NFL Nation: AFC West

The Film Don't Lie: Chargers

October, 21, 2014
Oct 21
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A weekly look at what the San Diego Chargers must fix:

Solving the team’s poor tackling will be an issue the San Diego Chargers have to resolve sooner rather than later since they face an explosive Denver Broncos offense on Thursday night.

The Chargers allowed the Chiefs to rush for 154 total yards in a 23-20 loss over the weekend. Kansas City finished with eight plays of 16-plus yards from scrimmage.

“We had too many missed tackles,” Chargers coach Mike McCoy said. “That’s something we work on every week. It’s a basic fundamental of the game. And we gave up too many yards where we should have stopped them, and they made some plays.”

For the most part, San Diego has been a good tackling team leading up to the Kansas City game, limiting big gains. The Chargers have to solve the team’s tackling issues quickly because they face a Denver offense averaging 8.52 yards per play in the passing game, No. 2 in the NFL behind San Diego (8.53).

In order to fix the poor tackling, San Diego’s defense has to do a better job of playing with leverage and playing "to your help" on the field, according to defensive co-captain and linebacker Jarret Johnson.

“The reason we missed tackles was them creating plays that put us in space, and us not playing to our leverage,” Johnson said. “You don’t know where your leverage is, and you might be overrunning it or taking bad angles on your tackles.

“We have to be more aware of where our help is. These running backs -- especially a running back like Jamaal Charles -- it’s going to be really tough to get him down in the open field by yourself, so you have to play to your help.”

The Film Don't Lie: Chargers

October, 7, 2014
Oct 7
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SAN DIEGO -- A weekly look at what the San Diego Chargers must fix.

Through five weeks, the San Diego Chargers have had one of the best defenses in the NFL. So we’re probably being a bit nitpicky in identifying a glaring weakness on that side of the ball as the team prepares to face AFC West Division rival Oakland on Sunday.

But even defensive coordinator John Pagano has been frustrated by the way his defense has played in the red zone.

Through Week 5, the Chargers are No. 1 in points allowed per contest (12.6), No. 2 in passing yards allowed per game (195) and No. 3 in overall yards allowed per game (291).

The Chargers also are tied for sixth in the NFL with 12 sacks and have not allowed a point in the fourth quarter in four straight games.

However, the Chargers are tied for 26th in the league in red zone defense, giving up a touchdown 70 percent of the time the opposition is inside the 20-yard line.

Miscommunication has been an issue, as the Chargers have blown assignments in the compact area near the goal line, allowing easy scores.

Tackling also has been a concern, particularly in goal-line situations. The Chargers have to do a better job of rallying to the ball and wrapping up.

Ultimately, San Diego has to play with more urgency and a desire to keep the opposing team from getting touchdowns.

The Film Don't Lie: Chiefs

September, 30, 2014
Sep 30
11:00
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A weekly look at what the Kansas City Chiefs must fix:

A two-play sequence from Monday night’s game shows a defensive problem for the Kansas City Chiefs and how they can correct it in next week’s game against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Chiefs are playing well against the pass, but their run defense has shown more than a few leaks. They allow 5 yards per opponent's rushing attempt, which ranks 27th in the NFL. They have allowed 15 running plays of 10 yards or more, the fifth-highest total in the league.

The Chiefs can improve by getting more physical with their opponents. Early in the second quarter on Monday night, inside linebacker Josh Mauga missed an attempted tackle on New England Patriots running back Shane Vereen. Vereen went on to gain 5 yards after Mauga had the chance to bring him down.

But on the next play, Mauga arrived with much more muscle. On third-and-2, Mauga wasn’t in on the tackle but blew up the lead block by New England center Bryan Stork. With Stork out of the way, linebacker Justin Houston and nose tackle Dontari Poe were free to tackle Vereen for no gain. Poe had also played off a block, this one by guard Cameron Fleming.

The Patriots punted on the next play.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The first impression has been the lasting one thus far for the Denver Broncos.

