AFC West: Thomas Jones

The maturation of Jon Baldwin

August, 24, 2012
8/24/12
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Jon BaldwinShane Keyser/Kansas City Star/Getty ImagesJon Baldwin has made highlight-film catches on a regular basis in training camp.

A year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs could have been forgiven if they had buyer’s remorse after drafting receiver Jon Baldwin with the No. 26 overall pick.

The pick was somewhat surprising because the team had other needs, and the supremely athletic Baldwin was considered a player with the potential to be an off-field problem after having some issues while at the University of Pittsburgh.

At the end of his first NFL training camp, Baldwin reportedly was involved in a locker-room scuffle with then-Chiefs running back Thomas Jones. Baldwin suffered a broken thumb in the incident, which severely affected his rookie season. It wasn’t a great start to a career that was being scrutinized anyway.

Now, however, the Chiefs are not questioning the decision to draft Baldwin. They view him the same way they did when they drafted him. They believe he can be a dynamic player who can make an impact on a varied offense because of his ability as a deep threat.

Most important, the Chiefs like the way Baldwin, who turned 23 this month, is developing off the field.

“I think he has matured a lot in the past year,” Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said late in training camp. “I really like the way he has handled himself.”

[+] EnlargeKansas City's Jon Baldwin
AP Photo/Seth Perlman"I think he has matured a lot in the past year," Chiefs coach Romeo Crennel said of Jon Baldwin.
Baldwin took advantage of the extra repetitions in the offseason program and in training camp while No. 1 receiver Dwayne Bowe was holding out. Bowe reported to the team Aug. 17, and the Chiefs are hopeful he will be ready to make an impact in Week 1. Either way, expect Baldwin to be part of the starting mix when the Chiefs begin the season.

The team was impressed that Baldwin hunkered down and gleaned as much information and knowledge as possible from veteran receivers Steve Breaston and Terrance Copper. They are two of the more respected veterans on the roster because of their professional approach. For a player who needed to gain his team’s trust, it seems Baldwin has done just that this summer.

“Jon has done a great job of taking to the coaching that has been given to him,” Chiefs receivers coach Nick Sirianni said during training camp. “He takes his weaknesses and turns them into strengths. He comes to practice every day, just like all of our guys. He’s a professional trying to improve every day.”

The key to his success, Baldwin said, has been his study habits.

“I take a lot of notes at night. I study those notes so that I don’t come back and make the same mistake,” Baldwin said. “That is one thing Coach Nick jars on; don’t make the same mistake twice. I just make plays, and if there are any corrections needed, I go make the corrections and get better tomorrow.”

Labeled as a “wide target" by quarterback coach Jim Zorn, the 6-foot-4, 230-pound receiver has made highlight-film catches on a regular basis in training camp. Baldwin, who showed flashes of brilliance late in his rookie season, has one catch in the preseason, but he hasn’t been targeted much. Still, quarterback Matt Cassel has praised Baldwin for stretching the field and keeping defenses honest in the preseason.

Expect the targets to rise dramatically for Baldwin in September. There is no doubt Cassel, who has taken Baldwin under his wing since shortly after he was drafted, is a Baldwin believer.

“Unfortunately, he was out with an injury for the first six games of the season,” Cassel said. “This year we had a whole offseason to work together and also all of camp. I feel very comfortable with Jon. He’s making a lot of progress himself.”

Baldwin credits a strong relationship with his quarterback for helping him becoming a better player.

“We talk a lot,” Baldwin said. “He tells me where he wants me to be on certain things and we talk back and forth. It makes the communication a lot better with him. He understands where I’m going to be on certain routes. I know where he’s going to put the ball on certain routes.

“The main thing is trust. One thing I always say to him is that I’m going to try to make every play possible. He understands that and just gives me a chance to make a play. I try to make as many plays as I possibly can for him.”

If the maturation of Baldwin continues, the Chiefs will never regret their once-questioned decision to draft him.

Chiefs Camp Watch

July, 25, 2012
7/25/12
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NFC Camp Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Dates

Three thoughts as training camps open around the NFL

One thing I'm certain of: The pressure is on Matt Cassel. The Chiefs enter training camp feeling highly confident after a strong offseason. Kansas City added several key pieces, and even though it has the youngest roster in the NFL, it has one of the best rosters in the AFC.

Yet, they aren’t getting much national attention and it’s because of Cassel. Few folks believe in him. Fortunately for Cassel, some of the people who believe in him are the Kansas City brass. Instead of replacing Cassel, the Chiefs built around him. And the Chiefs expect Cassel to respond with a strong season. It begins in training camp. All eyes will be on Cassel as we wait to see if he will hold Kansas City back or if he will push them forward.

One thing that might happen: We could see major strides made by Jonathan Baldwin. If so, it will erase memories of a horrible first NFL summer for the 2011 first-round pick. Baldwin’s rookie season was defined (and soiled) by a reported late-training camp fight with then teammate Thomas Jones. Baldwin broke his thumb in the reported incident.

