NFC West: Kansas City Chiefs

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CANTON, Ohio -- Willie Roaf's father, Clifton, has just presented the former New Orleans and Kansas City tackle for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

The video presentation for Willie Roaf was packed with emotion, especially when Clifton Roaf, his jaw quivering with emotion, called his son his hero.

A quick aside: Clifton Roaf, speaking over lunch Friday, recalled the time his son shut out Hugh Douglas, one of the better defensive ends in the NFL at the time. According to the elder Roaf, Douglas finished with no tackles. When the game ended, Douglas paid tribute to Roaf by crawling off the field. Now that is domination.

We know Peyton Manning visited the Denver Broncos and Arizona Cardinals over the weekend.

We do not know what he will do next. NFL teams do not know. Manning might not know.

Billionaire NFL owners accustomed to getting their way appear utterly helpless as they wait for answers. Imagine the pressure team executives must feel as they report to ownership on their failure to secure even a visit from Manning. These owners cannot even know whether Manning's surgically repaired neck will allow the quarterback to play again, but they would happily gamble millions on the prospect that Manning will be OK.

The latest report from ESPN's Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter quotes sources as saying the Seattle Seahawks and Kansas City Chiefs are "no longer considered contenders" for Manning. The quarterback himself has said nothing publicly.

Public declarations from Tennessee Titans owner Bud Adams seem aimed at appeasing fans hoping the team will bring back Manning to the state where he played his college ball.

"He is the man I want, period," Adams said. "And the people that work for me understand that. They know who I want. I want Mr. Manning with the Titans and I will be disappointed if it doesn’t happen."

Does anyone really think Manning will respond favorably to an owner essentially popping off? As with so much of this story, no one seems to know for sure.

Manning's meticulous preparation as a player suggests he'll make a well-informed decision. It's an upset if he rushes into anything.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic joined ESPN's Josh Elliot for a discussion on the competition between Matt Leinart and Brian St. Pierre for the No. 2 quarterback job.

This is one of those stories that sneaked up on people following the Cardinals from afar, but as Somers noted, the story dates to March. Somers added an interesting detail, namely that Todd Haley and the Chiefs pursued St. Pierre this offseason. Arizona responded by giving St. Pierre a raise and promising him a chance to compete for the No. 2 job.

This wasn't necessarily a slap at Leinart, in my view, as it was a gesture of appreciation toward St. Pierre, who was with Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt in Pittsburgh.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Todd Haley stays in touch with Kurt Warner and some of his former associates in Arizona, but it isn't the same. He's admittedly going through some withdrawals as he transitions into his new job as the Chiefs' head coach.

Haley, speaking over breakfast at the NFL owners' meeting Tuesday, valued his relationship with Warner in particular. His new quarterback, Matt Cassel, also seems to be a football junkie. Haley and Warner became texting buddies at all hours.

"Kurt Warner, you could not get away from," Haley said. "You weren't ever going to, I mean, it was full time. And this guy [Cassel] shows a lot of those same characteristics. He's into football and I don't think there's a whole bunch else to him. He's got a chip on his shoulder. He's been told he wasn't good enough to play for a long time and I think that served him well last year and hopefully it will serve him well going forward."

Warner was the same way. As for Matt Leinart? Haley said the former and perhaps future Arizona starter made strides.

"I saw a lot of changes in Matt," Haley said. "A lot of positive changes. And even what I'm hearing and the things he's saying now to me. I probably shouldn't be talking about the Arizona Cardinals, but Matt, personally, has really grown up over the last couple years and I think he's got a chance to be a good player."

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

INDIANAPOLIS -- The Cardinals lost another assistant coach when Maurice Carthon left to join Todd Haley's inaugural Chiefs staff as assistant head coach.

Carthon had coached the Cardinals' running backs. Haley was offensive coordinator. The Chiefs announced Carthon's hiring in a news release Thursday afternoon.

The Cardinals do not appear to have an obvious replacement for Carthon on staff. The team already lost Haley and offensive assistant Dedric Ward to the Chiefs.

