AFC West: Ryan Grant

Chiefs expect more from Jon Baldwin

November, 5, 2012
11/05/12
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Kansas City Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel admitted that Jon Baldwin hasn’t produced as much as the team had hoped when the second-year receiver was excelling in the offseason.

Baldwin, the No. 26 overall pick in 2011, took advantage of Dwayne Bowe’s holdout in the offseason and in training camp. However, in the regular season, the focus has been on Bowe. He has 45 catches for 571 yards. Baldwin has 15 catches for 213 yards.

“I think Jon, he has not produced as much as we want him to produce or what I anticipated he would produce, particularly after the OTAs because he did a very nice job there,” Crennel told reporters Monday. "But we had a piece missing during the OTAs that came back, and I think that impacted a lot of the passing game. The thing that we have to do is, we have to get Jon more involved than we’ve had him involved and give him an opportunity to be a playmaker for us. That’s one of the things we’re going to try to work on.”

Baldwin is an important piece for Kansas City moving forward and getting him involved is vital. Bowe is likely going to leave as a free agent after the season.

In other AFC West news:

Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen said starting running back Darren McFadden and his backup Mike Goodson both have high ankle sprains. McFadden has not been ruled out for Sunday’s game at Baltimore, but high ankle sprains often take at least a few weeks to heal. The Raiders will likely rely heavily on fullback Marcel Reece at tailback and they pursue a running back. The most notable name available is Ryan Grant.

Oakland tackle Khalif Barnes is expected to practice this week after missing six games. Rookie Tony Bergstrom could get some looks at right tackle. Barnes’ replacement, Willie Smith, has struggled.

Oakland defensive tackle Desmond Bryant has been released from a Bay Area hospital and he is doing well at home. He experienced a fast heart beat and was taken to the hospital during Oakland’s loss to Tampa Bay. He has yet to be cleared to practice.

Cedric Benson won't be a Raider

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
8:35
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The most talked about would-be AFC West tailback is apparently not coming out west.

Free-agent running back Cedric Benson is on the verge of signing with Green Bay, according to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen. Oakland has been linked to Benson for a couple of months. Also, his name was linked to San Diego earlier Friday, a day after the Chargers lost starting running back Ryan Mathews for 4-6 weeks with a broken clavicle. However, San Diego coach Norv Turner said Friday the Chargers aren’t going to bring in a veteran.

With Benson likely off the market, the top available running back is former Green Bay tailback Ryan Grant.

This can’t be crushing news for Oakland. Even though the Raiders reportedly talked to Benson earlier this offseason, he'd be a Raider by now if Oakland really wanted him. He hadn’t gotten much interest on the market, but the Raiders clearly didn’t feel the need for Benson.

With the veteran market all but dried up, it is a bit scary for the Raiders who are inexperienced behind of-injured starting tailback Darren McFadden. But Oakland knew this and it was comfortable, so seeing Benson go to Green Bay can’t be overly troublesome for the Oakland brass.

In other AFC West news:
  • Oakland running back Mike Goodson was riding a bike at practice Friday. It's a sign he's on the mend from a neck injury that caused him to be temporarily hospitalized Tuesday.
  • Oakland tight end Brandon Myers was shaken up in practice Friday. Oakland coach Dennis Allen said Myers, a favorite to start at tight end, has a shoulder surgery. It could be a concern for the team.

Chargers not looking for new RB

August, 10, 2012
8/10/12
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Naturally, a big question amongst San Diego Chargers fans Friday is will the team pursue a veteran running back with Ryan Mathews out for 4-6 weeks with a broken clavicle.

Mathews
Well, the question has been answered.

According to U-T San Diego, Chargers coach Norv Turner said Friday that the team wouldn’t pursue a veteran running back while Mathews is out. Mathews could miss the first two games of the season. The top running backs available are Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant.

Turner explained that the Chargers won’t look for a veteran because the team has depth behind Mathews. Among the running backs in camp are Ronnie Brown, Jackie Battle and Curtis Brinkley. Rookies Michael Hayes and Edwin Baker are also in the mix. Fullback Le’Ron McClain can also run the ball.

I’d think that if Mathews’ injury was more serious the Chargers would look to add another back. But because he will be ready for most of the season, I can see why the Chargers are going to plan to stick with their stable of backups in the short term.

Also, I wonder if Benson and/or Grant would be interested in signing with a team in which the starter is out for a short period of time. They might want to stay patient and see if a better situation opened. Also, Benson and Grant aren’t great fits, according to Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. He said neither player offers anything as a receiver and wouldn’t be a fit for Turner’s offense.

So there are a lot of reasons why the Chargers are leaning to stand pat while Mathews is out.
The running back class was one of the slowest to develop in the early stages of free agency, and there are still a few capable players available on the market.

Don’t be surprised if some of the AFC West teams look into the position now that the draft is complete. Denver drafted San Diego State’s Ronnie Hillman in the third round, and San Diego draft Michigan State’s Edwin Baker in the seventh. Oakland didn’t draft a running back. Kansas City, which drafted Cyrus Gray of Texas A&M, appears set at the position.

