ALAMEDA, Calif. -- As heated protests boiled over in Missouri after the controversial shooting of an black teenager, Oakland Raiders running back Maurice Jones-Drew made a statement in Green Bay, Wisconsin, last Friday night.

At the end of a 40-yard touchdown run during the Raiders’ 31-21 loss at Green Bay, the longtime NFL star put his head down and put his hands up and stood silently. Jones-Drew is using a screenshot of the pose as his Twitter avatar. The stance has become a symbol for in the protests of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, earlier this month.

Speaking about the pose to reporters this week, Jones-Drew said he felt like he needed to stand up and make his feelings known.

“My goal is always to create awareness,” Jones-Drew said.

The Ferguson incident hit close to home for Jones-Drew. He was in Florida during the Trayvon Martin shooting and when a teenager was shot at a Jacksonville gas station because he was playing loud music.

“I know what it’s like to get pulled over when you’ve done nothing wrong,” Jones-Drew said. “I’ve been through those things. When you’re raising three young boys, you have to think about those things. When they get older and they go out at night, am I going to have to be the one to get that phone call? Those are things you worry about. That’s what I worry about as a father and what my mother worried about when I was growing up.”

Jones-Drew said he is unsure if he will continue to mark his touchdowns with the "hands up" pose.
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 end, 85 voters turned in ballots on defense, 90 on offense.

Today, players ranked No. 30 down to 21 are featured, and in this segment, the voters certainly believe the Denver Broncos made a significant defensive upgrade for the coming season.

Cornerback Aqib Talib checks in at No. 30 while defensive end DeMarcus Ware is at No. 23 -- both players were signed in this past offseason's free-agency binge by the Broncos. Safety T.J. Ward, who was also in the shopping spree this past March, was earlier ranked No. 59.

"I think there's no question, players like Aqib, DeMarcus and T.J. change what your defense is," said Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio. "They're all good players, proven guys who have shown what they can do in this league. You bring them in because you think they have things to offer to help what you do. No question, we believe they'll help what we do."

Thus far, ESPN's ranking project has shown the Broncos' current regime is still a little light on homegrown players on the defensive side when it comes to the league's upper crust in personnel. Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway, who just completed his fourth draft with the team in May and has consistently stated his long-term goal for the team is "to compete for world championships every year and we know the draft is a key part of that. We know that's our core."

And their hope is they see the fruits of those labors in the seasons to come. But in this year's rankings, between No. 100 and No. 31, the Broncos have had four players ranked with Terrance Knighton at No. 78 to go with Ward, Talib and Ware. All four of those players were signed in free agency -- Knighton last year to go with the three this past March.

One would expect linebacker Von Miller's name to appear in the coming days somewhere in the top 20 rankings, and as a whole the voters likely short-changed linebacker Danny Trevathan as well. Lead a 13-3 Super Bowl team in tackles with equal effectiveness along the line of scrimmage or in coverage and you are likely a top-100 player.

Both Trevathan and Miller are Elway draft picks and the team believes in the futures of players such as cornerback Bradley Roby and defensive tackle Sylvester Williams, who were the team's last two first-round picks.

But it does show when the Broncos wanted to repair their defense this time around, they had to use their checkbook -- and not their depth chart -- to do it.
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- A sluggish preseason from the Kansas City Chiefs hasn't dulled the optimism from their chairman, Clark Hunt. He said on Wednesday he expects another postseason appearance from the Chiefs, who haven't made the playoffs in back-to-back seasons since 1994 and 1995.

"My expectation is that we build on what we did last year,'' Hunt said before the Chiefs' annual kickoff luncheon. "We obviously set the bar very high for ourselves, not only with the undefeated start but the 11 wins and making the playoffs.

"I expect John [Dorsey] and Andy [Reid] to build on that. It won't always show up week to week in wins and losses but clearly we want to get back to the playoffs and hopefully go further than we did last year.''

Regardless of how the Chiefs do this season, in a sense it's already a success. Interest in the Chiefs in Kansas City has rebounded after a horrible stretch of seasons dating from the late 2000s to the early 2010s.