The timing of Carthon's departure surprises me some. I was under the impression Arizona had weathered the last of its staff defections this offseason.

Quick look at current 2009 draft order

December, 15, 2008
12/15/08
4:55
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Seahawks' victory over the Rams leaves St. Louis in the lead for the No. 2 overall choice in the 2009 draft.

The next two weeks will probably affect the eventual order at the top of the draft, but here's how the top 10 would shake out at present, according to the league:

1. Detroit (0-14)
2. St. Louis (2-12): The last five players drafted second overall were Chris Long (Rams), Calvin Johnson (Lions), Reggie Bush (Saints), Ronnie Brown (Dolphins) and Robert Gallery (Raiders).
3. Kansas City (2-12)
4. Cincinnati (2-11-1)
5. Seattle (3-11). The last five players drafted fifth overall were Glenn Dorsey (Chiefs), Levi Brown (Cardinals), A.J. Hawk (Packers), Cadillac Williams (Bucs) and Sean Taylor (Redskins).
6. Oakland (3-11)
7. Cleveland (4-9)
8. San Francisco (5-9): The last five players drafted eighth overall were Derrick Harvey (Jaguars), Jamaal Anderson (Falcons), Donte Whitner (Bills), Antrel Rolle (Cardinals) and DeAngelo Hall (Falcons).
9. Jacksonville (5-9)
10. Green Bay (5-9)

The Rams would be picking second overall for the second year in a row. They've addressed the defensive line early in recent drafts. This might be time to help the offensive line. Orlando Pace certainly worked out well for them as an early pick.

The Seahawks haven't picked in the top five since selecting Shawn Springs third in 1997. They also picked up Walter Jones (sixth overall) that year.

The 49ers last picked among the top eight when they selected tight end Vernon Davis sixth overall in 2006.

Rams lose off the field as well

September, 26, 2008
9/26/08
1:04
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' unsettled ownership situation has cost them power at the league level, Daniel Kaplan of the St. Louis Business Journal reports.

Lions owner Bill Ford Jr. has replaced Rams executive John Shaw on the labor comittee. Pat Bowlen (Broncos) and Jerry Richardson (Panthers) co-chair the committee, which tackles the most important issues facing the league. Other members include Mike Brown (Bengals), Clark Hunt (Chiefs), Jerry Jones (Cowboys), Robert Kraft (Patriots), John Mara (Giants), Mark Murphy (Packers), Art Rooney II (Steelers) and Ford.

Rams barely outscoring A.C. Green

September, 22, 2008
9/22/08
11:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams are averaging 9.7 points per game.

Head CoachHiredTeamRecordNew OCPPG
Sean Payton2006NO1-2No24.0
Dick Jauron
2006BUF
3-0Yes23.6
Mike McCarthy2006GB2-1No22.3
Rod Marinelli2006DET0-3Yes19.7
Brad Childress2006MIN1-2No16.0
Eric Mangini2006NYJ1-1No15.0
Gary Kubiak
2006HOU0-2Yes
14.5
Herm Edwards2006KC0-3Yes10.7
Scott Linehan2006STL0-3Yes9.7

My first thought upon seeing that figure was that a decent NBA player would average as much. For some reason, A.C. Green came to mind. Sure enough, it's close.

Green averaged 9.6 points per game. Unlike the Rams, who have lost 16 of their last 19 games, Green also knew how to rebound.

On to the broader point: The Rams are one of nine teams featuring a head coach in his third season with his current team.

Five of the nine teams, including the Rams, are breaking in a new offensive coordinator this season. Those teams have a combined record of 3-11. Two are failing to score even 11 points per game. Buffalo, which promoted Turk Schonert from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, is the only team of the nine averaging 20 points per game.

The Rams' most pronounced problems are probably on defense. They simply are not competitive. But the offense ranks 31st in yards per game. Other teams with third-year head coaches and first-year offensive coordinators are also lagging. Kansas City ranks 28th in yards per game. Detroit ranks 22nd in yards per game.

The Rams rank last in third-down conversion rate. The Lions rank 28th. The Chiefs and Rams rank near the bottom in points per game.