Their opening first down run of the season went for no gain. The second time they ran the ball on first down, it went for no gain. The fourth time? No gain.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
AP Photo/Elaine ThompsonMontee Ball knows the Broncos need to get more yards on first down.
 And things haven't really picked up since. Now, no one is advocating a return to the league’s 70s show, the old run, run, pass possession. Not with the rules-makers having rolled out the red carpet to throw, not with Peyton Manning at quarterback and impact all over the formation at wide receiver.

But Manning is a man of precision behind center, and he often speaks of the best offenses being “on schedule,’’ and on schedule means “you get first down after first down, string them together, or give yourself a second-and-short, to put yourself in a position to call most anything.’’

And the Broncos, after three games, are not on schedule. Yes, they have scored 31, 24 and 20 points in three games against three teams that won at least 11 games last season, one of which just happens to be the defending Super Bowl champ. But it doesn’t feel right at the moment, and a big part of the reason is the imbalance the Broncos have on first-down plays.

Too often first-and-10 is becoming second-and-long and as the Broncos try to add a little more punch in their run game, they have become lopsided on offense. And usually, the bad news starts with a handoff.

“We have to be better, for sure,’’ said Broncos running back Montee Ball. “There are a lot of things there, but I know I have to be better because we need to be able to run the ball when we need to.’’

At its best, on the “schedule’’ Manning likes to keep, the Broncos offense is a first-down factory. A 75-yard touchdown drive in the Week 2 win over the Kansas City Chiefs had a sequence of four consecutive plays on first down. On the seven-play drive, the Broncos were in a first-and-10 on five of the plays and first-and-goal on the touchdown play.

“When you’re stringing them together, there’s a rhythm,’’ Manning said. “You’re going, moving the ball.’’

And while Manning’s passing numbers are other-worldly on first down -- 27-of-41 for 349 yards and five touchdown passes -- the Broncos are decidedly lopsided. Take out Manning’s kneel-down plays and the Broncos are rushing for just 2.8 yards per carry on first down.

Overall, they’ve had five first-down run plays go for no gain and seven have gone for negative yardage. In short, Ball and the Broncos offensive front have not been able to consistently make room to run the ball against defenses with more size in the formation in those down and distances.

In the days leading up to the loss to the Seattle Seahawks, offensive coordinator Adam Gase referenced the “negative plays’’ in the run game.

“I think the tackles for losses were a little much for me, and we put ourselves in bad positions with some of those penalties and it’s hard -- you try to stick with it as far as when you’re getting those second-and-20s but you want to try to help the quarterback get back to a third-and-10 or third-and-5 area,’’ Gase said.

In the end, an efficient run game is also the best way to slow down opposing pass rushers, keep them away from Manning and keep play-action passing -- what Manning has called “a big part of the offense.’’ But the Broncos’ blocking schemes up front have left gaps in the run game, especially inside around the guards and center, and Ball hasn’t always been as quick to the hole as he needs to be.

The game video shows, over and over again, defensive linemen attacking the gaps on the interior when the Broncos guards move down the line of scrimmage in the run game.

“We have things to work on, things to get better at,’’ said Broncos head coach John Fox. “We’ve played three games, we all can be better at a lot of things, and we’ll work at it.’’
SAN DIEGO -- Some NFL observers wondered if 2013 was an aberration for San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers, as he returned to form after uneven performance in 2011 and 2012.

Well, through three week of the NFL regular season, Rivers has been the same guy. He is No. 6 in the NFL in completion percentage at 68.4 percent after leading the league in completion percentage last year at 69.5 percent.

Rivers
 He’s tied for seventh in the NFL in passing yards with 778, tied for fifth in touchdown passes with six and is third in the NFL with a 103.3 passer rating.

Rivers has had great protection up front, only having been sacked twice. And he’s done a nice job of taking care of the football, with one interception and no fumbles through two games.

Basically, Rivers has been efficient and effective in his second season operating in head coach Mike McCoy’s offensive system, even with the switch at offensive coordinator, with Frank Reich moving from quarterbacks coach to the guy calling plays on Sundays.

