NFL Nation: Brodie Croyle

Three things revisited: Cardinals-Broncos

September, 2, 2011
9/02/11
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Looking back on three things discussed here before the Arizona Cardinals' preseason game against the Denver Broncos on Thursday night:

1. Patrick Peterson's impact: Peterson was in the lineup opposite A.J. Jefferson after the Cardinals lost incumbent starting corner Greg Toler to a season-ending knee injury. That was no shock. Peterson was the fifth overall choice in the draft, after all. If he wasn't going to start after the team traded Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and lost Toler for the season, what would it take? Of course, Peterson is going t play extensively this season whether or not he starts right away. He gained 10 yards on a punt return against the Broncos and nearly had more, but this game wouldn't feature another big play from him. Peterson had returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown in the team's previous exhibition game. He didn't register a stat in this one.

2. Quarterback depth: Kevin Kolb, Rich Bartel and Brodie Croyle played for the Cardinals. The offensive line kept them well protected for the most part. Kolb attempted only two passes, getting out of the game early. Bartel completed 12 of 16 passes for 216 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating was 130.2. This was a positive step for Bartel, a candidate to open the season as the Cardinals' No. 2 quarterback, ahead of John Skelton. Skelton missed this game with an ankle injury. Bartel has played well enough in Skelton's absence to merit strong consideration for the No. 2 role, but Kolb is the only quarterback on the team whose place on the depth chart is entirely secure.

3. Young pass-rushers: Will Davis got pressure a few times. Sam Acho had three tackles. I was looking to see whether or not O'Brien Schofield would make an impact. This was pretty much a throwaway game, however. Brady Quinn started at quarterback for the Broncos, completing 4 of 12 passes with a 2.2-yard average per attempt. The Cardinals were leading 26-0 midway through the fourth quarter when I decided to publish this item rather than wait through the remainder of the game. Bring on the regular season, please.
There was a time, way back in 2010, when the Arizona Cardinals thought Max Hall's leadership qualities and feel for the game might translate to success as a starting quarterback.

Three regular-season starts proved disastrous.

Hall
Now, with Hall suffering from a second injury to his non-throwing shoulder, the team waived him with an injury designation. Hall will revert to injured reserve once he clears waivers. He would also become eligible for an injury settlement if the Cardinals chose to cut ties with him.

Undrafted out of BYU, Hall impressed coaches during practices as a rookie. The Cardinals weren't anticipating needing Hall as a starter, however. But with Derek Anderson faltering and Matt Leinart no longer an option, the team made Hall its starter for a Week 5 game against New Orleans. The Cardinals, fueled by turnovers, won the game, but Hall absorbed a brutal hit near the goal line and fumbled.

Opponents couldn't wait to come after Hall, rushing him fearlessly. Hall never took all of the snaps at quarterback during his three starts.

John Skelton finished the 2010 season as the Cardinals' starter, entering this season as the No. 2 quarterback behind Kevin Kolb. Richard Bartel jumped past Hall into the third spot on the depth chart. With Skelton recovering from an ankle injury and Hall out, the team signed Brodie Croyle. I would expect Kolb, Skelton and Bartel to be the top three quarterbacks this season, health permitting.

Brodie Croyle? Why Cards added him

August, 23, 2011
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Injuries to John Skelton and Max Hall would have significantly affected the Arizona Cardinals last season.

Not so much this week.

With Kevin Kolb entrenched as the starter and Richard Bartel having taken firm grasp of the No. 3 job, the Cardinals aren't panicking while Skelton and Hall recover from injuries this week.

The team has added Brodie Croyle, who ran a similar offense under former Cardinals assistant Todd Haley in Kansas City, as insurance heading into the third week of preseason. Skelton has an ankle injury. Hall's left shoulder is hurt. It's unclear whether they'll be available against San Diego on Saturday.

The third preseason game is generally when teams play their starters longest. That could leave less time for backups to play anyway this week. Bartel has fared well enough to overtake Hall for the third job. The Cardinals probably wouldn't mind seeing more of him anyway.

