Oakland Raiders coach Dennis Allen said Friday he will know who his starting quarterback for their Week 1 game at the New York Jets early in the week.

[+] EnlargeDerek Carr
Ezra Shaw/Getty ImagesDerek Carr's performance against the Seahawks on Thursday has created a lot of discussion about the Raiders' starting quarterback job.
However, Allen did not shed any light of whether Matt Schaub or rookie Derek Carr will be behind center in the game during his conference call Friday afternoon. Allen is sticking to what he said Thursday night after Carr starred in a 41-31 home win over Seattle. Allen said the team has to see where Schaub, acquired in a trade with Houston in March, is medically Monday when the team returns to practice.

Schaub didn’t practice all this week with what both he and Allen has called a minor elbow issue. Schaub is dealing with a personal matter and Allen did not see him Friday. The matter is unrelated to football.

“I think the biggest thing is I want to be able to check on Matt and see where Matt is health-wise,” Allen said. “Like I said, he was making some progress last week, threw on the side with the trainers. I feel like he’ll be ready to go, but I think we need to see how he’s doing Monday when he gets in here.”

Still, Allen was just as enthusiastic about Carr’s play Friday as he was the night before. Carr, a second-round pick from Fresno State, completed of 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns, including two one-play touchdown passes. The Raiders led the Seahawks 28-7 early in the second quarter. Nine of Seattle's started played in the game.

The entire offense seemed to be energized with Carr behind center.

“I was very pleased with what I saw out of Derek Carr last night,” Allen said. “We’ve said all along that Derek is going to be a really good quarterback in this league and he’s shown those signs, and you’ve seen those signs, throughout practices. It was good to see that our whole group offensively was able to go out and function the way that they did last night.”

Still, it appears Allen is three days away from disclosing his plan for the start of the regular season.
SAN DIEGO – San Diego Chargers head coach Mike McCoy emphasized that Thursday’s final preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals was about picking the best 53 players for the regular season and not game-planning for the team’s regular-season opener against the same team on Sept. 8.

McCoy
“It was a very productive offseason,” McCoy said. “And now it’s the tough time of the business for us, as coaches and as an organization, the personnel department – everything – of making some very tough decisions moving forward of who the best 53 are for the football team, and picking the practice squad.”

McCoy said the team will not announce roster cuts until Saturday’s 4 p.m. ET deadline. However, news has trickled out on a couple of the releases.

Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk reports that San Diego released cornerback Crezdon Butler.

Michael Gehlken of U-T San Diego reports receiver Tevin Reese, quarterback Brad Sorensen, and defensive linemen Doug Worthington and Joe Kruger have been released.

None of these moves have been confirmed by the team.

In terms of the schedule, McCoy said his coaching staff will evaluate film from Thursday’s game and clean up mistakes made by players who make the final roster. And then the Chargers will begin preparing for Arizona, with a couple extra days to get a jump on game-planning for the Cardinals.

“You’ve got to study,” McCoy said. “You’ve got to watch as much film as you can. And we’ve got some extra days to take advantage of it. But I also think it’s important for some guys to take a deep breath for a couple days. Take care of your body No. 1, and get ready for the marathon. It’s a long season.”
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The Denver Broncos wrapped up their preseason Thursday night with the same major revelation they opened it with – that there isn’t much room on the depth chart for surprises and the land of opportunity is actually just a sliver of ground with room for a new backup or two to go with some special-teams players.

The Broncos are likely deeper than the team that lost Super Bowl XLVIII by 35 points as well as, front to back, top to bottom, more athletic as well.

Whether or not that translates into another shot at the title remains to be seen, but here are some final takeaways from the Broncos' summer work:

  • [+] EnlargeBradley Roby
    Jack Dempsey/AP PhotoThe Broncos threw a lot at rookie cornerback Bradley Roby, and his mental toughness showed in training camp.
    It’s often difficult for rookie to carve out meaningful snaps on a team like the Broncos, but if the preseason is an indication the Broncos are going to get quality time from cornerback Bradley Roby (first round), wide receiver Cody Latimer (second round) and linebacker Lamin Barrow (fifth round) while Michael Schofield (third round) nudged his way into a backup tackle spot. Roby will get plenty of work in the team’s specialty packages and perhaps his best attribute beyond his obvious height/weight/speed numbers has been when the Broncos offense picked on him in practice, he kept his head, kept lining up and battling. The fruits of those labors will be in his playing time, because he showed the kind of mental toughness some had openly wondered he had before the draft. And Latimer will, and should, get some premium work in the offense. His routes still need some polish, but put him in a contested situation, as in the red zone, and he fights for the ball with tenacity. Barrow’s athleticism will get him on the field in some of the Broncos’ specialty work, especially until Danny Trevathan returns from a fracture at the top of his tibia.
  • No shock, but the Broncos are going to put up the points. The starting offense scored on six of 10 possessions in the preseason and against the Houston Texans, the group put up two touchdowns in the span of 62 seconds. It is unreasonable to believe they’ll reach the 600-point mark again – after all, the 2013 Broncos are the only team to reach that milestone in the league’s history – but early returns say they’ll have a few surprises, especially in the run game, that they haven’t shown in a game just yet. They showed some heavy formations – three- and four-tight-end looks – and in the preseason finale, even trotted out backup guard Ryan Miller, at 6-foot-7 and 320 pounds. In the passing game, new additions Emmanuel Sanders and Latimer give the Broncos the ability to create more difficult matchups in more places in the formation. They can run more players out of slot positions in the formations, out of a bunch look, and it will make it more difficult for defensive backs to disrupt their routes.
  • When the Broncos held plenty of folks out of Thursday night’s game, some of those “DNPs’’ are worth noting simply because it was an indication of their standing on this roster. Ronnie Hillman, who has clawed his way back into good graces after last season’s trek from starter to game-day inactive, did not play and is solidly in the No. 2 running back spot behind Montee Ball. Roby was also held out, as was cornerback Kayvon Webster, so your top four corners will be Aqib Talib, Chris Harris Jr., Roby and Webster, which is how the team has practiced in recent weeks since Harris returned to full participation. Also worth noting, in what has been the tightest position battle on the roster, the Broncos played defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson 39 snaps and Mitch Unrein 30 snaps in the fourth preseason game. Both players often worked with the starting defense last season.
Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid revealed knee and ankle injuries to quarterback Tyler Bray that otherwise went undetected in the final preseason game against the Green Bay Packers. These injuries could be the Chiefs' way out of their quarterback dilemma.

"He got banged up a little bit last night and I hope he’s OK," Reid said.

Those injuries could allow the Chiefs to put Bray on injured-reserve, which would be convenient in that they would like to keep all four of their quarterbacks. To do that, the Chiefs would have to either keep them all on their active roster, which they don’t want to do, or put one on an injured list.

Doing so with Bray would cost him this season, but allow him to remain a part of the picture for the long term.

"If you took one player and you said 'who’s improved and changed themselves physically and mentally in the last year the most,' you probably have to put Tyler in that mix," Reid said. "From where he was to where he is now, there’s a big difference."

Denver Broncos' projected roster

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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. Dysert played well in the preseason, but 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 and even lined up at fullback in the preseason finale. Kapri Bibbs closed strong with two touchdowns against the Cowboys, but he's more likely to be a practice squad guy.

Receivers (5)

Undrafted rookie Isaiah Burse tried to show he could make some impact on offense in the preseason finale with 66 yards receiving, but if the Broncos keep him, and there is a chance he did just enough to force that decision, it would be as returner. Welker, who suffered his third concussion since Nov. 17 against the Texans, did run some routes, catching passes, in pre-game warm-ups Saturday night.

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 as nothing that happened in the preseason changed that.

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 the preseason suggest, however, 10 just might be the number this time around and this is likely where the third quarterback spot goes. Garland has done enough to earn a spot, and Cornick continues to work as Clady's backup at left tackle.

Defensive line (8)

The Broncos kept eight on the initial roster here last season and it's shaping up to be that way again. If that's how it plays out after the team's meetings on Friday, Kevin Vickerson could be the off man out. Unrein played some defensive end in some run-down situations in the last two preseason games and showed plenty of up-field quickness overall.

Linebackers (7)

Trevathan won't be back in the lineup until after the Week 4 bye at best so Marshall is going to play for him 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 is scheduled to be in the lineup Sept. 7 and Johnson closed strong to make his case in the preseason finale.

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 (5)

Watch the rotations in practice as well as the preseason games, and 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. In this scenario it means Ihenacho's special teams work is enough to get him the spot, a spot that came from the defensive line.