The Chiefs once sold out Arrowhead Stadium on a seasonal basis except for a few hundred tickets they purposely held back for single-game buyers. By the late 2000s, they were begging their fans to come to games and had their first local TV blackout in more than 15 years in 2009.

The rebound started last year with the hiring of Reid as head coach. But it took an 11-win season and a return to the playoffs before the interest was truly rekindled.

Season-ticket sales swelled from about 50,000 to over 60,000, according to Chiefs president Mark Donovan, who also said TV ratings for the first three preseason games have increased more than 10 percent.

"The fan base really responded to the success the team had last year,'' Hunt said. "There's a lot of interest in the Kansas City Chiefs right now.''


Telling stats about each starting QB

August, 27, 2014
Aug 27
Russell Wilson, Tom Brady and Peyton ManningGetty Images


Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys: Romo has led 13 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime over the past three seasons, two more than any other quarterback. Romo also ranks fifth in Total QBR in the fourth quarter and overtime since 2011.

Eli Manning, New York Giants: Manning led the NFL with a career-high and franchise-record 27 interceptions last season, five more than any other QB. It was the most interceptions by any QB in a season since Brett Favre in 2005 (29).

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles: Foles threw 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions last season. Foles' touchdown-to-interception ratio of 13.5 was the best by any qualifying QB in a season in NFL history.

Robert Griffin III, Washington Redskins: Griffin ranked fifth in the NFL with a Total QBR of 73.2 on the 0-to-100 scale as a rookie in 2012. Last season, his rating plunged to 40.1, 29th in the NFL. Griffin had the league's largest decrease in Total QBR from 2012 to 2013.


Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals: Palmer led the NFL with 145 passes thrown 15 or more yards downfield last season, but he also led the league with 13 interceptions on such throws while finishing 17th in yards per attempt and 29th in touchdown-to-interception ratio on deep passes.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers: Kaepernick has been blitzed on a league-high 38.3 percent of his dropbacks over the past two seasons. But he's also one of the best QBs against the blitz, with the third-highest QBR since the start of 2012 (75.2).

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Including playoffs, Wilson is 28-9 as a starter over the past two seasons. That's the most wins by a starting QB in his first two seasons in NFL history and tied with Peyton Manning for the most wins in the NFL since 2012.

Shaun Hill, St. Louis Rams: Shaun Hill is 13-13 with a 50.1 Total QBR (50 is average) in his career as a starting quarterback. Sam Bradford is 18-30 in 48 career starts and has never posted a Total QBR over 50.3 in a season.


Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears: During his first four seasons in Chicago, Cutler was sacked on 7.6 percent of his dropbacks, the highest rate among qualifying QBs. In his first season under Marc Trestman in 2013, Cutler was sacked on just 5.0 percent of his dropbacks (sixth-lowest rate in NFL).

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Stafford threw 16 touchdown passes and six interceptions in his first eight games last season. In his last eight games, he threw 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions, tied with Joe Flacco for the most interceptions in the NFL over that span.

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: Over the past three seasons, Rodgers ranks first in the NFL in yards per attempt (8.5) and touchdown-to-interception ratio (5.1), second in Total QBR (78.9) and third in completion percentage (67.5).

Matt Cassel, Minnesota Vikings: Cassel completed 73 percent of his passes and averaged 8.9 yards per attempt last season when targeting Greg Jennings. When targeting all other players, he completed 59 percent of his passes for 6.9 yards per attempt.


Matt Ryan, Atlanta Falcons: Ryan was pressured on 203 dropbacks last season, 20 more than any other quarterback. From 2009 to 2012, he was pressured an average of just 113 times per season.

Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers: In his three NFL seasons, Newton has been sacked, hit while throwing or hit while carrying the ball 467 times. That's more than double the total for any other quarterback. Next closest is Ryan Fitzpatrick, at 230.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints: Brees has thrown for 5,000 yards in four seasons, including each of the past three. Every other player in league history has combined for four seasons with 5,000 or more passing yards.

Josh McCown, Tampa Bay Buccaneers: McCown had the league's third-highest completion percentage (51.2) on passes 15 or more yards downfield last season. Seventeen of his 21 completions on such throws were to Alshon Jeffery or Brandon Marshall.