“One thing I’m not going to do is stand back there and hold onto the ball a long time,” Rivers said, when asked about the fast pace that San Diego plays in the passing game. “Bad things happen when you do that. And so the combination of the no-huddle, trying to speed things up and wear teams out, along with our high-percentage passing game, I think it puts our offensive line in better position.”

Courtesy of ESPN Stats & Information, the image below shows Rivers having the best completion percentage in the NFL in the past two weeks. The visual shows his passing distance.

Rivers has completed more than 72 percent of his passes in back-to-back games for the eighth time in his career.

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The bad injury news continues to pile up for the Kansas City Chiefs. Coach Andy Reid said offensive lineman Jeff Allen would need elbow surgery and is not likely to return this season.

Also, rookie running back De’Anthony Thomas has been ruled out of Sunday’s game against the Broncos in Denver because of an injured hamstring.

 Allen started at right tackle in the season-opener against Tennessee. He started training camp as the left guard but switched positions when right tackle Donald Stephenson was suspended for the season’s first four games because of a violation of the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing substances.

Allen’s spot at right tackle on Sunday will be filled by veteran Ryan Harris, who signed with the Chiefs on the eve of training camp. The starter in Allen’s original spot at left guard, Mike McGlynn, joined the Chiefs in late August after being released by Washington.

If Allen misses the remainder of the regular season, he would be the third starter lost for the year from the Tennessee game. Linebacker Derrick Johnson and defensive end Mike DeVito each ruptured an Achilles tendon.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Numbers aren’t the best way to measure the impact Derrick Johnson had on the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense or the problem they will have in replacing him for the rest of the season. Johnson, an inside linebacker, ruptured his Achilles tendon in last week’s opener and after having surgery is out for the season.

Johnson
 Johnson’s gift is his down to down presence. He was as consistent a player as any coach could ask for against both the run and the pass. Johnson was one of the NFL’s best players at his position, and if he had caught more of the game-changing interceptions that he’s dropped -- Johnson’s hands are legendary bad -- more people would know about his skills.

But we’ll try to quantify just how much the Chiefs will miss Johnson. The Tennessee Titans rushed for 26 yards on 10 carries for a 2.6-yard per carry average in last week’s game against the Chiefs before Johnson left the game late in the second quarter.

After his departure, the Titans averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 136 yards on 28 carries.

That’s not a scientific measurement, for sure. It’s a tiny sample size that is also influenced by other factors. Shortly after Johnson left the game, the Chiefs lost another one of their best run defenders, Mike DeVito, also for the season with an identical injury.

But it helps illustrate what the Chiefs are facing here. Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is well aware of what Johnson meant to the Chiefs.

“A lot of times when you have a guy like [Johnson] who has exceptional speed for his position, it isn’t just the plays you make but the plays you prevent,’’ Sutton said. “Sometimes those are runs that went for five [yards] or passes that went for 10, but he’s there and that stops a play from going. That’s the one advantage of speed in relationship to your position.

“So you miss that. You miss his experience.’’

The Chiefs will replace him with James-Michael Johnson, who was claimed off waivers last season from the Cleveland Browns.

Derrick Johnson has been extremely durable. He’s missed just seven games since joining the Chiefs in 2005 and one of those was the final regular-season contest last year when the Chiefs rested Johnson and a few other starters.

The last time Johnson missed a game because of injury was 2009.

So playing without Johnson will be an event for the Chiefs on Sunday in Denver against the Broncos. Denver quarterback Peyton Manning has already noticed.

“I played against him for a long time going back to my days in Indianapolis,’’ Manning said. “Special player, and I just hate to see it. I was watching the TV game, and I just hate to see that kind of injury. But obviously anytime you lose a quality player, everybody else has to step up, and I know the Chiefs will do that. But I hate to see what happened to Derrick -- he’s such a great football player -- in the first game of the season.”
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- After losing their season-opener in a rather convincing manner, the Kansas City Chiefs are in a position where they could use a lift from the return of their most accomplished wide receiver.