Croyle, 28, started 10 games over five seasons with Kansas City. He has eight touchdown passes with nine interceptions for his career.

Matt Ryan: Second to one

August, 8, 2011
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Every year, the NFL’s communications department puts out its “Kickoff’’ release, which is filled with all sorts of notes and nuggets. I’ll share some with you in the coming weeks. But let’s start with the first one that really caught my eye.

Ryan

Ryan


Tom Brady and Peyton Manning are generally regarded as the best two quarterbacks in the NFL, and Drew Brees is the unquestioned king of the NFC South. I won’t dispute that. But, in a least one very important category, we have another NFC South quarterback near the top.

That’s Atlanta’s Matt Ryan. When it comes to winning percentage in games started by active quarterbacks (10 games minimum), Ryan is a very close second to Brady. In three seasons, Ryan is 33-13 (a .717 winning percentage). Brady is 111-32 (.776).

Ryan is ahead of the likes of Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Philip Rivers, who generally make every list of “elite’’ quarterbacks. By the way, Ryan's 33 victories tie him with Hall of Famer Dan Marino for the most by a quarterback in his first three seasons since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger.

Brees is 15th on the list with a .577 winning percentage (79-58). Tampa Bay’s Josh Freeman is 13-12 (.520).

Then, there’s Carolina’s Jimmy Clausen, who, amazingly is not last on the list. But he is very close with a 1-9 record (.100). Clausen should be very thankful that Tyler Thigpen is 1-11 (.083) and Brodie Croyle is winless in his 10 NFL starts.
The Kansas City Chiefs are continuing the best draft in the AFC West, in my opinion.

Following up on a strong first three rounds, the Chiefs got perhaps one of the best players available on the third day in the form of Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi. He was taken in the fifth round with the No. 135 overall pick.

Stanzi
Stanzi
That is a great value choice. Stanzi was considered a likely early fourth-round choice. He was graded by most teams as a step below the seven quarterbacks who were taken in the first three rounds, mostly because he may need time to develop.

But a lot of teams think Stanzi will develop into a solid NFL starter. Stanzi was known for being a tough player in the Big Ten. He is accurate and his game could translate well to the NFL.

Kansas City coach Todd Haley and quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn should help Stanzi develop quickly.

I expect him to be the Chiefs’ backup quarterback immediately unless he is a total disaster in training camp and in the preseason. Current backup Brodie Croyle has been ineffective and he is a free agent. The Chiefs wanted an upgrade and Saturday they got one.

Stanzi could be groomed under Matt Cassel and could be ready to play in a few years whether it’s as Cassel’s replacement or as a valuable trade piece.

There’s no downside to this selection.

AFC West combine primer

February, 24, 2011
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Da'Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley and Patrick PetersonGetty ImagesDenver is looking defense and that could mean Da'Quan Bowers, Nick Fairley or Patrick Peterson.

INDIANAPOLIS -- With the NFL combine kicking off, let’s take a look at several of the potential storylines involving the AFC West during the draft-preparation event:

It all starts at No. 2: The draft epicenter of the AFC West this year is in Denver. That’s the reward for going 4-12 and taking a major step backward. The Broncos will be looking for defensive help, and every move made by Clemson defensive end Da'Quan Bowers, Auburn defensive tackle Nick Fairley, LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson and several others will be scrutinized by the defense-hungry Broncos in the next several days.

Scouting Wisniewski II: The Raiders don’t have a first-round draft pick (New England gets the No. 17 pick from the 2009 Richard Seymour trade). The Raiders don’t pick until No. 48. One player Oakland will likely look at closely is center/guard Stefen Wisniewski. He is the nephew of former Raiders offensive line great and new assistant line coach Steve Wisniewski. That combine player-coaching staff meeting would be fun to watch. Wisniewski, who followed his famous uncle to Penn State, would fill a need in Oakland. I can see the Raiders taking a long look at him.

