaston.
  • Defensive ends Tyson Jackson and Glenn Dorsey are plus players for the Chiefs. Neither is spectacular and they will always get grief for not living up to their draft billing. Dorsey was the No. 5 overall pick in 2008 and Jackson went No. 3 a year later. But both players are excellent run-stuffers and are among the best in the league in that area.
  • While the focus is on Poe at nose tackle, Anthony Toribio and 2011 draft choice Jerrell Powe are also in the mix.
  • Inside linebacker Brandon Siler looks good after missing all of last season with an Achilles injury. He could push Jovan Belcher for playing time.
  • While Haley was known for his ranting and raving on the field, Daboll is also fiery. He scoots around the field, barking instruction.
  • His new teammates love running back Peyton Hillis. His toughness and competitiveness have created buzz during camp.
  • Left tackle Branden Albert is quietly becoming the player the former Kansas City regime thought it was getting when it took him No. 15 overall in 2008. I expect the Chiefs to try to extend the pending free agent at some point. He’s been stellar.
  • I wouldn’t be surprised if the Brady Quinn-Ricky Stanzi battle to be Cassel’s backup continues all season, but with Quinn winning the job initially. The Chiefs like where they stand with both players.
  • The Chiefs are excited about the potential of tight ends Moeaki and Boss. Expect both to have high-profile roles in the offense.
  • Second-year pass-rusher Justin Houston has been terrific, and the Chiefs are bubbling over at what kind of pass-rush combination Tamba Hali and Houston can become.
  • The team appreciates the flexibility of third-year player Dexter McCluster, who has bounced from receiver to running back to receiver again. McCluster may never have a classically defined role, but he will have a role in this offense.
  • Undrafted rookie receiver Josh Bellamy still has a chance to make the 53-man roster, but in a numbers game, he could wind up on the practice squad.
  • So far, so good for new center Rodney Hudson. The second-year player looks comfortable playing with Cassel and vice versa.
  • Camp observers believe kicker Ryan Succop has gotten bigger and stronger, which will help with his field goal range.
  • The team's fourth-round pick, receiver/returner Devon Wylie, is explosive. He will be given a chance to contribute.
  • Keep an eye on defensive end Ropati Pitoitua. He has outplayed 2011 third-round pick Allen Bailey and he may be a keeper.
  • Brandon Flowers’ foot injury has allowed second-year cornerback Jalil Brown to blossom. I expect Brown to be on the field often in the regular season.
  • Fourth-string quarterback Alex Tanney is a curiosity because of his YouTube trick throwing video. But Tanney isn’t making much real football tread in this camp. The best he could hope for in 2012 is the practice squad.
The Denver Broncos made a low-risk, high-reward signing in the form of safety Jim Leonhard on Saturday. The team didn’t announce terms, but has been reported that it is a one-year deal.

Leonhard
Leonhard is a tough, smart player who has been on some good defenses with the Jets and the Ravens. He adds depth to a position where second-year player Quinton Carter will miss the first two preseason games after having minor knee surgery. Right now, Denver’s starting safeties are Mike Adams and Rahim Moore. In addition to playing a big role on defense, Leonhard could also be in the mix to be Denver’s punt returner.

Leonhard has had trouble staying healthy. He has suffered season-ending injuries the past two years with the Jets.

In other AFC West news:

The Kansas City Star reported that veteran Ryan Lilja practiced some at center. That a starting guard would be doing this may mean two things: The Chiefs want Lilja to be ready if first-year starting center Rodney Hudson gets hurt and that rookie Jeff Allen would likely spell Lilja at guard if he slides to center.

A record crowd of 41,304 attended the Broncos’ scrimmage at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Saturday. It was the fourth different single-practice attendance record set this summer. The reason? The power of Peyton Manning.

The Denver Post reported that Broncos tight end Virgil Green had his NFL suspension reduced from four to three games.
As Matt Cassel prepares to play in Brian Daboll’s offense, the Kansas City Chiefs’ quarterback is dealing with another major adjustment.

Facing a new rear end.

The Chiefs are transitioning from center Casey Wiegmann to second-year center Rodney Hudson. Cassel and Hudson have spent major time this offseason, getting acclimated with each other.

So far, so good, says Cassel.