EJ Manuel, Buffalo Bills: Manuel was among the NFL's least effective QBs on third down last season. Manuel ranked last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.2) on third down and second to last in completion percentage (47.5).

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins: Tannehill was sacked 58 times last season, the most in a season since Jon Kitna for the Lions in 2006 (63). Tannehill has been sacked 93 times in his career, the most by any player in his first two NFL seasons since Jake Plummer in 1997-98 (101).

Tom Brady, New England Patriots: In 2013, Brady had his lowest completion percentage (60.5) in a full season since 2003, his fewest yards per attempt (6.9) since 2006 and his fewest TD passes (25) since 2006. However, Brady also threw a league-high 163 passes to rookies last season.

Geno Smith, New York Jets: Over the first 13 weeks of 2013, Smith was the NFL's lowest-rated QB with a Total QBR of 21.6. Over the last four weeks of 2013, Smith was the league's second-highest rated QB with a QBR of 78.9, trailing only Peyton Manning.


Peyton Manning, Denver Broncos: Last year, Manning became the fourth player in NFL history to set the single-season record for passing yards and passing TDs in the same season. He joined Dan Marino (1984), Sid Luckman (1943) and Cecil Isbell (1942).

Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs: Over the past three seasons, only 17 of Smith's 1,171 passes have been intercepted, giving Smith the lowest interception percentage (1.45) of any QB since the start of 2011. Smith also ranks fourth in win percentage over that span, trailing only Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady.

Matt Schaub, Oakland Raiders: Schaub ranked last in the NFL with a Total QBR of 13.4 on play-action passes last season. Over the previous five seasons (2008-12), Schaub was the third-highest rated QB on play-action passes (86.0 Total QBR), behind only Kurt Warner and Peyton Manning.

Philip Rivers, San Diego Chargers: After entering 2013 with a career completion percentage of 63.6, Rivers led the league with a 69.5 completion percentage last season. Rivers also had just 13 turnovers in 2013 after turning it over 47 times from 2011-12 (tied for second most in NFL).


Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens: Flacco has started 96 of a possible 96 games since his rookie season in 2008. According to Elias Sports Bureau, that's the second-longest starts streak by a QB to begin his career since the merger. Flacco trails Peyton Manning (208).

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals: Dalton is 30-18 with 80 touchdown passes and 49 interceptions in 48 regular-season starts. In three postseason starts, he's 0-3 with one touchdown and six interceptions. Cincinnati has scored 33 total points in Dalton's three playoff starts.

Brian Hoyer, Cleveland Browns: Hoyer was 3-0 and completed 59.4 percent of his passes with a 47.5 Total QBR last season. All other Browns QBs were 1-12 and completed 55.0 percent of their passes with a 31.7 Total QBR.

Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh Steelers: Over the past three seasons, Roethlisberger has the league's highest completion percentage (51.8), most passing yards (1,837), most TD passes (18) and second-highest Total QBR (60.5) when he's under duress or hit while throwing. The average QBR on such plays in that span is 26.9.


Ryan Fitzpatrick, Houston Texans: Fitzpatrick is 27-49-1 in 77 career regular-season starts. The only active QB with more regular-season starts who has never started a playoff game is Jason Campbell (79).

Andrew Luck, Indianapolis Colts: Luck has thrown for 8,196 yards since entering the league in 2012, the most ever by a QB in his first two seasons. Only seven quarterbacks have thrown for more yards than Luck since the start of his rookie year.

Chad Henne, Jacksonville Jaguars: Henne's average pass was just 6.5 yards downfield last season, giving him the shortest average pass attempt in the NFL. Fifty-five percent of Henne's attempts were within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.

Jake Locker, Tennessee Titans: After backing up Matt Hasselbeck as a rookie in 2011, Locker has missed 14 games with injuries over the past two seasons. Of the 20 quarterbacks drafted in the top 10 since 2000, only Rivers and Matt Leinart threw fewer passes in their first three seasons than Locker's 563.

SAN DIEGO -- Add another piece of evidence that San Diego Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers is back playing at an elite level. A year after finishing off the list at No. 121, Rivers debuts on #NFLRank -- ESPN’s ranking of the top 100 players on offense and defense in the NFL -- at No. 30.