Specialists (3)

McManus missed two 50-plus yards attempts in the preseason finale, but had been with the team just for a day. He showed a powerful leg and is the most likely replacement for Matt Prater, who is suspended for the first four games of the season for violating the league's substance abuse policy.
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.
Examining the Oakland Raiders' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

We might not know the exact order of this group, but these are your three quarterbacks.

RUNNING BACKS (3)

The Raiders are strong here. Murray has potential to play this year.

FULLBACKS (2)

Reece and his understudy complete a solid backfield.

RECEIVERS (6)

Butler has done enough to make the team. This group is deeper than recent Raiders receiver groups. The team had to love to see what they saw from Moore with Carr on Thursday night.

TIGHT ENDS (3)

This is a work in progress. Ausberry's injury could be an issue. I think this is a position Oakland looks to upgrade on the waiver wire.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (9)

Not a perfect group, but the depth has improved here.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)

This group looks deeper this year.

LINEBACKERS (6)

The are some injury issues here, so perhaps this spot is fluid.

CORNERBACKS (6)

Really like this group. It will be better when D.J. Hayden gets healthy. Neiko Thorpe had a bad night Thursday, which could hurt his chances of making the team.

SAFETIES (4)
Usama Young and Ross could be battling to the end.

SPECIALISTS (3)

Nothing wrong with this trio.
Examining the San Diego Chargers' roster:

QUARTERBACKS (3)

Sorensen struggled at times during training camp, both in practice and in games. But I think this organization sees value in having a developmental quarterback on the active roster, and believes that Sorensen can be developed.

RUNNING BACKS (4)

Grice solidified a spot on the active roster, in my view, with a strong performance against Arizona. Branden Oliver remains an option for the practice squad if he clears waivers.

RECEIVERS (6)


Brown will be back sooner rather than later, but Ajirotutu and Inman likely will be needed against Arizona next week. Javontee Herndon and Tevin Reese are practice-squad candidates.

TIGHT ENDS (4)

Mike Flacco remains a candidate for the practice squad, but I like the overall depth of this group.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN (8)


With Jeromey Clary on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list, the Chargers could keep another player here. Kenny Wiggins has done a nice job filling in at guard with the second unit, and is much improved from last season. Mike Harris also remains an option, but Smith was the better player during preseason games.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN (7)


With Kwame Geathers done for the year, the Chargers will be looking for more depth once final roster cut downs happen this weekend. Undrafted rookie free agent Chas Alecxih put himself in the conversation to stick around with his play against the Cardinals.

LINEBACKERS (10)
Law earned a spot on the roster because of his pass-rush skills and ability to play special teams, replacing Andrew Gachkar.

CORNERBACKS (4)

Chris Davis, Steve Williams, Crezdon Butler and Greg Ducre all flashed, but I think you need to pick up a roster spot here in order to keep an extra defensive lineman due to injury concerns.

SAFETIES (4)

Marshall serves as added insurance here with Addae's hamstring injury. Alden Darby and Adrian Phillips are potential practice squad candidates.

SPECIALISTS (3)


A pretty solid group of specialists. Novak improved his consistency on his kickoffs this exhibition season.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- The stories are almost football tall tales. They're like the one about walking uphill both ways to school while the snow was piled high. It will be told and retold, perhaps getting a little more far-fetched and drastic each time.

[+] EnlargeManning
Ron Chenoy/USA TODAY SportsPeyton Manning has achieved what many consider unprecedented work -- returning to the game and succeeding at it following several surgeries.
The ones where Peyton Manning couldn't throw a football.

Seems almost funny now, a little odd, really. The Denver Broncos quarterback has thrown 92 touchdown passes in two seasons on the Front Range, he's won his fifth MVP award, been behind center for 26 regular-season wins and helped power the Broncos to Super Bowl XLVIII. And heading into his 17th season -- and his third with the Broncos -- he's No. 3 in our 2014 #NFLRank survey, up two spots from No. 5 a year ago.

All after he couldn't throw a football.

"It's been a lot of work, I will say that," Manning said. "A lot of time with help from an awful lot of people to get where things are. But I've had to make some adjustments, I think, in how I do things. The goal has always been to help your team win games, to be reliable for your teammates. People always kind of ask me did I think I could come all the way back. I don't always know how to answer that, I knew I wanted to play if I could get to the point where I could compete at the level you need to compete."

Consider it done. It may be appreciated far more when Manning's career is over, when he's thrown his last competitive pass and the league's record book has his name next to the most significant passing records.