Baldwin, who entered the NFL with some red flags, missed the first five games of the season. He ended up with 21 catches and he flashed some of the superior athleticism that got him drafted in the first round. Baldwin had a good offseason and the Chiefs want him to take a major step in training camp. Let’s see if Baldwin is ready to make training camp positive experience this year.

One thing we won't see: The Big Three will not be overworked in training camp. The Chiefs’ 2011 season was ruined by torn ACL injuries suffered by tight end Tony Moeaki, safety Eric Berry and running back Jamaal Charles within a two week period last September.

The Chiefs expect all three standouts to be ready to play this season, but the team will be cautious. So, don’t expect Moeaki, Berry and Charles to practice full go every day in camp. The team will play it smart and have all three players ready for Week 1 of the regular season.
The Denver Broncos chose Peyton Manning over Tim Tebow and so have NFL fashionistas.

According to NFL.com, the new Denver quarterback’s jersey has been more popular than the former Denver quarterback’s new jersey. From the period of April 1-May 28, Manning’s Denver No. 18 jersey is the biggest selling jersey in the NFL. Tebow’s New York Jets’ No. 15 jersey is the second-best selling jersey.

Denver signed Manning on March 20. The next day, Tebow was sent to the Jets.

The fact that Manning’s jersey is selling better than Tebow's shows substance over style may be winning. Manning is one of the most decorated players in league history, while Tebow has created a stir in the NFL without becoming a true throwing quarterback.

We all know by now who John Elway preferred, and it seems the jersey-buying public agrees.

In other AFC West news:
  • San Diego linebacker Larry English has a groin injury. He should be back next week. Missing OTAs in the late spring is no big deal, but English has to find a way to stay on the field once training camp begins. Thus far, injuries have robbed the No. 16 overall pick of the 2009 draft of trying to have a solid NFL career.
  • Receiver Jonathan Baldwin -- the Chiefs’ first-round pick in 2011 -- has been the talk of the OTAs this spring. I expect to see Baldwin make big strides in his second season. He showed flashes last year after he missed a big chunk of the season because of a broken thumb he reportedly suffered in a fight with running back Thomas Jones.
  • The Chiefs reportedly may host the Arizona Cardinals during training camp.
Jamaal Charles felt “sick” last season having to watch the Kansas City Chiefs' final 14 games while he was out with a torn ACL.

Charles -- who was second in the NFL in rushing yards in 2011 -- has spent the past eight months, vowing to get stronger and better. Charles told reporters in Kansas City on Tuesday that he hopes never to miss significant time again in his career.

“It made me stronger,” Charles said. “It made me the person that I am today, I can’t wait and I know how to take care of my body, how to eat right and do the right things and it’s made me not want to wait to touch that field again. When I touch that field going out there, you’re going to feel my pain; you’re going to go through what I went through. That right there is going to be there for the rest of my career because I don’t want to be out a whole year ever again. That point, at my stage, I’m 25 years old, I’m at the point in my life that I’ve got to win games ... That had me thinking a lot and made me a better player.”

Charles said he is about 80 percent healthy and he is confident he will be ready to go for the season.

“I want it this year,” Charles said. “I’ve got the passion for it. I can be patient. I just can’t wait to play football.”

Charles was pumped to see the Chiefs sign Peyton Hillis in free agency. The Chiefs envision Charles and Hillis being a 1-2 punch. Charles is a breakaway back and Hillis is more of a power back. Charles said there will be no competition or jealousy between the two backs and he wants to be Hillis’ “best friend.”

“I feel like he’s the same as Thomas Jones,” he said. “He’s going to come in and get all the tough yards and all the power and I feel like that was the same thing when Thomas was here. I don’t really care, I’m not a selfish player, and I just want to win. If he can contribute to the team and put points on the board, why not? I don’t care about how many yards; I feel like every week if we win the game, I don’t have any complaints. He came in. We brought him in to win games. We didn’t bring him in to compete with each other, but we’ll compete with each other in a certain way. But I don’t think, 'He’s on this team, I’m on that team, I want to beat him up.' I want to train with him and be his best friend.”

AFC West: Free-agency primer

March, 7, 2012
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AFC Free-Agency Primer: East | West | North | South NFC: East | West | North | South

Free agency begins Tuesday at 4 p.m. ET

Denver Broncos

Key free agents: K Matt Prater (franchised), DT Brodrick Bunkley, S Brian Dawkins, TE Daniel Fells, FB Spencer Larsen, WR Eddie Royal, QB Brady Quinn, DT Marcus Thomas, LB Wesley Woodyard, P Britton Colquitt (restricted).

Where they stand: The Broncos will have plenty of salary-cap room. For a team that went from 4-12 with the No. 2 overall pick in the draft to winning the AFC West and a playoff game in John Fox’s first season as coach, the Broncos are in position to improve through free agency. With Prater franchised, the team’s only priority unrestricted free agent is Bunkley.