Pass-rushers galore: This is a strong class for pass-rushers and that should benefit both the Chargers and Chiefs. San Diego picks No. 18 and the Chiefs pick No. 21. I could see both teams taking a pass-rusher with their top picks. The better the pass-rushers do in Indianapolis, the larger the range of prospects for the Chiefs and Chargers. That group should include Missouri’s Aldon Smith, UCLA’s Akeem Ayers and Cal’s Cameron Jordan.

[+] EnlargeJake Locker
Chris Morrison/US PresswireJake Locker could be a target for the Oakland Raiders.
Oakland and the second-tier QBs: The Raiders could look at a quarterback in the second round to groom beyond Jason Campbell. This might be the time to groom a young quarterback in Oakland. If Washington’s Jake Locker and Arkansas' Ryan Mallett tumble and TCU’s Andy Dalton, Nevada’s Colin Kaepernick and Florida State’s Christian Ponder impress, these prospects could all be possibilities in the middle of the second round. Last year, Carolina took Notre Dame’s Jimmy Clausen at No. 47. He was the third quarterback taken.

What about Julio? In addition to pass-rushers, I could see the Chiefs and Chargers considering a receiver early. One player who would fit both teams is Alabama’s Julio Jones. If Jones performs well, there is likely little chance either team will be able to snare him. It will be difficult to imagine Jones falling below the Rams at No. 14 if he stays the course. So, he could require moving up to get.

Will A.J. fall in love again? The Jones’ situation brings us to San Diego general manager A.J. Smith. Last year, he moved up 16 spots to take Fresno State running back Ryan Mathews at No. 12. Smith admitted that he fell for Mathews early and that moving up to get him was long his plan. Will it happen again at the combine this year? If so, Smith is prepared to move up. The Chargers have extra picks in the second and third rounds. So, he is prepared for anything.

Williamson High feeding the AFC West? If Denver takes Fairley, it will mark the second time a player from Mobile, Alabama’s Williamson High School will be taken with a high pick in four years. In 2007, Oakland took Williamson product JaMarcus Russell with the No. 1 pick.

Does Bowers have a dash of Peppers? Bowers will be very popular with teams. He is a top pass-rusher and he has been compared to Julius Peppers. I’m sure new Denver coach John Fox can’t wait to spend some time with Bowers to further examine the Peppers’ comparison. Fox drafted Peppers with the No. 2 overall pick in 2002. It was Fox’s first year in Carolina. If Fox takes Bowers with the No. 2 overall pick in his first season in Denver, the Peppers’ comparison will only heighten.

Will Newton help Denver? If Auburn quarterback Cam Newton impresses the Carolina Panthers, he could be the No. 1 overall pick. The Broncos are hoping for Newton to wow the Panthers. If so, that means every defensive player in the draft will be on the board for Denver at No. 2. Denver is looking defense all the way after being last in the NFL in total defense and points allowed in 2010.

The Chiefs and the SEC: Who are the Chiefs going to take? Well, I think we have to look at the SEC first. Kansas City general manager Scott Pioli has a history of taking players from the SEC early. Both of the players the Chiefs have taken in the first round under Pioli, Tyson Jackson and Eric Berry, are SEC alums. Overall, the Chiefs have taken SEC players in the first round in the past four years.

[+] EnlargeTexas A&M's Von Miller
Thomas Campbell/US PRESSWIRETexas A&M's Von Miller could be a good fit in Denver, San Diego or Kansas City.
All eyes on Von Miller: The physically impressive Miller is the type of player who could fit in Denver, San Diego and Kansas City. The question is whether or not he is a realistic target for any of those teams. If Miller has a great combine, he could move into the conversation for Denver at No. 2, but that might be a tad high. Denver could try to move down a few spots to get him, but trading down from No. 2 will be difficult. The No. 2 pick hasn’t been traded in 11 years. San Diego and Kansas City could potentially try to move up for Miller. I think San Diego would be a better bet. It has more trading ammunition than the Chiefs have and the Chiefs will likely be happy to stick at No. 21 and see what falls to them.