Rivers’ ascension to No. 30 is no surprise after how well he played last season, leading the league in completion percentage (69.5 percent) and finishing fourth in the NFL in passing touchdowns (32) and passer rating (105.5).

But the real question for Rivers is can he keep it going?

The answer to that is yes, for a couple reasons.

No. 1 is continuity. Even though former offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt took his considerable talents to Nashville as the new head coach of the Tennessee Titans, his replacement, Frank Reich, doesn’t plan to make major tweaks to San Diego’s offense.

Reich served as San Diego’s quarterbacks coach last season, has a good relationship with Rivers and will be given even more control as the new offensive coordinator. Rivers will have more ability to run no-huddle and call plays at the line of scrimmage.

“He has complete mastery of this offense,” Reich said about Rivers. “He’s the proverbial coach on the field.”

The Chargers also have continuity in terms of personnel, with most of the offense returning from last season.

And Rivers has playmakers. He will continue to lean on the short passing game, feeding big targets such as Keenan Allen, Malcom Floyd, Antonio Gates and Ladarius Green -- which means his completion percentage should remain high and his interceptions should stay low.

Finally, the Chargers are a team that will run the football, taking the pressure off of Rivers to carry the offense. While running back Ryan Mathews likely will not carry it 285 times again this season, he still will be the main running back in San Diego’s offense, with Donald Brown and Danny Woodhead serving in complementary roles.

And with the ability to consistently run the football, opposing defenses have to play Rivers honest.

“My thing is to keep fine tuning the details -- all of the little things,” Rivers said. “Every little thing matters, and it’s not relaxing on anything. I think our whole offense and our whole team has that mindset.”
DeMarcus WareJohn Leyba/The Denver Post/Getty ImagesDeMarcus Ware returns to Dallas on Thursday as a member of the Broncos.

IRVING, Texas -- DeMarcus Ware never really got the chance to say goodbye when the Dallas Cowboys released their all-time leader in sacks last March.

On Thursday Ware will get the chance to once again say hello when the Denver Broncos visit AT&T Stadium for the preseason finale, and the Cowboys’ fans and organization will get a chance to say thank you.

"Being able to come back and have the opportunity to absorb some of the things I have done and seen down there," Ware said, "it’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to it."

Ware will not be playing and neither will his long-time Cowboys teammates Tony Romo and Jason Witten as both teams will rest their starters for the regular season, but his daughter and son will be on hand to see him in Broncos’ colors.

"I thought I was always going to be a Dallas Cowboy," Ware said. "That was really, really big for me. I played well for nine years. So I never thought they would get rid of me."

From a business perspective, the Cowboys decision to release Ware was not difficult. He was set to count $16 million against the salary cap and was coming off a career-low six sacks after missing the first three games of his career with a quadriceps injury.

Ware, who turned 32 in July, had elbow surgery in the offseason and had been slowed by numerous injuries the last two seasons.

From a personal perspective, the Cowboys’ decision was difficult. Coach Jason Garrett and executive vice president Stephen Jones spoke about their admiration for Ware, the No. 11 pick of the 2005 draft, who made the Pro Bowl from 2006-12 and was one of the NFL’s most dominant pass-rushers.

[+] EnlargeDeMarcus Ware
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsIn nine seasons with the Cowboys, DeMarcus Ware accumulated 117 sacks.
"Very strange and difficult to boot because of what we think about him," Jones said of Ware’s visit. "I mean he’s like family. He obviously, in our mind, he’s a shoe in to the Hall of Fame and he spilled his bucket here for us, and it’s difficult, but that’s part of the business. At the same time we’re happy for him because of what he was able to do in terms of his business with the Broncos and it sure is a good situation for him. I’ve said it from Day 1 he’s one of my all-time favorites and I wish him nothing but the best."

The Broncos signed Ware to a three-year, $30 million deal that guaranteed him $20 million the day after he was cut by Dallas. After losing in the Super Bowl last season, the Broncos view Ware as one of the final pieces to win a Super Bowl this season.

The Cowboys are not in that position and had to make some salary-cap decisions. They never made a firm offer to possibly keep Ware, in part because they did not want to spoil what had been a great relationship with a low-ball deal.