What to expect: Don’t expect a huge spending spree. The Broncos are cash conscious and I think the franchise is still recovering from some undisciplined spending during the Mike Shanahan era that ended in 2008. We will see the Broncos try to add several pieces at lower prices. Denver could address needs at safety, running back, receiver, tight end, linebacker and quarterback. Keep an eye on players such as Washington safety LaRon Landry, Seattle tight end John Carlson, quarterbacks Chad Henne (Miami), Dennis Dixon (Pittsburgh) or Josh Johnson (Tampa), running backs Michael Bush (Oakland) and Mike Tolbert (San Diego), and defensive lineman Jonathan Fanene Cincinnati.

Kansas City Chiefs

Key free agents: WR Dwayne Bowe (franchised), CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, RB Jackie Battle, LB Jovan Belcher, S Jon McGraw, C Casey Wiegmann, RB Thomas Jones, DE Wallace Gilberry, DT Kelly Gregg

Where they stand: The Chiefs are in great shape on cap space even after signing cornerback Stanford Routt and franchising Bowe. They have already done a nice job in free agency with these two moves and have a good, young roster. Kansas City can become a serious playoff contender with the right moves. It is likely Carr will leave in free agency, but the Chiefs should be able to re-sign most of their other free agents if they wish.

What to expect: I’m not sure we will see the Chiefs break the bank for any of the super-hot free agents, but I expect them to do some significant shopping. I think we could see Kansas City look for help at nose tackle, linebacker, safety, tackle, running back and quarterback. Of course, the intrigue could start if the team gets in on the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. But they could also look at several other quarterbacks, including Orton, Henne, Jason Campbell (Oakland) or even Quinn. They could also be in the mix for Miami nose tackle Paul Soliai, Saints guard Carl Nicks and running backs BenJarvus Green-Ellis (New England), Bush and Tolbert.

Oakland Raiders

Key free agents: S Tyvon Branch (franchised), RB Michael Bush, QB Jason Campbell, LB Quentin Groves, C Samson Satele, WR Chaz Schilens, DE Trevor Scott, FB Marcel Reece (restricted).

Where they stand: The Raiders are one of the few teams that must get under the salary cap. Oakland coach Dennis Allen recently acknowledged the team has work to do. The Raiders have some contracts that can be easily restructured, but they also may have to cut some players, particularly on defense. Linebacker Kamerion Wimbley and defensive tackle John Henderson are among the top candidates.

What to expect: The Raiders likely face some limitations once they get under the cap, but they can add two or three starting-quality players under the right circumstances. Their primary needs are on defense, starting at cornerback and linebacker. The offensive line could be upgraded as well. I think they can be in on the second wave of cornerbacks. A player to watch is New Orleans cornerback Tracy Porter, who previously played for Allen. There are some solid second-tier cornerbacks Oakland could be interested in other than Porter. There will be some good players available on both sides of the ball after the initial wave of free agency for short-term deals. Expect the Raiders to do some bargain picking during that time. I think Oakland will be interested in signing several of its free agents, but I expect Bush and Campbell will leave.

San Diego Chargers

Key free agents: WR Vincent Jackson, C Nick Hardwick, RB Tolbert, DT Antonio Garay, OT Jared Gaither, FB Jacob Hester.

Where they stand: The Chargers will be in decent shape and they are getting even better after cutting Luis Castillo, the retirement of guard Kris Dielman and the expected release of tackle Marcus McNeill. But San Diego still has a lot of work to do. They have the most priority free agents of any team in the division. Signing Jackson, Hardwick, Gaither, Tolbert and Garay will be a challenge.

What to expect: The Chargers will likely stick to their usual plan and concentrate first on their own free agents. But they also have other needs and they will likely spend more in free agency than they have done before under general manager A.J. Smith. I get the sense from some agents that the Chargers may spend wildy in an attempt to win back the fan base’s trust after the unpopular contract extensions for Smith and coach Norv Turner. The pair were brought back even after missing the playoffs for a second consecutive season. I also get the sense from inside the organization, however, that the Chargers will not act out of desperation. Look for the team to consider pass-rushers, nose tackles, safeties and offensive linemen if Hardwick and Gaither aren’t brought back. A receiver will also become a major need if Jackson goes. The Colts' Reggie Wayne could be an option in that case. A running back such as Cadillac Williams (St. Louis) reportedly will be in the mix if Tolbert walks. Soliai could interest the team as well. Chicago special teams ace Corey Graham may also be a target. If the Chargers want to make a huge splash, they could try to get in on Houston pass-rusher Mario Williams, who is widely considered the best player on the market.
INDIANAPOLIS – Alabama star running back Trent Richardson is the premier player at the NFL combine at his position.

Richardson
Richardson
However, Richardson is unable to show NFL teams he is ready to be the league’s next great back. Richardson had minor knee surgery after suffering an injury in January. He is not participating in drills at the combine. He will have his pro day late in March where he is expected to be fully healed.

While many top prospects don’t do much at the combine, Richardson is upset he is not getting the chance to showcase his skills in Indy.