Casey Matthews' time? The Oregon middle linebacker could be popular. He is the younger brother of Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews, who blossomed into one of the NFL’s better defenders in his second season. Teams could be swayed by Mathews’ potential and look at him as high as the second round. I could see Denver, San Diego and Kansas City all taking a look at him.

The Robert Quinn factor: The former North Carolina defensive end could be an X factor. He didn’t play in 2010 because he made contact with an agent. He was considered a top prospect. If he has a great combine, he could work his way into the conversation for Denver.

Oakland and the stop watch: Whoever posts the fastest 40-yard dash at the combine has to be considered an Oakland prospect. The Raiders covet speed as much as any team in the league. Last year’s fastest man at the combine was Jacoby Ford. Oakland grabbed him in the fourth round and he looks like a future star.

Will the Chiefs find a backup QB? I would be surprised if the Chiefs brought back backup Brodie Croyle in 2011. So, the team could be interested in looking for a young backup. I could see Kansas City studying prospects in the third and fourth rounds.

The Duke works the combine: New Denver VP of football operations John Elway will be at the combine. This is his first season as a football personnel man and he will be a big part of Denver’s process at the combine.
The Tennessee Titans announced quarterback Vince Young will not be with the team in 2011.

Let’s take a look if he fits anywhere in the AFC West.

Denver

Depending on who is the new head coach, Young could possibly fit as a backup. It looks like Tim Tebow will be the starter and Kyle Orton will be traded. I could see the Titans making a run at Orton. So, with a backup job likely available, there could be interest in Young. He is a runner like Tebow, so it could be a system fit.

Kansas City

I think the Chiefs will move away from Brodie Croyle as backup, so there might be an opening. But I don’t see Young being a fit in this system.

Oakland

You always have to wonder about Oakland. Al Davis likes giving talented players a second chance. Oakland is hardly set at quarterback but Jason Campbell is probably a more stable fit for the immediate future than Young. Still, I wouldn’t be shocked if Young is wearing the Silver and Black in 2011.

San Diego

Backup Billy Volek may try to leave to pursue a starter’s job, so there may be an opening. But I don’t see the Chargers pursuing Young.

McFadden and Seymour are inactive

January, 2, 2011
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KANSAS CITY -- The Oakland Raiders will be without star running back Darren McFadden and star defensive lineman Richard Seymour for Sunday’s season finale at Kansas City.

Both were game-time decisions. On Friday, Oakland coach Tom Cable said he thought McFadden had a better chance of playing than Seymour. Neither player practiced all week. McFadden has a turf toe injury and Seymour has a hamstring injury that also kept him out of last week’s game.

McFadden had a breakout season this year. He is a Pro Bowl alternate. Seymour made the Pro Bowl. He is a free agent, but Oakland is expected to do everything it can to keep him, likely with a long-term deal.

The only surprise on Kansas City’s inactive list was that Brodie Croyle is the No. 3 quarterback and Tyler Palko is the backup. Croyle has been the No. 2 quarterback all season. The Chiefs didn’t say whether Croyle was injured or not. He was not on the injury report all week. Croyle is a free agent after the season. If this move was a coach’s decision, it will likely mean Croyle will not return next season.
Matt CasselJeff Curry/US PresswireLess than two weeks after an appendectomy, Matt Cassel led the Chiefs to a critical win over the Rams.
ST. LOUIS –- Brian Waters wants Kansas City Chiefs fans to fully appreciate what they witnessed Sunday and what they have in their quarterback.

Eleven days after having an appendectomy that limited him in practice and kept his availability for Sunday’s crucial game against the St. Louis Rams in question until moments before kickoff, Matt Cassel lifted the Chiefs to a crucial 27-13 win. The victory was an important step toward securing Kansas City's first AFC West championship since 2003.