The Cowboys, however, do not have a replacement for Ware on their current roster. They selected DeMarcus Lawrence in the second round, but he suffered a broken foot in training camp and could miss the first 3-6 regular season games.

"It'll be difficult but at the same time I hope it all goes well for him," Jones said. "I hope he gets to the Super Bowl."

To get there the Broncos will need the Ware that racked up double-digit sacks every year from 2006-12. Ware had 20 sacks in 2008 and 19.5 sacks in 2011. His 117 career sacks are a team record.

Injuries, however, sapped Ware of a lot of his strength. He was unable to practice as much as he or the team would have liked.

"When I look at him the last couple of years, I look at him with admiration and say, ‘Wow! This is a tough guy,’" Garrett said. "He’s a mentally tough guy. He’s a physically tough guy. He’s doing everything that he can to put it on the line for our team and for his teammates. My association with him has been nothing but positive. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever been around and one of the best players. Statistically he wasn’t what he was throughout his career last year (because of the injuries). I anticipate a lot of great football ahead for him."

Playing with Peyton Manning, Ware should see a lot of double-digit leads, which means teams have to pass more, which means he will have more opportunities to rush the passer. Playing next to Von Miller will provide him with more one-on-one blocks than he had with the Cowboys even when Greg Ellis and Anthony Spencer enjoyed Pro Bowl seasons. Ware is also 10 pounds lighter (255) and has not missed a day of practice this summer.

"At the end of the day my goal is to always be very effective and get to the quarterback as much as I can and to get back to my old self," Ware said. "Pass-rushers want to get those double digit sacks. They want to make those big plays. How effective can I be this year? I think I can get back to my old self. I know I can."

But whatever happens with the Broncos, he will forever remain a Cowboy. He has a deal in place with Jerry Jones to retire as a member of the Cowboys and almost assuredly will one day will join the club’s hallowed Ring of Honor.

"I played for a great organization with the Dallas Cowboys," Ware said, "and that will always be home for me."
ALAMEDA, Calif. – Two veteran Oakland Raiders have an outside chance of setting NFL records that showcase both their brilliance and their longevity.

But again, it's a long shot to achieve those milestones in 2014.

Defensive back Charles Woodson, entering his 17th NFL, season, needs two interception returns for a touchdown to set an NFL record. Former Oakland player and coach Rod Woodson is the record-holder at 12. Charles Woodson, 37, hasn’t had an interception return for a score since 2011.

Meanwhile, Oakland kicker Sebastian Janikowski, in his 15th NFL season, has kicked 45 field goals of 50 yards or longer and needs eight to become the all-time NFL leader. Jason Hanson kicked 52 field goals of 50 yards or longer in his career from 1994-2012.

The most 50-yarders Janikowski has kicked in a season was seven in 2011. He had three 50-yarders in 2013.
Wes Welker, D.J. Swearinger, Jeff TarpinianAP Photo/Jack DempseyWes Welker suffered yet another concussion after taking this hit from D.J. Swearinger.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- For most of Emmanuel Sanders' NFL career, he has done his business as a wide receiver in that high-impact, high-traffic area where slot receivers roam.

So he knows what Wes Welker goes through in the Denver Broncos' high-powered offense and knows what it will take to adjust if Welker misses time in the regular season because of a concussion suffered just before halftime in this past Saturday's preseason loss to the Houston Texans.

"It's different," Sanders said. "I've played slot every year that I've played football except last year was my first year on the outside. It's a different game. On the outside, you just have to beat one man, really, and that's because they play man-to-man. Whereas in the slot, it's more zone. You have to avoid linebackers, you have to avoid safeties, you have to sit down in the zone and that's where the big hits can come from. Whereas on the outside, they'll come, but they're not going to come as much as in the slot."

Welker, who also suffered concussions Nov. 17 against the Kansas City Chiefs and Dec. 8 against the Tennessee Titans last season, is currently under the guidelines of the league's concussion protocol. The Broncos don't have a timetable for his return, but under those guidelines to return to full participation in a practice by next Friday -- two days before the Sept. 7 regular-season opener -- Welker would have to be symptom free by Monday.