“I’m very disappointed I can’t do the stuff here that everybody else can do,” Richardson said. “In college, it irked my nerves when I heard guys say they don’t want to this and that at the combine. That’s something that you dream of and want to do your whole life and being a college football player and a competitor, I always wanted to come to this and show all my skills. That’s what the top guys do.”

If you listen to several league observers, expect the Kansas City Chiefs to have keen interest in Richardson’s workout. Many mock drafts have the Chiefs taking Richardson at No. 11.

In my mind, there are a lot of obstacles in the way of that intriguing pairing. The biggest issue is Richardson’s availability. There is a chance Richardson could go as high as No. 5 to Tampa Bay. If Richardson does drop to No. 11, the Chiefs would have to decide if they want to bypass needs at tackle and linebacker to take Richardson.

Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli said Friday that the Chiefs will look at running backs in the draft and in free agency. Starter Jamaal Charles is expected to be ready for training camp after suffering a torn ACL in his knee in September. Kansas City running backs Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones are free agents, so the position is a need area.

If the Chiefs don’t pursue a running back — New England’s BenJarvus Green-Ellis and San Diego’s Mike Tolbert could be possibilities — in free agency, Richardson could be a target.

The blunt Richardson said he is ready to make an impact in the NFL.

“When it comes down to it, I’ll be the dude that’s on the field and getting the ball on third-and-3 or fourth-and-1,” Richardson said. “Not to be cocky or anything, but I work on my game every day, and even if it’s not physical stuff, I work in the classroom learning plays and learning the defensive line and what the linebackers and safeties are doing so I can pick up my blitzes. I love to block. Everybody knows I can run the ball. I’ve never been caught from behind, so if anyone wants to question my speed, just look at the tape. When it comes to playing football, any game you want to, just look at it and try to find a negative.”

That could turn out to be a positive in Kansas City.

Talking with Scott Pioli

February, 24, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli met with the media on Friday afternoon. In addition to talking about the team’s quarterback situation, here are some other highlights:

Pioli said the Chiefs’ three injured stars -- running back Jamaal Charles, safety Eric Berry and tight end Tony Moeaki -- are on schedule to be ready for training camp. All three suffered torn ACLs in their knees in September. Pioli said there aren’t any guarantees that all three will be ready for camp, but the team feels good about each player’s progress.

Pioli said that he thinks this is a strong draft overall, and he really likes the running backs. I expect the Chiefs to look at a running back fairly early in the draft or in free agency. With Charles coming back from injury and Jackie Battle and Thomas Jones being free agents, the Chiefs will need help there. One possibility, I think, is to sign New England’s Benjarvus Green-Ellis in free agency. Pioli signed him as an undrafted free agent in New England.

Pioli said he believes second-year player Rodney Hudson is ready to start at center or guard. His best bet might be at center. Casey Wiegmann is considering retirement, and the team might be ready to move to Hudson, anyway.

Pioli said 2011 first-round pick Jonathan Baldwin has made progress, and is expected to be a contributor in 2012.

Pioli reiterated that he wants to keep receiver Dwayne Bowe and cornerback Brandon Carr, who are headed for free agency. With the Chiefs signing cornerback Stanford Routt this week, the odds of Carr coming back have lessened considerably.

Pioli said he was “heartbroken” to see college scouting director Phil Emery leave to become the Bears’ general manager. Pioli praised Emery extensively and said he will make the city of Chicago proud.

AFC West combine primer

February, 23, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS -- Let’s take a look at what AFC West each team may be seeking during the NFL combine, which starts Thursday:

Will the Raiders still love speed? It became a combine ritual. The Raiders would draft the fastest, or one of the fastest players, at the combine. It happened several times in recent years: Stanford Routt, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Jacoby Ford and DeMarcus Van Dyke. No team in the NFL valued speed more than Al Davis’ Raiders. Davis died in October. Will the Raiders be married to speed now that Reggie McKenzie is the general manager? I’m sure the Raiders will stick to Davis’ values somewhat, but I think it will no longer be automatic to connect the fastest combine runners to the Raiders.

Will the Chargers get their pass-rusher? The Chargers took defensive end Corey Liuget at No. 18 last year and bypassed several pass-rushers in a deep class. This year’s class is not nearly as deep, but the Chargers still need a pass-rusher. Once again, San Diego has the No. 18 pick.

[+] EnlargeMark Barron
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMISafety Mark Barron is one of several Alabama defenders that AFC West teams may take a look at.
Will the Alabama defense roll into the AFC West? Alabama won the BCS championship last season on the strength of a dominant defense. There are several key Alabama defenders who will go early in the draft, starting with linebackers Courtney Upshaw, safety Mark Barron and cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick. I could see all three players drawing interest in the AFC West. I think San Diego would jump on Upshaw if he somehow fell to No. 18, and it could take Barron if it doesn’t address safety in free agency. If Kirkpatrick drops, Denver could take him at No. 25.