Bowe
 Dwayne Bowe isn’t waiting until Sunday’s game against the Denver Broncos to try to provide that lift. He indicated that process started earlier in the week, shortly after his return for a one-game NFL suspension for a violation of the league’s substance-abuse policy.

“Just be myself,’’ Bowe said when asked what he wanted to accomplish this week. “Come in jovial, come in picking guys up and letting them know it’s one game at a time, one play at a time. Just play with energy, just play with passion, just play your game. That’s what I’m preaching to everyone in the locker room, and that’s what we’ve got to bring if we’re going to beat the Denver Broncos.’’

That’s all good, but what the Chiefs really need from Bowe is to play on Sunday as he did earlier in his career. One reason the Chiefs floundered on offense against the Tennessee Titans is that their wide receivers caught just eight passes, which is tied for last in the league with the New York Giants.

“Being a playmaker, you want to make plays whenever the ball is being thrown,’’ said Bowe, who watched the game on TV at his home in Kansas City. “It was hard watching. I’ve seen myself making some of the plays that [weren’t] made. If they happen again, I’ll be out there to make those plays.

“I wish I could have been out there to help my team, but things happen and you move forward and you learn from them and you try to let it not happen again.’’
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- In what has been the Summer of Construction, it can be easy to miss everything that has been added to the Denver Broncos complex in recent weeks and months.

Thomas
 But there are three newly-minted signs in the players’ parking lot that will make it easy to see how things have gone in the game that was just played each week. It was quarterback Peyton Manning who pointed out the primo front-row parking real estate this week, one spot each for the team’s offensive, defensive and special teams player of the week, and the fact tight end Julius Thomas had parked his car in one of them.

“You get a parking spot by the way, player of the week, don’t know if y’all noticed that,’’ Manning said. “ … Right there the first three spots … if you get Broncos player of the week.’’

And with three touchdown receptions in the Broncos’ regular-season opener, Thomas certainly earned not only the team’s player-of-the-week honor, but he was the league’s AFC Player of the Week. But what Thomas may also be is another shining example of why draft classes can’t, and shouldn’t, always be judged quickly and why a player’s makeup will often be as important as the scouting trinity of height, weight and speed.

Because after two NFL seasons, Thomas, a guy who is now one of the league's most difficult matchups for any defensive coordinator, had all of one catch, a five-yarder against Cincinnati on Sept. 18, 2011 when he suffered an ankle injury. And for the remainder of that season and the season that followed Thomas was a fourth-round draft with potential the Broncos simply hoped to eventually see healthy.

Then they saw last year’s 65-catch, 12-touchdown season. Then they saw Sunday night’s opener when Thomas had three touchdowns in the season's first 30 minutes.

“I think he’ll be a better player this year than he was last year,’’ Manning said.

And beyond Thomas’ obvious physical attributes for his job -- the ex-Portland State basketball player is fluid in is movements, has soft hands and top-tier body control to go with rare speed for a player his size -- it was his approach during his one-catch period that always caught the eye on the Broncos’ decision-makers.

And that includes Manning after he signed in 2012. Because of the collective bargaining agreement, Manning wanted to gather some of the offensive players before the Broncos’ official offseason workouts began. Thomas was one of the team's few first- or second-year players to find his way to, and faithfully attend those workouts.

“But Julius was one of the guys, he and [Eric] Decker, that I was throwing with,’’ Manning said. “And I remember … 6-4 tight end, those guys just don’t come around very often, that can really run, just seems like next, you know, he had a previous injury that kind of flared up again … [I] definitely had a great early appreciation of his talent and his ability.’’

Thomas never lost confidence in himself. “I always believed, had the confidence, if I kept working through it, good things would happen. My approach has always been to be as good as I can be over my career, not just one year here, one year there, so always looking down the road to make sure I’m doing things that keep me successful in the long haul.’’

Thomas is in the last year of his original rookie deal, and the Broncos have had discussions about a new one for him, as well as wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. And the price goes up a bit every time Julius Thomas befuddles another linebacker or safety for another touchdown.