Welker would also have to be cleared for a return to the field by an independent physician, designated by both the NFL and NFL Players Association.

[+] EnlargeWes Welker
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesWes Welker had 73 catches for 778 yards and 10 touchdowns with the Broncos last season.
"He's doing fantastic in the process," said Broncos head coach John Fox, following Tuesday's practice. "We'll take it one day (at a time), and another positive day today."

In their offense, much like how the Indianapolis Colts' offense looked with Peyton Manning behind center, the Broncos' bread-and-butter plays are the crossing routes, both shallow and deeper down the field, to go with the big-play shots that come down the seam.

With Welker having suffered three concussions in 10 months in the Broncos' offense, offensive coordinator Adam Gase said he would look at how the team is using its slot receivers to see if they are being put in harm's way more often. But Gase also said he didn't believe that to be the case on the play when Welker was injured.

"I think we'll take a look at our route concepts and see what we need to tinker with and maybe why something like that happened," Gase said. "If we have to make an adjustment, we will. If he came to me and said something about a certain route he didn't feel comfortable (with), we would make an adjustment. For right now, I feel like our scheme is pretty good. What happened, like Coach Fox said, it's a football play, and those things happen sometimes."

In their three-wide receiver set, their base formation, they'll line various receivers in the inside slot positions on either side of the formation. But players such as wide receiver Demaryius Thomas, Sanders and tight end Julius Thomas will line up plenty on the outside, as well.

By contrast Welker will line up on a smattering of snaps on the outside, but he works almost exclusively from the slot. Last season, for example, seven of Welker's 10 scoring receptions came on plays in which he started in the slot. And a look at the game video shows just over 50 of Welker's 73 receptions last season as well as almost 700 of his 778 receiving yards came on plays in which he was lined up in the slot. So, if Welker misses any significant time, it will take some adjustment in the team's offense.

"We're able to move pieces around and still do a lot of the same things that we've done," Gase said. "We don't really teach by position, so everybody can move in and out."

Sanders would certainly get more work as a slot receiver, as would tight end Jacob Tamme, but at varying points in training camp the Broncos have given all of their receivers some routes from the slot. Tamme gives the Broncos the option of sticking to a three-wide concept with a little more size in the formation. It's a formation that, at times, forces defenses to go a little bigger because the Broncos are in a two-tight end look.

The Broncos will also use rookie Cody Latimer, especially in some of their red zone packages, because of Latimer's size and ability to win the ball in contested situations -- "I felt like that was a strength of mine in college and want it to be in the NFL," he said. Whatever the personnel, the Broncos won't dial back how much, or where, they throw the ball. They'd certainly like to have Welker in the lineup, but believe they have insurance for the loss if they don't.

"If he's not there Week 1, then guess what? Other guys have to come in and step up," Sanders said. "Guys like myself, Demaryius Thomas, everyone has to come together and make this team better and it really doesn't matter who's on the field. ... We work our butt off and we have Peyton Manning as our quarterback, so everything is looking really good. Wes will be back and strong."
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- With DJ Hayden out for the first portion of the year and Chimdi Chewka also injured, the Oakland Raiders will likely have to give a young unknown player a chance to be the No. 3 cornerback.

Rookie, seventh-round pick TJ Carrie and Neiko Thorpe, a 24-year-old who was in the CFL last season after being cut by the Chiefs, have stood out in the preseason. They will compete to be the No. 3 cornerback. The likelihood is the winner of that battle will play outside and veteran pickup Carlos Rogers will play the slot.

“There’ve been some players that step up like TJ Carrie and Neiko [Thorpe], and that battle will still be going on this week, two days from now,” Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said. “I’m excited to see these guys play, because they both did some good things last week and they’ve both done good things throughout camp.”

In other Oakland notes:
  • The Raiders claimed former Cal kicker Giorgio Tavecchio off waivers from Detroit and they cut kicker Kevin Goessling. Tavecchio will kick Thursday. Oakalnd kicker Sebastian Janikowski is dealing with a right quad injury. The team is hopeful he will be able to play Week 1 at the Jets.
  • Offensive coordinator Greg Olson said new right guard Austin Howard is getting better each week. The free-agent pickup was a tackle with the Jets.
  • Several UFC fighters attended Tuesday’s practice.
ALAMEDA, Calif. --Oakland Raiders potential franchise quarterback Derek Carr can make up for some lost time Thursday in the preseason finale against visiting Seattle.