Yet, I could see the Broncos, Chargers and Raiders looking for a veteran with Oakland being the most likely to add a veteran as they try to replace Michael Bush, who left for Chicago in free agency. As of now, Taiwan Jones and Mike Goodson are backing up the great, but oft-injured Darren McFadden

Among the best names available are Cedric Benson, Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai. Other running backs available include Tim Hightower, Justin Forsett and Ronnie Brown.

I think Benson can help any team, and I think he’d be a great fit in Oakland. He had 1,067 yards last season. He’d be a strong insurance policy for McFadden. Finances are an issue for Oakland, but, at this point, Benson would likely take what he can get.

The Addai-Peyton Manning connection from Indianapolis always makes it possible that Addai could join Willis McGahee and Hillman in Denver’s backfield. San Diego could add a veteran, and they have talked to Kansas City free agent Jackie Battle.

AFC West draft thoughts

April, 28, 2012
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The Kansas City Chiefs are obviously happy with Matt Cassel as their quarterback. They inspected several of the top quarterbacks, but in the end, Kansas City did not add one in the draft.

Instead, like they did in free agency, the Chiefs built around Cassel. Thus, Cassel has at least one more year in Kansas City to prove he can be a difference-maker.

With the 250th pick, the Chargers stole Michigan State running back Edwin Baker. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper thought Baker was the eighth best running back in the draft. He has some fumbling issues, but he has real ability and he can grow into a good player.

San Diego got a potential future starter in Michigan center David Molk. He is very strong and he is battler. He could be Nick Hardwick’s eventual successor. The Chiefs got nice value in Michigan receiver Junior Hemingway. He was the Sugar Bowl MVP and he is a strong possession receiver. He was way under-valued.

Chiefs’ fourth-round pick, Fresno State receiver Devon Wylie, has often drawn comparisons to New England’s Wes Welker. The man who picked Wylie, Scott Pioli, of course, was in New England with Welker.

Wylie and Oakland fourth-round pick, San Diego State linebacker Miles Burris went to high school together in Granite Bay, California, near Sacramento.

Denver could use their fourth-round pick, center Philip Blake, at guard as well.

I wonder if the Chargers will still look for a veteran running back with Baker on board. The Chargers, and perhaps Oakland, are looking for a veteran free agent running back since they didn’t add one in the draft. There are some solid veterans available who can fill a backup role. Among the veterans available are Ryan Grant, Cedric Benson, Joseph Addai and Tim Hightower.

The Raiders did not draft any cornerbacks despite studying several extensively. The Raiders’ two starting cornerbacks are Ronald Barrtell and Shawntae Spencer. They are both 30 and are both signed to one-year deals.

Denver sixth-round pick, Kentucky linebacker, Danny Trevathan, compiled 287 tackles in the past two seasons. Watch him make an impact on special teams as a rookie.

New Denver quarterback Brock Osweiler worked out with Tim Tebow earlier this offseason when Tebow was still a Bronco.

Denver third-round pick, running back Ronnie Hillman, won’t turn 21 until September.

Oakland seventh-round pick, linebacker Nathan Stupar, is the nephew of former Oakland quarterback Jeff Hostetler.
Here are some highlights from our AFC West chat, which was held Thursday:

Denver

Jared from DC: Denver looking for RBs only in Draft? See Any WRs for Denver coming there?

Bill Williamson: Likely look at RBs in the draft. I think the added WRS will be vets. Just signed Andre Caldwell. Stokley may be next.

Kansas City

Kevin from Kansas City, Mo.: With the added strength at OL and all our starters coming back off injury, can the Chiefs or any other AFC West team compete with Peyton and the Broncos over the next five years? Or should we all just take 5 and come back when the West isn't won? UGH can't stand PM why did he have to choose the AFC West?

BW: You are fine. I think Manning will be very good for three years. But the Chiefs are going to be good as well. I really like what your team did in free agency. Manning is the big fish, but Kansas City has done well.

Oakland

Chuck from New York City: With Bush now in Chicago, do you envision the Raiders signing another backup RB in addition to the injury-prone Jones or trying to get another through the draft?

BW: Oakland, Denver and San Diego all need a backup. Here are some of the best players available: Cedric Benson, Brandon Jacobs, Ryan Grant, Joseph Addai, Justin Forsett, Jackie Battle and Kevin Smith. The market has been slow so some of these players could come cheaply. I think Jacobs would be a nice replacement for Bush if the price is right.

San Diego

Andrew De Fazio from Canada: Who do you think the Chargers will draft with the 18th overall pick? or will they trade up?

BW: They will probably stay put. They will have a lot of choices. However, if they far in love with someone like Melvin Ingram or Courtney Upshaw, they may need to move up.
It was almost 12 hours ago when I first reported that San Diego Chargers running back Mike Tolbert has signed a four-year deal with the Carolina Panthers. I ended the short post by saying I would have more on the story later.