But it will be easy for executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway to see how it’s all going. He can simply count the touchdown on gameday and then, after Elways pull into his spot the next morning, he can see where Julius Thomas is parked as well.
Examining the Kansas City Chiefs' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

At this point, it would be a surprise only if Smith isn’t the starter, Daniel isn’t the No. 2 quarterback, and the Chiefs don’t keep Bray on their active roster. So the question is what they do with Aaron Murray. The Chiefs saw this scenario developing and didn’t draft him to set him free this quickly.

RUNNING BACKS (5)

With an unsettled offensive line and injuries at wide receiver, the Chiefs will need not only big production from Charles but significant help on offense from both Thomas and Davis.

WIDE RECEIVER (6)
Dwayne Bowe is suspended for the season's first game so I've left him off this list. Hemingway has been out for most of the preseason with injuries, and Williams and Jenkins left the Green Bay game early, Williams with an injured shoulder and Jenkins with a concussion. So the Chiefs may have to keep Mark Harrison or Fred Williams or acquire a receiver.

TIGHT END (3)

Harris had an awful game against the Packers. He still probably makes the roster.

OFFENSIVE LINE (9)

I've left Donald Stephenson off this list because of his suspension. The decision on McGlynn or Ricky Henry as a backup guard could go either way.

DEFENSIVE LINE (6)

I don't see how the Chiefs can keep Mike Catapano after he missed all of the preseason and most of training camp.

LINEBACKER (9)
Joe Mays will likely go on an injured list but perhaps return later in the year.

CORNERBACK (5)

As Gaines showed against the Packers, he is a developmental player. The Chiefs might have kept DeMarcus Van Dyke, but he suffered a high ankle sprain in Green Bay.

SAFETY (4)

Berry's injury could force the Chiefs to keep a veteran backup. Neither Bronson nor Sorensen has played in a regular-season NFL game.

SPECIALISTS (3)

It wouldn't be a surprise if the Chiefs went with either Cairo Santos or Ryan Succop as their kicker.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- ESPN used over seven dozen voters from the network’s many NFL platforms as well as Football Outsiders and Pro Football Focus to rank the league’s Top 100 players on offense and Top 100 players on defense.

In the rankings, 85 voters turned in ballots on defense, 90 on offense.

  Today, players ranked No. 20 down to 11 are featured. Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas comes in at No. 17, a spot certainly worthy of his status as the unquestioned No. 1 target on the highest-scoring offense in league history. It may even be an undersell of what he really does on the field and where he's headed in Denver's points factory.

And he is also part of a quirky football fact in these pass-happy times. The one where two of the biggest, most athletic, game-busting pass catchers the NFL has to offer – Thomas and Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson – both emerged from the run-based option offense of Georgia Tech.

The Broncos made Thomas the 22nd pick of the 2010 draft while the Lions selected Johnson with the second pick of the 2007 draft.

“I don’t know why that happened,’’ Thomas said. “We felt like we had good players who could compete … We just played in a different kind of offense from some other guys.’’

Thomas has had back-to-back 90-catch, 1,400-yard seasons since being unleashed in earnest in the transition from Tim Tebow to Peyton Manning. And in what figures to again be one of the league’s most high-powered offenses, Thomas is poised for another mark-it-down season.

He’s also poised for a rather tidy payday. Thomas is in the final year of his rookie deal -- he has a $3.275 million base salary this season, a $4.7 million cap charge for the Broncos -- and the two sides haven’t yet hammered out the extension they had hoped to before the season starts.

John Elway has said he “most certainly’’ wants to get Thomas dialed in on a new deal. Thomas has been named to two Pro Bowls, and if he remains healthy, he will pile on some more before his career is done.

The Broncos will certainly have to pay for the privilege to keep him.

“We know what we have here as receivers,’’ Thomas said. “We have Peyton at quarterback with a scheme that allows us to make plays if we get ourseleves to the right spot. I’m just worried about this season and doing what I can to help us do what we want to do and get where we want to go. We want to win the last game of the year.’’