The chart ranks third-year head coaches by how many points per game their offenses have scored. Averages do not reflect points scored on returns. I've highlighted the five teams with new offensive coordinators. It's not a pretty picture.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Cardinals' road game against the Redskins provides an opportunity to take a closer look at Washington. Fans of NFC West teams will quickly see a connection between the Redskins' offensive scheme and the one Seattle has favored under Mike Holmgren. Jim Zorn brought Mike Holmgren's offense to Washington when the Redskins named him head coach.

  

Our roided-out Redskins roster breaks down the Redskins by 25 categories, with lots of draft-related information. Washington has 10 draft choices from 2008 on its roster, tied with Indianapolis for second-most in the league behind Kansas City (11). Unlike the Colts and Chiefs, the Redskins remain one of the oldest teams in the league.

No team in the league has older offensive players on average than the Redskins. Their offensive players average 28.8 years old (the Rams' offensive players are second at 28.4, a relatively large gap). The Redskins' starters rank second-oldest on offense and fourth-oldest on defense. Their offensive backups are the third-oldest in the league even though Washington has five 2008 offensive draft choices on its 53-man roster.

The Redskins have 10 starters in their 30s, most in the league and nearly double the average (5.8). They have only five starters age 25 or younger (the range is from four to 15 leaguewide). And their starting offensive line averages a league-high 30.9 years old even after the team replaced 32-year-old right tackle Jon Jansen with Stephon Heyer, 24.

For more on the Redskins, check out Matt Mosley's NFC East blog. Here's a direct link to Redskins-related entries on his blog.

So much for Green getting reps

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
9:24
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams talked about getting first-team reps for backup quarterback Trent Green in the final exhibition game tonight, but the idea apparently fizzled during a roughly 90-minute rain delay. Green attempted one pass during a three-play drive to a field goal. Brock Berlin took over from there. The Chiefs lead in the second quarter, 21-3.

Here's what Rams coach Scott Linehan was thinking when he named Green the starter for this game earlier in the week:

"This gives him a chance in a game to go out and find his rhythm, too, so he's not going into the season, if we ever call upon him or needed to call upon him, cold without reps. He needs to get out, too. We can't assume, just because he's a vet who knows the system, that he can just go out there and turn it on, although I would bet on him more than a lot of guys. He needs to go out and play and get his snaps in."

Green's experience, particularly in this offense, will have to get him through if something happens to starter Marc Bulger.

Storm delays Rams-Chiefs kickoff

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
7:01
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Bill Williamson

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- You gotta love the Midwest. When I left my seat five minutes ago, the weather outside was decent. It was a nice early evening here.

I just came back and it is a downpour. There is a major electrical storm nearby and the seats at Arrowhead Stadium are deserted.

It's really coming down and the lightning flashes are close. The Chiefs just announced that the 6:05 scheduled kickoff between the Rams and the Chiefs will be delayed until at least 6:15 and potentially much later. I will keep you posted.

Note from Sando: Bill and I were Seahawks beat reporters during a memorable rainstorm at Arrowhead in 1998. Water cascaded down the stadium aisles the way a river would. The roof to the pressbox leaked at one point, sending water down right where Bill was sitting. I remember him scrambling to save his laptop. That was also the game when Warren Moon suffered a pretty severe rib injury that affected the rest of the Seahawks' season. For the Chiefs, Rich Gannon found Andre Rison for an 80-yard touchdown strike as the Chiefs won, 17-6.

Mailbag: Projecting Cardinals' record

August, 28, 2008
8/28/08
4:25
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Chris from Denver writes: Mike, If Warner is named the starter, what is the record? Your thoughts on Hightower?

Mike Sando: The Cardinals are improved on paper, but their finishing schedule is rough. I could see another 8-8 season, not a step back but an indication the franchise needs to continue building, particularly on the offensive line. The final seven games include the Seahawks (road), Giants, Eagles (road), Rams, Vikings, Patriots (road) and Seahawks.