Carr, a second-round pick, is set to start. Oakland coach Dennis Allen said he expects Carr to get extensive playing time. Carr didn't play last week at Green Bay because he was nursing a rib injury. He was also suffered a concussion in the second preseason game against Detroit, but he was cleared after a couple of days.

The Raiders expect starter Matt Schaub to be ready to start Week 1 at the New York Jets in 11 days, although he has missed the past three days of practice with a sore elbow. If Schaub has a setback, Carr is the No. 2 quarterback and would be in line to start.

"He needs the experience," Oakland coach Dennis Allen said of Carr. "So for him to be able to get out there against a really good defense and get some more game experience will be a big part of his development."

Oakland offensive coordinator Greg Olson is encouraged by Carr because he looks like he belongs in an NFL offense. The task doesn't appear to be too big for the former Fresno State standout.

"I've said it from Day 1, the guy's comfortable in the huddle," Olson said. "I don't think the game's too fast for him, which a lot of times, that's a big concern with a rookie quarterback."

The Raiders hope they can continue to say that after the preseason closes.
SAN DIEGO – As a fifth-round pick in this year’s draft by the San Diego Chargers, Ryan Carrethers expected to compete for a starting job at defensive tackle.

That competition never materialized, with Sean Lissemore cementing his role as the team’s starter and Kwame Geathers remaining ahead of the Arkansas State product on the depth chart during training camp.

But with football, players always remain a few plays away from ascending up the depth chart, and that’s what happened with Carrethers.

Lissemore did not play last week at San Francisco because of a balky ankle injured against Seattle two weeks ago. And Lissemore's replacement, Geathers, suffered a season-ending knee injury during the opening quarter of the San Francisco game.

Thrust into the starting lineup against one of the best offensive lines in the NFL, Carrethers held his own against the 49ers, finishing with a tackle in 25 snaps at San Francisco.

Carrethers is one of seven healthy defensive linemen for the Chargers, and currently penciled in as the team’s starting defensive tackle until Lissemore is healthy.

“It felt good to get so much exposure at such an early stage,” Carrethers said. “But I think I’m more of capable of playing with them.”

At 6-1 and 333-pounds with a 700-pound squat to his credit, Carrethers is more than strong enough to play effectively inside. However, Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano has said that it’s the mental side of the game -- getting the call, getting lined on the field correctly every play and consistently playing with the right pad level -- that Carrethers needs to master in order to improve his game.

“He’s still a rookie,” Pagano said. “He’s still going to do rookie things, and he’s learning. It was an eye-opener to him just being out there with the 1s, and going against a really good offensive line that San Francisco has.

“But he’s doing better. He’s just got to keep working at it, and keep trying to get better every day.”

Once Carrethers understands and feels comfortable in Pagano’s defensive scheme, he’ll start to resemble the player that finished with a career-high 93 tackles at Arkansas State last season.

“Obviously, I’m big and strong enough,” Carrethers said. “I just think it’s getting the repetitions. Once I get it, it’s going to be over from there. I’m just working on staying consistent with my technique, pad level -- everything.”
The San Diego Chargers cut 12 players, placed three on the injured reserve list and another on the reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) list to get down to the NFL-mandated 75 players by Tuesday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. San Diego also acquired defensive end Joe Kruger (Eagles) through waivers.

Most significant move: Cornerback Brandon Ghee was signed in free agency as a player looking to revive his career after four injury-plagued seasons in Cincinnati. The Chargers signed the Wake Forest product to a two-year, $1.65 million deal, including a $230,000 signing bonus. At 6-foot and 200 pounds, Ghee was supposed to add size to San Diego’s secondary, but he never cracked the second unit on the depth chart, passed over by second-year pro Steve Williams and undrafted rookie free agent Chris Davis.