“After today, fans have to appreciate this guy,” said Waters, the Chiefs’ standout 11-year guard. “I know a lot of people doubted Matt, but they shouldn't doubt him anymore. There’s no question he’s our leader and he’s a very good football player. I told him before the game that he didn’t need to be Superman out here today ... but on a few plays, he actually looked like Superman.”

Added Kansas City running back Thomas Jones on Cassel’s performance: “For a guy to come back, after having an organ removed from his body ... it’s definitely extraordinary.”

If the Chiefs end up going to the playoffs, Cassel’s performance Sunday will go down in Kansas City annals as one of the more heroic performances in its professional sports history. Cassel never truly tested his strength all week and sat out a portion of pregame warm-ups just to save energy.

“This is not a common thing,” Kansas City coach Todd Haley said. “[It’s] not a thing we have had a lot of experience with, so you have to depend on the medical staff and be sure that you are not putting someone in a compromising situation.”

Well after backups Brodie Croyle and Tyler Palko were on the field throwing balls to receivers, Cassel gingerly entered the field and played short toss with a Kansas City support member. Yet, when the game started, it was clear Cassel was on the field for more than a cameo appearance or merely moral support. He was playing to energize Kansas City's playoff hopes.

Cassel moved without pain and led Kansas City to 20 unanswered points. In the end, Cassel was his usual efficient self, completing 15 of 29 passes for 184 yards. He threw for one touchdown and was intercepted once. Those aren’t exactly classic star numbers. But without Cassel leading this offense, the Chiefs have proved they can’t move the ball.

“I knew he was either going to be throwing up blood or making plays,” Waters said of Cassel.

Added St. Louis coach Steve Spagnuolo: “I think his statement was, 'Hey, I’m not afraid to run it, I’m not afraid to throw it. I’m here to play ball.’ "

On Sunday, Cassel led Kansas City to 27 points. Last week, with Cassel resting on his couch, the Chiefs had 67 yards offense as the Croyle-led squad was brutalized, 31-0, against San Diego.

After Cassel’s performance and its bounce back from last week's disaster-by-the-sea, Kansas City is now 9-5. If the Chiefs win their final two games -- at home next week against Tennessee and on Jan. 2 against Oakland -- they will win the division. If the Chiefs -- who are 6-0 at home this season -- lose once and San Diego (8-6) wins its final two games, the Chargers will win the division. San Diego plays at Cincinnati next week and at Denver to close out the season. (Check out ESPN's NFL Playoff Machine and playoff standings.)

“As the quarterback, I certainly want to be out there as much as possible,” Cassel said. “Any chance I had to play this week, I was going to do it.”

Cassel’s presence clearly lifted Kansas City.

“To see our quarterback rush back after an injury like that was impressive,” Kansas City receiver Chris Chambers said. “It made us all elevate our game. Matt showed he’s something special.”

Last season and earlier this season, many Kansas City fans were dissatisfied with Cassel, who was acquired from New England in 2009 and was given a $40 million deal. After a sluggish start in 2010, many thought the Chiefs should not exercise the option on Cassel after this season and perhaps pursue Philadelphia’s Kevin Kolb in the offseason. Over the past two months, though, Cassel has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL. He has thrown 24 touchdown passes with just five interceptions this season.

Kansas City has the NFL’s best running game (it added 210 yards on the ground Sunday) and a surprisingly stout defense -- the basis of a solid team. On Sunday, Cassel showed he’s the nucleus of the team. It is clear he is going to be the Chiefs’ quarterback for the long term. If Kansas City is still playing in January, Cassel will give them a fighting chance.

“He was [a hero],” Waters said. “What he did out there and how he lifted us today was a big deal.”
ST. LOUIS -- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel is active for Sunday’s game against the St. Louis Rams.

The Chiefs have not announced if Cassel or his backup, Brodie Croyle, will start. Cassel had an appendectomy Dec. 8 and he missed last week’s game against San Diego, a 31-0 loss. Croyle, who is 0-10 as an NFL starter, was 7-of-13 for 40 yards in the defeat. Kansas City had 67 yards of total offense in the game.