But coming back from four neck surgeries, the fourth being a spinal fusion surgery, as a professional football player who had already left his 35th birthday in the rear-view mirror, to where he is now is rare in his vocation, perhaps unprecedented.

"I don't know how many people could have done it," Broncos executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway said. "It just shows what kind of guy Peyton is, how much work he's willing to put in to get to this point. And we feel like he's got a lot of good football in him and we're certainly glad he's here."

The post-surgery Manning has made his "adjustments" to be sure. Sometimes he wears a glove on his throwing hand in practice, sometimes in games, sometimes in any weather, wet or dry, hot or cold. But the nerves affected by the herniated disc in his neck that was repaired were in his right arm, which also happens to be his throwing arm.

They affected his triceps as well as his grip on the ball. Those nerves, in the early stages of healing were also the reason Manning bounced the first passes of his recovery, thrown in private, to trusted friends and family that included former Rockies first baseman Todd Helton and Manning's father, Archie.

Put video of his throwing motion now next to some early in his career and his current motion is a little more lower body driven, his stride a little longer, all to generate the power he needs to throw to NFL receivers in his post-fusion career.

Technology has helped him some as well. He doesn't have to divide his day into study and treatment. He can now take his iPad, with all of the game video he wishes to watch, wherever he happens to be in the Broncos' complex, whether it be the cold tub or with the trainers. It takes longer for him to get ready to play, longer to get ready for practice, but he continues to progress, to show more.

"All I know is it seems like his arm keeps getting strong," Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "I think this year he's stronger than last year and last year he was stronger than the first year. He's Peyton, he just does what he does."
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OAKLAND, Calif. -- Start your engines for Derek Carr-mania.

The rookie quarterback was brilliant (if that’s possible in the preseason) Thursday night as the Oakland Raiders blitzed the reigning Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks. Making his first start, the second-round pick led the Raiders to a three-touchdown lead over Seattle a minute into the second quarter of an eventual 41-31 Oakland victory.

Carr completed 11 of 13 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He led the Raiders on two one-play touchdown drives. Several Seattle defensive starters were on the field for the first drive, which ended with a Raiders touchdown. Carr even completed a pass on Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman, one of the game’s very best. The Seahawks seemed to be going through the motions, but Carr was dominant.

What was most impressive about Carr is how he handled the offense. He played with such comfort and confidence. He made every throw he needed to make and he was a stunning 4-for-4 for 62 yards on third down. He looked like a five-year starter, playing with about half of the Raiders’ first-string offense.

Carr’s wonderful performance, of course, will put pressure on the Raiders to start him Sept. 7 on the road against the New York Jets. Carr worked with the first team this week because starter Matt Schaub had elbow soreness. Both head coach Dennis Allen and Schaub said the injury is not serious. Allen said Schaub will start against the Jets.

However, we’ve seen this movie before. Last year’s presumed starter, Matt Flynn, also came up with elbow soreness at this point in the preseason. Terrelle Pryor started the last preseason game and then was named the starter for the regular season.

If Allen made that decision last year, with Pryor looking not nearly as strong as Carr did Thursday, why wouldn’t Allen give Carr a chance now?

If I had to guess, I think we will see Carr play against the Jets. Why not? Let’s see what he can do in the bright lights of New York.

Here are some other thoughts on the Raiders’ final preseason game of the year:
  • Carr had great chemistry with receiver Denarius Moore. Moore had three catches for 58 yards and two touchdowns. Moore was once a key part of the offense but has struggled to take the next step, and there has been speculation he might not be in the team’s plans. But if he and Carr can duplicate this performance in the regular season, it would be a huge boost for the Raiders.
  • The Oakland defense was so-so. Seattle QB Russell Wilson, playing with some other starters, ripped through a defense that played four starters on the first drive. The Oakland defense did play well in spots afterward, though.
  • It was a good night for the Raiders’ special-teams units. They were good in coverage, creating a turnover, and the return game was good. Latavius Murray, who also ran the ball well at running back, had a big kick return and TJ Carrie looked good as a punt returner.
  • Third-stringer Matt McGloin didn’t look as good as he did earlier in the preseason. He and Brice Butler did hook up for their fourth touchdown of the preseason. Both players are solid reserves.
  • Cornerback Neiko Thorpe had a tough night. Coaches raved about him this week. He is on the 53-man bubble.
  • Right tackle Menelik Watson worked with the second-stringers. If that continues next week, that means Khalif Barnes would start at right tackle and rookie Gabe Jackson would slide into Barnes’ spot at left guard.