Will the Broncos look at quarterbacks? Yes, I believe they will, but it remains to be seen whether Denver makes a play for a quarterback in the early rounds. Denver looked at all the top quarterbacks last year, and I think John Elway and his group will do the same this year. In his last mock draft, Todd McShay of Scouts Inc. has Denver taking Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill at No. 25. I’m not sure Denver -- which has committed to Tim Tebow going to training camp as the No. 1 quarterback -- will take a quarterback that high, but there will be interest in the position.

Is Trent Richardson on the Chiefs’ radar? The Alabama star running back won’t compete at the combine because of a minor knee surgery. However, he will be able to run at his pro day next month. Still, perhaps the Chiefs will meet with Richardson. He has been connected to Kansas City in several mock drafts. I’d be surprised if Kansas City ended up with him because of other needs and because the Chiefs have running back Jamaal Charles coming back from a torn ACL. But it is an intriguing scenario.

Chiefs, Chargers looking at the O-line: Both Kansas City and San Diego could use their top pick on an offensive lineman. There are several players who could help their standing with a strong combine. I think Stanford tackle Jonathan Martin will be closely watched by both teams. San Diego could also look at Wisconsin’s Peter Konz if it doesn’t want to re-sign free agent Nick Hardwick.

Watch out for Luke Kuechly: The Boston College inside linebacker has a chance to be a hot name in the top half of the first round if he has a big combine. He was productive in college and his game translates well to the NFL. Kansas City will surely be interested in him and could have competition if Kuechly lights it up in Indy.

Broncos will be watching running backs: The Broncos probably will add a running back early in the draft or in free agency. Denver could use its top pick on the position. It will be closely watching Miami’s Lamar Miller, Washington’s Chris Polk, Virginia Tech’s David Wilson and Boise State’s Doug Martin, among other tailbacks, this week

Is this the time for a tight end in San Diego? I expect the Chargers to look at tight ends this week. This isn’t considered a great class, but the Chargers need to consider getting younger at the position. Antonio Gates will turn 32 in June and has been dealing with injuries the past few years. The Chargers probably would have to commit a second-round pick for the top tight ends, which include Stanford’s Coby Fleener, Clemson’s Dwayne Allen (though, they could both be late first-round choices) and Georgia’s Orson Charles.

Nick Foles needs to show Denver some accuracy: There was talk that the Arizona quarterback could be on Denver’s radar last season. But he had some trouble with interceptions, which may have cooled the team on him. If he can show better accuracy at the combine. Foles could be a mid-round target of the Broncos again.

The Raiders need to pay big attention: The Raiders currently have the smallest draft class in the NFL this season. They have just a fifth- and a sixth-round pick. They will, though, probably get two or three compensatory picks next month. The earliest will be at the end of the third round. But don’t think for a moment that the combine won’t matter to Oakland. The Raiders will have to dig deep and find great value in the mid-to-late rounds to get some something positive from this class. Closely scouting the combine will be essential.

Is Brandon Weeden too old? The Oklahoma State quarterback is one of the more interesting players in the draft. He has skills that translate to the NFL, and some people think he could be a future starter. But Weeden turns 29 in October. There really isn’t much time to groom him. Is it worth spending a premium pick on a player who could be over the hill in five years? I think both Denver and Kansas City could look at him, but they would have to be comfortable with his age.

Will the coin flip the Chiefs’ way? The Chiefs will have a coin flip with Seattle to determine the No. 11 and No. 12 picks in the draft. It is set to take place Friday. If the Chiefs lose and get the No. 12 pick, it will not be the end of the world, but there’s no denying there is more value in having the No. 11 pick.

Will Mercilus impress the Chargers? One player to keep an eye on for the Chargers is Illinois pass-rusher Whitney Mercilus. He came on strong in 2011, but there are consistency questions. If he answers all the right questions on and off the field this week, I could see his being a target at No. 18.

Will Chiefs look at suspect character players? Kansas City has a reputation for taking players with sterling off-field reputations. However, last year, genearl manager Scott Pioli took Pitt receiver Jon Baldwin in the first round and Georgia pass-rusher Justin Houston in the third round. Both had character questions. Baldwin ended up missing a chunk of his rookie season because of a reported training camp fight with veteran Thomas Jones. It hurt his development. However, Houston was outstanding as a rookie. Let’s see whether Pioli takes more risks this year.

Will Broncos add players to aid Tebow? If Denver takes a running back early, adds to the offensive line and beefs up the defense, that means it is doing what it can to build around Tebow. The best way Denver can win with Tebow is with a good running game and strong defense.

Will the Broncos finally draft a defensive tackle in the first round? Denver could take a defensive tackle at No. 25. Among the players it may consider are Penn State’s Devon Still, Mississippi State’s Fletcher Cox and Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy. Denver hasn’t taken a defensive tackle in the first round since Trevor Pryce in 1997.