Cassel was not doing much when the Chiefs were on the field for warm-ups about one hour and 45 minutes before kickoff Sunday. He was throwing short passes and he did not work with any receivers. Croyle was, however, throwing to receivers.

Cassel was limited all week in practice. This is a crucial game for the 8-5 Chiefs, who lead San Diego (8-6) by a half-game in the AFC West.

I will post an update on who will start at quarterback for Kansas City when it is announced. The decision could be made right before the game.

Matt Cassel among active Chiefs vs. Rams

December, 19, 2010
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ST. LOUIS -- Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Matt Cassel has done little during warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome.

He might play anyway.

Cassel's name was not among the list of inactive players Kansas City submitted 90 minutes before kickoff. The Chiefs named Tyler Palko as their third quarterback. The Chiefs did not immediately disclose any lineup changes. Cassel or Brodie Croyle could start at quarterback.

Cassel has already missed one game since having an appendectomy. He practiced on a limited basis during the week and did not participate fully in warm-ups at the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday morning. Croyle and Palko threw intermediate routes to receivers running at full speed. Cassel tossed soft 8-yard passes to a team staffer while working off to the side.

The Chiefs' inactive list featured cornerback Mike Richardson, safety Ricky Price, fullback Mike Cox, safety Reshard Langford, linebacker Charlie Anderson, center Rudy Niswanger and defensive tackle Anthony Toribio.

Inactive for the Rams: safety Michael Lewis, cornerback Justin King, running back Kenneth Darby, fullback Mike Karney, linebacker David Nixon, guard John Greco, receiver Mardy Gilyard and tight end Mike Hoomanawanui.

The situation at running back is a little troubling for the Rams. Darby is the top backup for Steven Jackson. The team has been naming Karney inactive by choice.

Rookie Keith Toston is the No. 2 running back behind Jackson.

What I'm seeing from Matt Cassel

December, 19, 2010
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ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams will be watching closely when the Kansas City Chiefs declare their inactive players Sunday.

At issue: whether or not Kansas City will have quarterback Matt Cassel in a game with playoff implications for both teams.

Cassel is among the players on the field warming up at the Edward Jones Dome. He is doing less than the other quarterbacks. Brodie Croyle and Tyler Palko are throwing game-speed passes to receivers running intermediate routes. They are throwing on rhythm from midfield between the hashes.

Cassel has thrown some soft 8-yard passes to a team staffer off to the side. Cassel has subsequently walked toward the middle of the field, nearer the other quarterbacks, but he is not throwing to receivers.

My initial impression: Cassel does not appear on track to start against the Rams.

We'll know more soon. Teams must submit inactive lists 90 minutes prior to kickoff.
The decision whether Matt Cassel will play Sunday in a critical game in St. Louis will be made prior to the game, the team said.

Cassel was limited in practice Friday as he was all week. He is listed as questionable. Cassel missed last week’s 31-0 loss at San Diego after he had an appendectomy Dec. 17. The Chiefs said the team’s medical staff will evaluate Cassel before making a final decision.

None of this is surprising. It was never a sure thing that Cassel would play against the Rams. But it was a good sign that Cassel practiced all week.

It is clear the Chiefs want Cassel to play, and it could be simply playing it safe. Thursday, ESPN medical expert Dr. Michael Kaplan said on "SportsCenter" that as long as Cassel’s abdomen was properly protected and Cassel could comfortably move side to side, he could likely play.

I think unless there is a setback, Cassel will try to play. Perhaps he will be pulled if there is discomfort, but I think Cassel will do all he can to get on the field.

If not, Brodie Croyle will get his second straight start, Croyle threw for 40 yards in the loss to San Diego. The Chiefs have a half-game lead over San Diego in the AFC West.

The team knows how important it is for Cassel to play. Yet, the Chiefs also know how important it is that Cassel is healthy before he plays. That’s why this decision is going to be made Sunday.
The Kansas City Star is reporting that quarterback Matt Cassel was back on the practice field Wednesday as the Chiefs prepare for a critical game at St. Louis on Sunday.