Observation Deck: Denver Broncos

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Before the Denver Broncos took the field for Saturday's preseason finale in AT&T Stadium, head coach John Fox publicly offered the Broncos would "basically play 43 guys" in the game. While those 43 or so didn't include any of the team's starters, the Broncos showed the depth of a Super Bowl hopeful as the reserves closed out the team's August work with a convincing 27-3 win over the Dallas Cowboys in their final try to answer the last remaining questions on a deep roster of a Super Bowl hopeful. Here are some other thoughts on the Broncos' preseason finale in Arlington, Texas:
  • If the Broncos do keep just eight defensive linemen in the final cutdown, they are going to send a defensive lineman, or two, or maybe even three, into the open market who will end up with playing time for somebody else. To that end the Broncos took a particularly long look at defensive tackles Kevin Vickerson and Mitch Unrein. Both played well into the fourth quarter and played with the passion fitting of their predicament. Those two players may have been playing for one roster spot. Both performed well, but if the decision includes salary cap concerns -- and the Broncos have at least some -- as well as concern over Vickerson's hip, the pick will be Unrein. In the last two preseason games Unrein, who had a sack in the third quarter, was lined up for a few snaps at defensive end as well.
  • The Broncos handed Brock Osweiler the keys to the offense for the first three quarters Saturday night. The Broncos scored in the two-minute drill to end the first half -- Osweiler took a huge hit from Keith Smith and Kenneth Boatright to deliver a pass to rookie Isaiah Burse on the key play in the drive -- and Osweiler showed some additional patience in the pocket overall to go with a well-timed 26-yard run late in the third quarter.
  • Broncos showed they have some depth at running back. With Montee Ball and Ronnie Hillman both getting the night off, C.J. Anderson, Juwan Thompson and Kapri Bibbs all showed what they would have to offer. Anderson and Thompson are likely the No. 3 and No. 4 backs when the roster gets picked. For his part Bibbs, who scored twice against the Cowboys, is a proficient runner with good vision, but he has a long way to go in pass protection and as a receiver so that makes him almost a specialist in a way as the backs on the Broncos roster have to do far more than just lug the rock. But with a 10-player practice squad, the Broncos figure to want to keep Bibbs there if they stick with just four backs on the roster. The Broncos did flash a two-back set, with Anderson and Thompson together in the backfield and Thompson at fullback, in the first half. The Broncos have also used the formation previously with tight end Virgil Green.
  • The Broncos offense did get things moving as the game wore on, including a 14-point third quarter, but the second-team offensive line was a little wobbly at times along the way. Rookie right tackle Michael Schofield, who has been good enough so far after the Broncos elected to cut veteran tackle Winston Justice earlier this week, had some rough spots. He was driven into the backfield early in the game by Cowboys' Dartwan Bush and was flagged later in the same possession for illegal hands to the face. In the second quarter Zach Minter beat Schofield to the inside on a zone run play to keep Anderson from getting a first down. Schofield also flashed some good footwork at times and good instincts in pass protection. He has starter potential, but is squarely on the learning curve.
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Since the fourth preseason game never gives any indication about a team’s true potential, the only real takeaway from the Kansas City Chiefs’ 34-14 loss to Green Bay was that it followed a familiar pattern established in the previous two exhibitions. The Chiefs' offense struggled for long stretches. There was a dearth of noteworthy plays. And since this game was a showcase primarily for backups and players hoping to make the 53-man roster, there are still questions about how much quality depth the Chiefs have at certain positions heading into their season opener against Tennessee.