I should have indicated it would be much, much later. I guess I got sidetracked by another little story that developed in the AFC West.

Anyway, without further ado, here are some thoughts on Tolbert’s departure:

I don’t like it.

Last month, I wrote the Chargers couldn’t afford to lose another running back. Last year, they saw Darren Sproles go to New Orleans and he was missed. So will Tolbert.

He is a stud in short yardage, he has nice hands, he is a fine blocker, and he is great on special teams. Winning teams have players like Tolbert.

Ryan Mathews will need a new complement. Two names to keep an eye on are Kansas City’s Jackie Battle and Oakland’s Michael Bush. Bush is getting interest from the Bengals, Bears and Seahawks. Perhaps the Chargers will join the party. Other running backs available include Cedric Benson, BenJarvus Green-Ellis, Brandon Jacobs, Ryan Grant and Joseph Addai.

The Chargers will see a lot of familiar faces when they play the NFC South in 2012. They will see Tolbert and Sproles as they will see recently departed star receiver Vincent Jackson in Tampa Bay and will face former backup running back Michael Turner when they play the Falcons.

The Chargers' last real priority in-house free agent is defensive tackle Antonio Garay.
It’s not official, but it appears Green Bay executive Reggie McKenzie will be hired as the new general manager of the Oakland Raiders. McKenzie is the first new decision maker in Oakland after the October death of owner Al Davis.

UDPATE: As expected, the Raiders confirmed the hire. There will be a press conference Tuesday.

Here are some initial thoughts:
  • It’s no surprise. McKenzie emerged as the leading candidate shortly after Davis’ death. He clearly impressed the Raiders in his Wednesday interview. While they were expected to look at several other candidates, it was McKenzie all the way.
  • What about Hue Jackson? ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that how much power McKenzie will have will be determined. But remember McKenzie was in a good situation in Green Bay and he would have had other opportunities in the future. He would have likely taken this only if the Raiders gave him significant say in the organization.
  • Where will it leave Jackson? He had been the primary decision maker since October and there have been whispers that perhaps a new general manager would want to bring in his own coach. The fact that the Raiders moved quickly to hire McKenzie may stoke that talk. Will Jackson be replaced? The odds are against it, but crazier things have happened.
  • McKenzie has Raider blood. He was a Raider linebacker from 1985-1988. Davis selected him in the 10th round of the draft nearly 27 years ago. Davis never knew he was choosing his replacement.
  • Former Davis associates Ron Wolf and Ken Herock have some influence with Mark Davis. Herock and Wolf recommended McKenzie to Davis and they were clearly listened to.
  • Are the Raiders going to become Green Bay West? It’s not the worst thing that could happen to the franchise. There has been talk that McKenzie could bring the Ron Wolf's son, Eliot, with him.
  • Does this mean Darren Perry and Winston Moss, two Green Bay assistants, could be in the mix? They were mentioned as head coaching candidates last year. Maybe one of them emerges as a defensive coordinator candidate or as a head coach if a change is made. Green Bay’s key free agents are tight end Jermichael Finley, running back Ryan Grant and quarterback Matt Flynn. None of those players fill an immediate need for the Raiders.
  • When will he be able to start the job? Under league rules, McKenzie can’t be hired until after the Packers’ season. That may not be until February. However, the Packers can let McKenzie move on. I bet they will. He has been a good soldier and it’s not like they need him for next week’s game plan.

I’ve known McKenzie for several years. He is a friendly, quiet and laid back guy. Don’t expect him to be a swash buckler. He is a football man who will put in his work. He will not a be a headlines maker and he won’t make moves just to make moves. He will bring stability to the franchise and will do what it takes to improve the team.

AFC West notes

August, 24, 2011
8/24/11
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ESPN’s Jeffri Chadida reports it is now Dwayne Bowe's job to be a mentor to rookie Jonathan Baldwin in Kansas City. Baldwin came into the league with character concerns and he was reportedly involved in a fight with veteran Thomas Jones. Chadida wonders if Bowe, who has had his own growing pains in the NFL, is ready for the challenge.
  • The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports Green Bay could cut Ryan Grant in early September when the teams make the final-roster cuts. If that’s the case, I could see Denver being among the teams that consider claiming him. The Broncos will have a strong claiming priority (it is currently based on last year’s finish), so they’ve has a good chance of landing Grant if that scenario unfolds. I know Denver has Knowshon Moreno and newly acquired Willis McGahee in the backfield. But if you have a chance to get better (and a healthy Grant is still a good player) you do it.
  • ESPNLA looks at the Chargers’ stadium situation. The Chargers have been considered a favorite to land in Los Angeles. Although, a Chargers’ team employee has said that scenario is not close to happening.
  • If you are looking for an AFC West angle to the Peyton Manning injury, the Chiefs are the only team in the division to play the Colts this season. It is in the fifth week of the season. The Colts signed Kerry Collins as insurance to Manning’s neck injury.

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