Will Arizona State linebacker impress the Chiefs or Chargers? Arizona State’s middle linebacker Vontaze Burfict was considered a top-10 pick before the season. But after his production fell off and he had some character issues, Burfict is no longer considered a sure first rounder. I think he could help both the Chiefs and Chargers. His progress this week will be watched by these two teams.
NFL Free agency starts four weeks from today. We will be discussing possibilities often leading up to it.

Recently, I received a mailbag question from David G. of Topeka, who asked if I think New England free-agent running back BenJarvus Green-Ellis would be a good fit in Kansas City.

Green-Ellis
Yes, David, I do. I could easily see The Law Firm practicing in Kansas City in 2012. The Chiefs will likely be looking for a running back to pair with Jamaal Charles, who is coming back from a torn ACL he suffered in Week 2. Veteran Thomas Jones likely won’t be brought back and while Jackie Battle likely could have a future in Kansas City, an upgrade may be needed.

A Charles-Green-Ellis pairing would work well in Kansas City. Green-Ellis, 5-11, 215 pounds, is a reliable, solid back. While Charles is a game breaker, Green-Ellis is the type who can wear down a defense and set up Charles. Green-Ellis, 26, had 667 yards on 181 carries and he scored 11 touchdowns. In 2010, Green-Ellis had 1,008 yards and 13 touchdowns.

I asked Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. if he thought Green-Ellis would be a good fit in Kansas City, and he was a fan of the notion.

“Yeah, I like that,” Williamson said. “He is far from spectacular and he has very little big-play flair, but BJGE is very reliable and tough. He’s a big-bodied running back to complement what Jamaal Charles brings to the table.”

Also, don’t discount the New England connection here. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli was in New England when it signed Green-Ellis as an undrafted free agent. He played with Kansas City quarterback Matt Cassel in his rookie year in New England.

The Chiefs have $62 million in salary-cap room and will be able to do a lot of things. Giving Charles a solid backfield partner like Green-Ellis would be an affordable, smart move by Kansas City.

2011 AFC West draft rewind

February, 14, 2012
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As each team in the AFC West prepares for the NFL scouting combine next week, let’s review the AFC West 2011 draft classes:

DENVER BRONCOS

First pick: Linebacker Von Miller , No. 2 overall

Total picks: Nine

Stars: Miller was the shining star of this class. He won the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award and he looks like he will be a dominant pass-rusher for years to come. Right tackle Orlando Franklin, a second-round pick, performed well as a starter and safety Quinton Carter really came on toward the end of the season. Carter was a fourth-round pick.

Dud: There is concern over safety Rahim Moore who regressed as the season went on. The second-round pick was not nearly as far along as Carter at the end of the season. Moore is a hard worker and there is hope for him, but the Broncos expected more from him.

Good start for Elway era: This was the first draft class under new Denver leader John Elway. The Broncos made some good draft decisions and the process seemed very organized. It was the first sign that Elway was prepared for his new role.

What’s the future of this class? This was a good class. Third-round pick Nate Irving will compete to start at middle linebacker and the Broncos are excited about tight ends Julius Thomas (fourth round) and Virgil Green (seventh round). Regardless of what happens with the rest of this class, Miller himself makes this group a winner.

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

First pick: Receiver Jon Baldwin, No. 26

Total picks: Nine

Star: The player who created the most excitement was third-round pick Justin Houston at linebacker. He had first-round talent, but character issues dropped him to No. 70 overall. He was a playmaker, had 5.5 sacks and looks like he can be a major star.

Duds: Baldwin wasn’t terrible, but he was a disappointment because he suffered a broken thumb in a camp fight with veteran Thomas Jones. Baldwin didn’t debut until October. He showed flashes and I think he will be a fine player, but he hurt the team by fighting with Jones. It was a terrible start to his career.

Character questions? Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli had a reputation for steering clear of players with character issues. He changed course by taking Baldwin and Houston because of their draft value. It worked with Houston but the Baldwin fight raised more concerns. It will be interesting to see if Pioli takes any chances this year.

What’s the future of this class? I like it. Third-round pick Allen Bailey has a real chance to shine at defensive end and second-round pick Rodney Hudson may have a chance to start at either guard or center this season. Fifth-round pick Ricky Stanzi had a chance to be the backup quarterback this year. It was a good group.

OAKLAND RAIDERS

First pick: Guard Stefen Wisniewski, No. 48

Total picks: Eight

Stars: Wisniewski and fifth-round pick Denarius Moore at wide receiver. Wisniewski looked like an eight-year veteran. The nephew of former Raiders’ star offensive lineman and assistant offensive line coach Steve Wisniewski was born to be a Raider and he looks like a future star. He’s bright, athletic and he has a mean streak. Moore opened eyes in camp and made a lot of plays during the season. There were plays when he simply took over and he ended up with 33 catches for 618 yards and five touchdowns. I wouldn’t be shocked if he doubles those totals in 2012.

Duds: It would be unfair to call the Raiders' third-round picks -- cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke and offensive lineman Joseph Barksdale (who Oakland traded its 2012 second-round pick to get) -- duds. But neither player made any real impact. They are projects and they have a chance to be good in the future, but they just weren’t standouts as rookies.