Let's go through the Cardinals' schedule and project each game on feel:

  1. Win at 49ers
  2. Win vs. Dolphins
  3. Lose at Redskins
  4. Lose at Jets
  5. Win vs. Bills
  6. Lose vs. Cowboys
  7. Bye
  8. Lose at Panthers
  9. Win at Rams
  10. Win vs. 49ers
  11. Lose at Seahawks
  12. Win vs. Giants
  13. Lose at Eagles
  14. Win vs. Rams
  15. Win vs. Vikings
  16. Lose at Patriots
  17. Lose vs. Seahawks

We could go back and forth on a few of these games. The choices I made seemed reasonable. We might give the Cardinals a victory over Seattle in Week 17, but we might also take away the projected home victory over the Giants, who played tough on the road last season, etc. We might give the Cardinals a victory at Carolina, but a home loss against the Vikings, or a split with the Rams and/or 49ers.

Feedback is appreciated. I do like going through and projecting each game. It's a fun but not necessarily reliable way of projecting records. So many other things come into play, from injuries to emotions to the natural ebb and flow of a season.

(Read full post)

Rams have time to get Jackson ready

August, 22, 2008
8/22/08
9:39
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Jackson

Newly re-signed Rams running back Steven Jackson will not play against Baltimore in the team's exhibition game Saturday night.

The Rams sought and received a roster exemption after activating Jackson from the reserve/did not report list. Jackson can remain exempt from roster limits until Aug. 29 as long as he doesn't play in a game. The Rams play their final exhibition game Aug. 28 at Kansas City.

The Rams say they plan to give Jackson extra work in pads during practices, but they probably won't rush him into a game situation. Their sole priority is getting him ready for the regular-season opener at Philadelphia.

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic identifies key developments and memorable moments from Cardinals training camp. Kurt Warner's kindness to fans stood out. Somers: "Every day. For everyone. After practice one day, I did a couple of interviews, loitered around the field, walked a quarter mile to my car and then drove by the practice field. Warner was still there signing."

Also from Somers: Though depth charts have not yet solidified, Travis LaBoy appears to have overtaken Bertrand Berry on the Cardinals' depth chart. No surprise there. LaBoy has enjoyed an outstanding camp. He had two sacks against the Chiefs in a recent exhibition game.

More from Somers: Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt made a simple request to players as they left the field for the final time during training camp at Northern Arizona University: "Please, nobody trip and get hurt in the stampede leaving this field."

Scott Bordow of the East Valley Tribune takes on Cardinals receiver Anquan Boldin for making the radio rounds to complain about his contract, only to blame the media for turning his words into a potential distraction. Bordow: "It's so painfully obvious that Boldin is making the rounds at the behest of his agent, Drew Rosenhaus. It's right out of the Rosenhaus playbook: Make so much noise the team gets sick of you and grants your wish to be traded."

Darren Urban of azcardinals.com checks in with overlooked draft choice Chris Harrington, a candidate for the practice squad after a strong camp.

Also from Urban: Rookie running back Tim Hightower acknowledges but doesn't particularly like one of his nicknames. "The Bread Truck" stuck after a college announcer criticized Hightower for carrying the ball like a loaf of bread, only to praise him for running with authority on his way to a touchdown.

Daniel Brown of the San Jose Mercury News files a report card from the 49ers' game at Chicago. Helped themselves: receiver Jason Hill, fullback Zak Keasey, running back Thomas Clayton. Hurt themselves: quarterback Alex Smith and safety Keith Lewis.

Also from Brown: The 49ers' special teams struggled. Injuries to Jeff Ulbrich and Allen Rossum will require further evaluation. Ulbrich has been trying to hold off newcomer Takeo Spikes for one of the starting jobs at inside linebacker.

Also from Brown: The QB race is looking like "J.T.O. by TKO" (with J.T. O'Sullivan posting a perfect passer rating while Smith fell short on the stat sheet and on artistic merits).

Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee describes the 49ers as a confident bunch following their most recent exhibition game. The quarterback race is all but over, Barrows says.