Denver Broncos' projected roster

August, 25, 2014
Aug 25
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Examining the Denver Broncos' roster:

Quarterbacks (2)
The Broncos carried three here last season and thought enough of Zac Dysert to keep him despite a long list of injuries on defense that eventually saw five starters on injured reserve. It continues to look like two is going to be the number here with Dysert set to get a spot on the practice squad.

Running backs (4)

The Broncos kept five at this spot as recently as 2012, but with tight end Virgil Green's ability to play in a fullback role, four is the most logical total. Thompson continues to show he's a potential keeper. He played just 11 snaps on offense Saturday night against the Houston Texans, as the Broncos took a look at some of the other backs on the roster.

Receivers (5)
Jordan Norwood was going to make this team as the sixth receiver, but he suffered a torn left ACL in practice this past week and will miss the season. After initial cuts bring this total to five, the Broncos will scan the waiver wire for a potential sixth given Welker suffered his third concussion since Nov. 17 in Saturday's game.

Tight ends (3)

The Broncos kept four last season -- they kept three in 2011 and three in 2012 -- but keeping three, with perhaps another on the practice squad continues to be the most likely scenario at this point.

Offensive line (10)

The Broncos have kept nine players at this position for the opening-week roster in all three previous seasons of the John Fox/John Elway regime so this is where a difficult decision awaits if they don't elect to keep 10. Their rotations in preseason suggest, however, 10 just might be the number this time around. Garland has done enough to earn a spot, and Cornick continues to work as Clady's backup at left tackle. Sunday's release of veteran tackle Winston Justice helps pave the way for the above to happen.

Defensive line (9)

The Broncos kept eight on the initial roster here last season and could gain a spot for someplace else if they did it again. With their salary cap concerns -- they're right up against it -- it's still a very likely scenario they keep just eight here and a veteran, like Vickerson, could be released.

Linebackers (7)

There is still room here for a wild card, but this group looks like it's settling in. Marshall is going to play for Trevathan for at least the first three games of the regular season, and he showed in the preseason win over the 49ers he's up to the challenge. Miller continues to make progress in his return from ACL surgery and made his first appearance of the preseason Saturday with nine snaps worth of work against the Texans.

Cornerbacks (6)

Last season, the Broncos kept seven cornerbacks on the opening-night roster, including the injured Champ Bailey, but it's now looking like six here with Bolden lining up at corner much of the time. Bolden is also decidedly in the mix as the team's kickoff returner. Chris Harris Jr. is still on track to play in the regular-season opener.

Safeties (4)

Watch the rotations in practice as well as the preseason games, and Duke Ihenacho figures into the equation here as the fifth safety, which would put the Broncos at 11 defensive backs -- what they kept last season -- but that would likely cause them to keep one fewer defensive lineman. If a player like Vickerson is released, this is where the roster spot would be used.

Specialists (3)

Three will be the number here, but for the first four weeks of the season, it will be another kicker instead of Prater, who will open the season on reserve/suspended. Prater has been suspended four games for violating the league's substance-abuse policy.
Late in the preseason is often when NFL teams consider extending potential free agents offers in an attempt to secure them for the longterm and ending any question of the team’s commitment to the player.

Wisniewski
If the Oakland Raiders are considering making such a move, they need to do so with Stefen Wisniewski.

Wisniewski is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent next March. As a second-round pick in 2011, he has developed into one of the Raiders’ most reliable players.

“He’s a good, young, tough player [who] should be extended and should be a building block,” ESPN scout Matt Williamson said. “He’s not an elite center, but he’s well above average.”

He’s the type of player teams keep around. If the Raiders were to let Wisniewski test free agency -- as they did with fellow young starters, Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston this year -- they’d be in danger of another team swooping in on him. That, of course, was what happened with Houston and Veldheer.

Keeping Wisniewski is a very achievable task for Oakland. He will command a solid contract but not a salary-cap killing deal. And, of course, Wisniewski is all Raider. He is the nephew of former Raiders’ superstar offensive lineman and coach Steve Wisniewski. In that 2011 draft, it was all but assumed that Lil Wiz was going to end up as a Raider. It’s only natural he remains one.