End of an era: This was the final draft selected by the legendary Al Davis. I have a feeling Moore may be Davis’ final gift to the Raider Nation.

What’s the future of this class? If Van Dyke, Barksdale, defensive back Chimdi Chekwa and running back Taiwan Jones can become major role players, this will be a great class. If not, Wisniewski and Moore will carry a class that didn’t feature a first-round pick. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor technically wasn’t part of the Raiders’ 2011 class because he was taken in the supplemental draft later in the summer. Drafting him cost Oakland a third-round pick in 2012. He was a rookie last season and it will be interesting to see how he develops. He was a Davis pick and the new regime may or may not like him. Either way, he is still a project.

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

First pick: Defensive end Corey Liuget, No. 18.

Total picks: Eight

Stars: Liuget wasn’t great in a class that featured several impact defensive players. But he did look like somebody who will make an impact down the road. Third-round pick, receiver Vincent Brown, also showed nice progress. I think he could end up having a very solid career.

Duds: Second-round pick Marcus Gilchrist struggled at cornerback when he started. Still, his future is not lost. He could be moved to safety or perhaps he could be a nickel. The Chargers waived running back Jordan Todman. The team hoped the sixth-round pick could become the next Darren Sproles. Todman is now with Minnesota.

Back to the future? The Chargers surprisingly took Liuget even though many observers thought that San Diego would take an offensive lineman or a pass-rusher. Now, a year later, the Chargers are looking at offensive linemen and pass-rushers with the No. 18 pick.

What’s the future of this class? I think the other three classes in the division all have better potential. I’m not sure if this will ever be a great class, but Liuget and Brown can really help it. Linebacker Jonas Mouton (second round) missed the entire season with an injury. He will get a chance to play this season.

AFC West mailbag

January, 7, 2012
1/07/12
2:00
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Weekend mail call:

Tommy from San Diego wants to know if I think Philip Rivers will have a bounce-back year in 2012.

Bill Williamson: I would think so. Rivers just turned 30 and he is still in the prime of his career. He finished the season fairly strong. As long as the offensive line is competitive and the Chargers make some upgrades on offense, Rivers should be fine no matter whom his coach is.


Joe from St. Louis wants to know if I think the Chiefs will add a running back in the offseason.

BW: The talk is that Kansas City will add a bigger back to complement Jamaal Charles. Thomas Jones is not expected to be back. The Chiefs could add the back through free agency or in the draft. Charles is still the guy, but the Chiefs want to bring in a pounder to help.


AJ Prine from Victorville, Ca. wants to know what type of compensatory picks Oakland will get after the free-agent losses of Nnamdi Asomugha, Robert Gallery and Zack Miller.

BW: Compensatory picks are awarded on a complicated formula that puts several things into account. I think the Raiders, and this is just an educated guess, will get two third-round picks. The comp picks will be announced in March.

Wrap-up: Patriots 34, Chiefs 3

November, 21, 2011
11/21/11
11:54
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A look at a game in which the visiting Kansas City Chiefs were eventually worn down by the New England Patriots:

What it means: The Chiefs are now 4-6 after their 34-3 loss. They trail the Oakland Raiders by two games in the AFC West. Kansas City is tied with the San Diego Chargers for last place in the division. The Denver Broncos are 5-5.

Team of streaks: The Chiefs are on their second three-game losing streak of the season. They sandwiched it with a four-game winning streak.

Getting tricky: The Chiefs used a lot of fast snaps, they used the Wildcat and they tried an onside kick. In the end, it didn’t matter. But an undermanned team on the road needs to try anything, and Chiefs coach Todd Haley was up for anything.

Second-half blues: The Chiefs actually led this game in the first quarter, 3-0. The Patriots scored all but seven of their points in the final 31 minutes of the game. The Chiefs hung in this game for a while, but the Patriots eventually overtook them in every phase of the game.

Tough start to a tough stretch: It doesn’t get any easier for Kansas City. It entered the week with the toughest remaining schedule in the NFL. It plays Pittsburgh, Chicago, the Jets, Green Bay, Oakland and Denver in the final six games.

Palko wasn’t horrible: Tyler Palko had his issues and he threw three interceptions. But in his first start, Palko had his moments, especially early in the game. He didn’t look like a player who was lost. After entering the game with just 13 total NFL passes under his belt, he completed 25 of 38 passes for 236 yards. The left-hander looks like a coachable player who can improve. He’ll get his chance. The Chiefs put starter Matt Cassel on injured reserve with a broken thumb on Monday. He was injured in a loss to Denver last week. I’m interested to see how Palko responds after getting more practice time. He had a nice chemistry with receivers Dwayne Bowe and Steve Breaston. They had a combined 13 catches for 160 yards.

Jones plays well: Veteran running back Thomas Jones had 48 yards rushing on eight carries. The Chiefs ran for 119 yards on 26 carries.