“It’s always different when you have a different rear end in front of you, so to speak,” Cassel said in quotes distributed by the team. “I can’t say enough about Rodney and what he’s done so far.”

Cassel praised Hudson for his ability to mentally grasp the new position.

“He’s done a great job adjusting so far and he’s been handling a lot of calls up front, and he’s done a great job recognizing front and blitzes and doing all that, so like I said, he’s caught up to speed right now and I expect good things from him,” Cassel said of the Hudson, a second-round pick from Florida State in 2011.

One of the reasons why Cassel is confident in Hudson is because he saw Hudson learn from Wiegmann, who has played more than 11,000 consecutive snaps. He is expected to retire.

“Casey Wiegmann is a guy that had an unbelievable career, was a staple for us these last few years, a guy with tremendous experience,” Cassel said. “Now, Rodney is coming up and he’s done a great job so far, and he’s also learned a lot from Casey. I think it was a great year for him to be able to learn from such a professional like Casey.”
We are continuing our divisional position ranking with the offensive linemen. Overall, it is a young group with many players who have potential to move up in future years.

1. Eric Winston, T, Kansas City: Arguably the best right tackle in the NFL. The Chiefs scored major with this free-agent signing.

2. Ryan Clady, T, Denver: Clady’s sack and penalty numbers are up, but he is still an above-average player who should benefit from playing with Peyton Manning.

3. Nick Hardwick, C, San Diego: A strong, reliable player whom the Chargers absolutely had to re-sign.

4. Chris Kuper, G, Denver: Ask any scout about underrated players and Kuper is probably on every list.

5. Jared Veldheer, T, Oakland: The list is getting difficult here. I’m going with Veldheer as the second-best left tackle based on potential. It’s sky-high.

6. Jared Gaither, T, San Diego: If healthy, he can be dominant -- as he showed with the Chargers late last season.

7. Branden Albert, T, Kansas City: Solid, not spectacular, but you can do a lot worse and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Chiefs gave him an extension this season..

8. Stefen Wisniewski, C, Oakland: I like this second-year guard-turned-center a lot. A future star.

9. Mike Brisiel, G, Oakland: Tough, gritty player who is perfect for the zone-blocking offense.

10. Louis Vasquez, G, San Diego: A quiet, solid contributor.

11. Jeromey Clary, T, San Diego: A lot of Chargers fans don’t like him, but he gets the job done.

12. Jon Asamoah, G, Kansas City: This second-year starter looks solid.

13. Ryan Lilja, G, Kansas City: A tough vet who is probably entering his final season as a starter in Kansas City.

14. J.D. Walton, C, Denver: A tough, young starter who still needs to find consistency.

15. Zane Beadles, G, Denver: He has potential, but still needs to grow.

16. Orlando Franklin, T, Denver: He struggled some as a rookie, but there is big potential there.

17. Cooper Carlisle, G, Oakland: He keeps hanging around. The end may be near, but he can zone-block.

18. Rodney Hudson, C, Kansas City: He is poised to start for the first time, taking over for Casey Wiegmann. He could be very good.

19. Tyronne Green, G, San Diego: He is taking over for the great Kris Dielman, who retired. Green has been good as an injury replacement in the past.

20. Khalif Barnes, T, Oakland: He could lose his job to Joe Barksdale if he slips.
One of the main objectives in Kansas City during the OTAs is to get expected new starting center Rodney Hudson up to speed at his position.

Hudson, a second-round draft choice in 2011, is expected to take over as the center. Former starter Casey Wiegmann is expected to retire. The Chiefs took Hudson as a guard/center prospect out of Florida State with an eye on him starting in his second season.

Even though Hudson didn’t play center in college, the Chiefs are confident in him. He has looked strong in OTAs thus far, Kansas City coach Romeo Crennel said.

“One of the things that we wanted to see is what kind of command that he would take of the offensive line,” Crennel told reporters in Kansas City on Friday. “It looks like he’s doing a nice job of it because he’s been asked to (identify) the (middle linebacker) and re-ID on front. He seems to be handling that pretty well. I think that group is working well together. I think that they’re developing that chemistry that you want on your offensive line. So, he’s doing well.”

Hudson practiced at center in college and last year as a rookie. Crennel believes because Hudson is intelligent and competitive, he will have no problem adjusting to the position when the season starts.

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