Matt Maiocco of Instant 49ers runs a transcript from his interview with 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan, who says he won't butt into the decision on a starting quarterback. The decision has previously been framed as a group effort involving McCloughan and coaches. Also, McCloughan said he thinks Smith will become a good NFL quarterback even if he isn't the starter heading into this season.

Also from Maiocco: Tight end Vernon Davis is "dying to know" the identity of the starting quarterback for the regular season. O'Sullivan appears to be a slam-dunk choices, but Smith says he's only scratching the surface of what he can do in this offense.

More from Maiocco: After leading with a note on the 49ers' special teams, Maiocco singles out the "patchwork" offensive line for high praise. The 49ers rushed for 160 yards, and pass protection was solid.

Chrissy Mauck of sf49ers.com all but hands the quarterback job to O'Sullivan: "If the 49ers coaching staff was looking for a decisive performance before selecting their permanent starting quarterback, J.T O'Sullivan may have given it to them ..."

Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says newly signed running back Steven Jackson is looking for a "fresh start" with fans after holding out for big money.

Bill Coats of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Orlando Pace's surgically repaired shoulder suffered a "little setback" in the words of the former Pro Bowl left tackle (Pace, not Coats). Coach Scott Linehan said Pace has been suffering merely from soreness. Experience tells me we're dealing with semantics here. Pace's definition of a "setback" would not necessarily meet the medical definition for the term. Pace: "I did it when I was trying to make a tackle (after an interception). I landed on it pretty hard. I didn't even think about it ... I didn't even feel the swelling until Monday, when I came in and I couldn't raise my arm too high. That was a little concern for me." Pace still might play Saturday night.

Also from Coats: Brian Leonard is happy to get extra work at running back while Jackson gets up to speed. Also, Pace returned to practice.

Danny O'Neil of the Seattle Times says Courtney Taylor is looking forward to getting a few more chances to catch passes in the Seahawks' offense.

Frank Hughes of the Tacoma News Tribune sizes up diminutive Seahawks running back Justin Forsett. Special teams coach Bruce DeHaven described Forsett this way: "There are little guys out there who are 5-8, 165 or 170 pounds. Those guy generally don't last too long. ... And then there are these guys who are 5-6, 5-7 and weigh 200 pounds. They are not little guys, they are just short guys. It's a big difference. Justin, just like [Maurice] Jones-Drew, is a short guy."

Clare Farnsworth of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer hands
out training-camp awards to five Seahawks: Matt Hasselbeck (MVP), Forsett (most impressive offensive player), Josh Wilson (most impressive defensive player), Mike Wahle (best free-agent addition), Forsett again (best rookie) and Steve Vallos (biggest surprise).

Mike Tulumello of the East Valley Tribune chronicles Steve Morey's annual fight to win a roster spot with the Cardinals. Morey has been released before. Tulumello: "While out of football, he's delivered furniture, worked on a fishing boat, dug 8-foot-deep holes for real estate developers 'so they can test the soil ... if you hit a rock, you have to start over.' "

Mailbag: Questioning Rams' firepower

August, 17, 2008
8/17/08
11:38
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Kyle from St. Louis writes: I have to disagree with you on the Rams not having the offensive personnel to move the ball down the field. Granted, my biased opinion is factoring in health and Jackson being there. Still, Holt's knee is better, and at 32, he still gets it done. With protection, Bulger is as accurate a QB as there is. Jackson in a beast. Bennett is serviceable at WR, but Avery and Burton should provide explosiveness. They also have Brian Leonard at fullback/running back, and Randy McMichael at tight end, and Al Saunders knows how to utilize that position. Please don't tell me you think Seattle, for example, does have the weapons to score more so than StL.
Mike Sando: I think we're on the same page here, Kyle. I meant the Rams lacked the firepower to move the ball consistently in this second exhibition game because Steven Jackson and Torry Holt were not playing. I also agree about McMichael. However, I'm less impressed by the Rams now than I was a month ago. This team lacks depth. Dante Hall is the third receiver. Can Holt's knee hold up for a season? What about Orlando Pace? Bringing back Jackson will help a great deal, but Marc Bulger already looks like a guy worried about getting hit.

(Read full post)

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