Getting pressure: The Chiefs sacked Tom Brady three times, all in the first half. Like every other aspect of the Chiefs on Monday night, the pass rush dwindled in the second half.

Got Gronked: New England tight end Rob Gronkowski lit up the Chiefs. He had touchdown catches of 52 and 19 yards. Kansas City simply didn’t have an answer for him.

Not so special: New England broke the game open with just less than 10 minutes remaining on a 72-yard punt return for a score by Julian Edelman.

What’s next: The Chiefs are on prime time again in Week 12. They host Pittsburgh Sunday evening.

What Matt Cassel's injury means

November, 14, 2011
11/14/11
7:35
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Let’s look at the significant issues surrounding the Kansas City Chiefs after the news that quarterback Matt Cassel may be out for the rest of the season with a hand injury. He will require surgery and will, at least, miss several games:

What is Cassel’s future? I highly doubt we’ve seen the last of Cassel in Kansas City. He has been uneven, but the Chiefs appear to be committed to him at least for the short term. I expect Cassel to be the Chiefs’ starter in 2012.

The Chiefs’ season is likely over: This is not the time to lose your starting quarterback. After back-to-back home losses to Miami and Denver, the Chiefs are now 4-5 and enter a five-game stretch that features five 2010 playoff teams. Kansas City is struggling it is unlikely it will be able to withstand this tough stretch and stay in the AFC West race.

[+] EnlargeMatt Cassel
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesThe Chiefs may have lost another critical part of their lineup with Matt Cassel facing surgery on his throwing hand.
How much can one team take? Cassel’s injury is just another significant blow to this team. The Chiefs already lost star running back Jamaal Charles, star safety Eric Berry, and standout tight end Tony Moeaki to season-ending knee injuries. All of those injuries happened in September. These are the core players of this team.

Haley deserves a pass: There has been speculation throughout the season that Kansas City coach Todd Haley could be on the hot seat. But Cassel’s injury and the earlier major injuries have severely changed this team. The Chiefs’ record may not be impressive when the season is completed, but they are making strides, and Haley deserves to come back in 2012 with his full roster.

What should we expect from Tyler Palko? The left-handed quarterback is very inexperienced. Palko, 28, has thrown just 13 passes in the regular season since entering the NFL in 2007. He completed five of six attempts Sunday when he spelled Cassel late in the game. He was solid in the preseason, although he has had ball-security issues. Here is what Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. thinks of Palko:
The best way to describe [Palko] is this: Coach’s son, a student of the game. Eats, sleeps and breathes it. Very coach-friendly. He’s a good athlete. He’s tough, smart. He’s a very average thrower of the football, but he has obviously worked on it quite a bit and he looks to be improving.
Is Ricky Stanzi a possibility? I think the only way we see Stanzi play this season is if the Chiefs are completely awful with Palko and fall out of the race. The impression I have gotten is the Chiefs don’t think the fifth-round pick is ready to play. But perhaps in December, we could see the Iowa product get a chance to show what he can do.

How the Chiefs can stay competitive: They are going to have to improve on defense and have a consistent running game. Let’s face it; it’s going to be very difficult for this team to win enough game to stay in the race. The 2011 season in Kansas City will be remembered as one that was ruined by injuries.

How this affects Dwayne Bowe: His numbers will likely suffer for the rest of the season, which may have a detrimental effect when he becomes a free agent at the end of the season.I think now is the perfect time for the Chiefs and for Bowe to come to a contract accord to ensure his future in Kansas City. The Chiefs need to look to the future and Bowe needs to be part of it.

How this affects Jon Baldwin: It’s been a tough rookie season for the first-round pick. He missed time due to the lockout and then a thumb injury he suffered in a reported fight with teammate Thomas Jones in camp cost him two months. If he loses his starting quarterback, Baldwin and Cassel will not be able get in sync until next spring.
The San Diego Chargers have a chance to punish defenses if they can keep running backs Ryan Mathews and Mike Tolbert healthy.

According to ESPN Stats & Information, the duo leads the AFC West with the most yardage after contact. While Tolbert leads the division with 53.3 percent of his rushing yards coming after contact, Mathews is a close second with 52.1 percent of his yardage after contact. It is also worth noting that Mathews has more than twice as many rushing yards this season as Tolbert. Both have had substantial carries, however, with Tolbert at 66 and Mathews at 111.

Injuries have hampered both players this season, perhaps because they embrace contact. Mathews missed the Chargers’ loss to Green Bay. The team is hopeful he can play Thursday against Oakland.

A couple of other players stand out. Kansas City running back Jackie Battle has shown he is solid in this area. He has 49.7 percent of his yardage coming after contact and has emerged as the Chiefs’ lead back after Jamaal Charles’ season-ending knee injury.

Injured Oakland running back Darren McFadden is last in the AFC West with 29.8 percent of his yardage coming after the contact. I think a lot of it has to do with McFadden having several long runs.

Here is the list of the eligible (per amounts of carries) AFC West leaders in this category. Thanks again to ESPN Stats & Information.

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