Cassel
Cassel
This is big news for Kansas City.

The fact that Cassel is on the practice field doesn’t automatically mean that he will be able to play Sunday. But it’s a good sign and it means, as of Wednesday, Cassel is recovering well from an appendectomy he had last Wednesday. It is Cassel’s first practice since having the procedure. He didn’t travel to San Diego for the Chiefs’ 31-0 loss.

It is unclear how much Cassel will practice Wednesday but even if it's just on a limited basis, it’s progress. The Chiefs surely need him under center. Kansas City is 8-5 and leads San Diego by one game in the division. If the Chiefs win their three remaining games, they will win the AFC West. If San Diego wins all of its three remaining games and if the Chiefs lose once, the Chargers will win the division.

Brodie Croyle was not good in Cassel’s place Sunday. He completed 7 of 17 passes for 40 yards. The Chiefs had just 67 total yards of offense. Croyle is 0-10 as an NFL starter.

The Chiefs will be in much better shape with Cassel as their quarterback in St. Louis. His presence at practice Wednesday is the first step toward that happening.

How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

December, 15, 2010
12/15/10
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NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

FALLING

[+] EnlargeBrodie Croyle
Christopher Hanewinckel/US PresswireBrodie Croyle, who had not played since December of 2009, completed 7 of 13 passes for 40 yards in Sunday's start.
1. Brodie Croyle’s future: Croyle had a chance to make himself some money on Sunday at San Diego. He failed to take advantage of it. The prospective free agent was awful as a replacement for Matt Cassel in a 31-0 loss to the Chargers. Croyle -- now 0-10 as an NFL starter -- completed 7 of 17 passes for 40 yards. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Croyle did not complete any of his eight pass attempts that traveled 10 or more yards. That type of performance will not attract interest from other teams in the offseason. It also has to make you wonder if the Chiefs will be interested in bringing him back.

2. Eric Studesville’s future in Denver: Studesville probably had to be perfect as Denver’s interim coach to have any chance of keeping the job next season. The Broncos’ 43-13 loss to the lowly Cardinals on Sunday will not help Studesville’s cause to keep the job beyond the next three weeks.

3. Oakland’s ability to finish: The Raiders have to be kicking themselves after a 38-31 loss at Jacksonville. Oakland led 17-7 at halftime and watched the Jaguars score 31 points in the second half, including 21 points in the third quarter. It resulted in a loss that severely damaged Oakland’s playoff hopes.

RISING

1. San Diego’s run defense: Now, that’s the way to fix a problem. In Week 13, San Diego’s top-ranked run defense was throttled by Oakland. The Raiders had 251 yards rushing in a 15-point San Diego loss. A week later, the Chargers held the Chiefs to 48 yards rushing and 67 yards of total offense in a shutout win. The Chiefs have the No. 1-ranked run offense in the NFL, but it was neutralized against the recharged San Diego defense.

2. Ryan Mathews, Chargers running back: After not playing for a month because of a nagging ankle injury, the No. 12 overall pick in the April draft performed well against the Chiefs. Mathews had 65 yards and starter Mike Tolbert had 66. Mathews ran hard and showed his great strength on a touchdown run in which he kept himself from falling to the turf. Mathews has a lot of skills and, after a tough stretch, has proven he can help San Diego balance its offense.

3. Jason Campbell, Raiders quarterback: Campbell made some critical mistakes in judgment at the end of the game, but overall, he had his best performance as a Raider in the loss to Jacksonville. This is a critical stretch for Campbell. If he can finish strong, Oakland probably will be comfortable enough with his play to keep him as its starter next season. If he falters, the Raiders will at the very least bring in some competition. Campbell seems to have benefited by not having to look over his shoulder for Bruce Gradkowski now that the backup is on injured reserve. If Campbell plays like he did against the Jaguars in the next few weeks, he probably will secure his immediate future with the Raiders.

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