Chargers Camp Report: Day 17

August, 14, 2014
Aug 14
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SAN DIEGO -- A daily review of the hot topics coming out of San Diego Chargers training camp:

After an hour-long practice, Chargers head coach Mike McCoy was noncommittal on what players will take the field on Friday against the Seahawks, or how much the starters will play. Specifically, McCoy would not divulge if cornerbacks Brandon Flowers or Jason Verrett would be on the field for the first time this preseason. “We’ve got a plan,” McCoy said. “We’re going to talk about it as a staff tonight and tomorrow about exactly how we’re playing players, and how much players are going to play. Some guys we’re going to hold out. So, we’ll go from there.” Flowers fully participated in practice this week after missing the team’s exhibition opener against the Cowboys with a leg injury. He appears on target to play. Verrett still is wearing a red jersey during practice as he recovers from offseason shoulder surgery in March to repair a torn labrum. Flowers said he’s healthy, but the decision of whether or not he takes the field against Seattle will be up to the coaching staff.

• Defensive lineman Corey Liuget returned to the field after missing practice the past two days with an ankle injury. Liuget’s availability for Friday’s game is uncertain. Fellow defensive linemen Lawrence Guy (shoulder) and Damik Scafe (unknown) did not practice, along with receiver Vincent Brown (calf) and edge rusher Dwight Freeney (rest). Those four likely will not play against Seattle. Offensive lineman Jeromey Clary still is on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list.

• McCoy talked about the importance of Verrett getting some reps in a preseason game before playing in the team’s regular-season opener at Arizona on Sept. 8. Verrett continues to wear a red jersey in practice, which limits how much contact he can participate in as his surgically repaired shoulder heals. At some point McCoy has to let Verrett see what he can do in a live game, but that likely won’t happen this week in Seattle. “You’d love to see him play in a full-speed environment to where he has to make the adjustment on the run,” McCoy said. However, McCoy said he doesn’t know how many live reps it will take to get Verrett up to speed for the regular season. “I can’t put a number on that honestly,” McCoy said. “He’s getting a ton of reps out here in practice. But there’s nothing like real reps in a game.”

• Up next: The Chargers travel to Seattle on Thursday and face the Seahawks on Friday, 10 p.m. ET at CenturyLink Field.
ST. JOSEPH, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs were initially relieved early in training camp when they learned that an injury to safety Eric Berry was minor and that Berry would miss little practice time.

 But since then:

1. They changed the area of the injury from ankle to heel.

2. They held him from practice for a couple of days afterward and later in the preseason opener against the Cincinnati Bengals.

3. He was mysteriously listed as second team on the latest depth chart issued by the Chiefs.

4. Berry arrived at practice on Tuesday fully dressed and apparently ready to work. But he soon left the field only to return shortly before his teammates were finished, this time without helmet and pads.

So what are we to make of this? Is it time to panic about Berry’s ability to withstand the rigors of a full season?

It’s probably too early for panic. The Chiefs clearly aren’t panicking. They brought in another veteran backup safety in Jonathon Amaya, but if they were concerned about Berry’s long-term welfare, they’d be doing more in their search for help at the position.

But the Chiefs should be at least wondering about Berry. They described his latest absence from practice as an issue with tendonitis and that Berry might need the occasional day off when the injured area gets irritated.

For now, that’s a livable situation. They can get a long look at his backup, undrafted rookie Daniel Sorensen. Sorensen has showed good instincts and ball skills during camp, though he was late getting back and providing help on a 53-yard pass from Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton to A.J. Green.

“He actually played pretty good,’’ coach Andy Reid said of Sorensen. “He had a lot of good snaps. It was good for him to get in there and get that experience. It looks like he’s a solid football player. We need to see more. It looks like he’s a smart kid, solid player, was a good tackler in that game, did well in his coverages.’’

Sorensen may have enough to work with that he could eventually become a solid backup and special teams player. But the Chiefs don’t need him starting this season, particularly if the spot he would be taking is Berry’s.

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