Flacco hangs on: Considered a developmental project, 27-year-old tight end Mike Flacco -- the younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco -- surprisingly remains on the roster. Raw and unpolished, the former minor league baseball player struggled with running precise routes and setting the edge in the run game. But lately he hasn’t looked like a deer in headlights, making a few plays during preseason action. Led by tight ends coach Pete Metzelaars and future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, Flacco has some good mentors to learn from if he can stay with the organization as a member of the practice squad.

Chargers' moves: San Diego released 12 players -- OT Nick Becton, FB Zach Boren, TE Jake Byrne, WR Brelan Chancellor, LB Adrian Hamilton, WR Micah Hatfield, OL D.J. Johnson, TE Ryan Otten, CB Lowell Rose, P Chase Tenpenny, CB Brandon Ghee and RB Kerwynn Williams. The Chargers placed DT Kwame Geathers, DT Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe and CB Marcus Cromartie on the injured reserve list, and moved offensive lineman Jeromey Clary to the reserve physically unable to perform (PUP) list -- which means he will miss the first six games of the regular season.
Most significant move: The Raiders put 2013 first-round pick D.J. Hayden on the physically unable to perform list to start the season. He will be out at least the first six weeks of the season. He had foot surgery in June. Initially, the Raiders said the issue was minor. But clearly, it has been a significant issue for a player who has not been able to stay healthy. The Raiders took Hayden early despite suffering a heart issue that nearly killed him in November 2012. His rookie season was ended early due to a sports hernia. Last week, Oakland defensive coordinator Jason Tarver said Hayden is suffering from missed practice time. He will be further behind when he returns. The Raiders have had many questionable first-round draft picks in recent history. It is probably too early to call Hayden a bust, but he, at the very least, looks like an overdraft.

Camp star cut: The Raiders cut receiver Juron Criner. He was a fifth-round pick in 2012. Criner was famous for making circus catches in training camp. However, the light never came on during the season. He made essentially no NFL impact as a Raider.

What’s next: The Raiders have to pare down their roster to 53 players by 1 p.m. PT Saturday.

Raiders' moves: QB Trent Edwards, WR Juron Criner, S Larry Asante, WR Greg Jenkins, RB Kory Sheets (all waived-injured); G Lucas Nix (waived/failed physical); TE Nick Kasa, injured reserve; CB D.J. Hayden, PUP.

Dontari Poe checks in at No. 35

August, 26, 2014
Aug 26
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Kansas City Chiefs have selected several defensive linemen early in recent drafts, and they finally have one who appears worthy of the honor. Third-year nose tackle Dontari Poe is No. 35 on ESPN's ranking of the NFL's top defensive players.

Poe, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick in 2012, busted through with a Pro Bowl season last year. He was so valuable to the Chiefs that he rarely came out of the lineup on either running or passing downs. That's unusual for any defensive lineman, particularly a 346-pound lineman like Poe. The Chiefs went through last season without a true backup for Poe because having such a player would have been a waste of a roster spot.

Poe is the third Chiefs player to check in on ESPN's rankings of the top 100 offensive and defensive players. One linebacker, Derrick Johnson, is No. 62, and another, Justin Houston, is No. 42. Since we have yet to see linebacker Tamba Hali, safety Eric Berry or running back Jamaal Charles, I would expect all of them to be ranked somewhere in the top 30.
ALAMEDA, Calif. -- It has not been a great couple of days for the Oakland Raiders on the list front.

Monday, in a poll of NFL players, the Raiders were voted the least desirable team to play for. Tuesday, in an ESPN Insider piece by Mike Sando, 30 NFL insiders ranked the 32 head coaches in the league Insider. Oakland coach Dennis Allen is ranked at the bottom.

However, voters pointed out to Sando that Allen's ranking was more about his situation than his coaching abilities. Allen is considered one of the better young defensive coaches in the league.

Here is some of what one voter told Sando: "If you gave him the Colts, he might have been good, too," one executive said. "It is completely unfair to measure him. He has potential. He could be a guy who reemerges 7-8 years from now and becomes pretty good. ... No other new coach would do better there.”

What do you think of Allen’s ranking? Is it deserved or is it just too difficult to win in Oakland? Fill up the comment section below with your thoughts.