Here are some other thoughts on the Chiefs’ final preseason effort:
  • Quarterback Tyler Bray blew his opportunity to secure the coaches’ confidence. There had been plenty of discussion about Bray’s potential to unseat veteran Chase Daniel as the top backup to Alex Smith. That conversation ended with Bray completing 8 of 15 passes for 116 yards with one touchdown and one interception. This game was typical of what we’ve seen from Bray throughout the preseason. He displayed his tremendous arm strength on some plays, then made poor decisions on others, including the interception tossed to Packers cornerback Jarrett Bush in the second quarter. Bray had nearly two quarters to make a statement after replacing Daniel, who played the first quarter. The only message he sent was one Daniel surely liked hearing.
  • Chiefs kicker Ryan Succop likely has played his last game in a Kansas City uniform. Succop has been the team’s kicker since 2009 and he’s been fairly reliable (converting 81 percent of his field goal attempts). His real problem is that he’s due to make $1.6 million this coming season and the Chiefs have a cheaper option in Cairo Santos. With the team discussing new contracts for Smith and outside linebacker Justin Houston, Succop could be trade bait or just outright expendable.
  • Penalties were once again a disturbing sight, even with backups logging most of the minutes. The Chiefs were penalized 14 times for 131 yards. They also had 13 penalties in their second preseason game (a 28-16 loss to Carolina) and seven penalties in their preseason opener (a 41-39 win over Cincinnati). The good news is that the Chiefs had only two penalties in their 30-12 loss to Minnesota, when the starters played well into the third quarter. But a potential lack of discipline is something worth monitoring this season. The Chiefs just aren’t good enough to overcome those kinds of mistakes.
  • Cornerback DeMarcus Van Dyke has a strong shot of making this roster. When the offseason began, he was better known for having to compete against his cousin, David Van Dyke, in a crowded secondary. But he’s benefited from the numbers game when the Chiefs released Brandon Flowers, a lack of great competition (rookie Phillip Gaines has struggled mightily) and his own performance. Given that the 6-foot-1 DeMarcus Van Dyke has 4.28 speed and three years of experience (one with Oakland and two with Pittsburgh), he was an intriguing developmental option from the start. Now he could bring much needed depth to a secondary that has plenty of questions.
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.’’

W2W4: Oakland Raiders

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The Oakland Raiders (1-2) and the Seattle Seahawks (2-1) complete the preseason in Oakland at 10 p.m. ET Thursday.

Three things to watch:

Passing game: Even if starter Matt Schaub doesn’t play, the Raiders will want to see progress made in this area. It’s just not the quarterback position. Oakland’s coaches want to see better routes, better ball handling and better protection in the pass game.

Defensive backs: There is some good competition here, especially at cornerback. Neiko Thorpe and TJ Carrie can solidify their spots with more strong play. If so, the Raiders should be in pretty solid shape here.

Overall depth: The Raiders appears to have better depth this season. It will be needed as this roster will evolve through the season. The Raiders want to see bottom-of-the-roster players excel in this game.
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Often when Denver Broncos defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio is offering up something for public consumption, he will turn down the volume on the compliments.

Things are “fine.’’ Players do a “nice job." And if, out from behind the closed doors of the defensive meeting room, he really wants to lay it on thick, a player is “quality."

But when Del Rio talks about Von Miller’s return, the coach is emphatic.

[+] EnlargeVon Miller
Justin Edmonds/Getty ImagesVon Miller is close to his playing weight from his All-Pro season in 2012.
“I have no doubt, and I’ve said this before, no doubt Von is going to come back and be the player he was (in 2012)," Del Rio said. “He’s a player of unique characteristics and we like what we’ve seen out on the practice field, like how he’s gone about his work, and that’s why I say no doubt."

Miller, a first-team All-Pro in 2012, is looking to bounce back from a turbulent 2013 season that included a six-game suspension to open it and a torn ACL to close it. He feels the same way about his outlook for 2014.

“Things happen and you have to deal with things, but I know I’ve said it about 100 times, but I’m in a great place right now, mentally, physically, everything," Miller said. "I go one day at a time right now, but I want to be the player they think I can be and the player I know I can be."

ESPN used 85 voters from across its 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, and Miller checked in at No. 11. That's still plenty of respect after what Miller called “not the kind of season I want,’’ but not what his standing would have been following an 18.5-sack season in 2012 when Miller was so disruptive, so game-changing, he was in the same top-shelf conversations as Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt.

And after all of the off-the-field issues last season, to go with Miller having made the decision to come back from his suspension far heavier -- he said about 270 pounds -- than when he was at his best, there were at least some questions inside the Broncos’ organization about Miller’s future as well as his maturity to handle both what he had done and what was ahead.

But by all accounts, Miller attacked his injury rehab and the structure of that rehab in his offseason seemed to suit him. He remained in Denver for much of the offseason, and when the rest of the Broncos opened their offseason workouts on the field, Miller was far closer to 255 pounds, when he was at his best.

The Broncos also signed DeMarcus Ware in the offseason and Ware has been a quality mentor for Miller, a member of the league's 100-sack club and someone Miller looked up to even before Ware arrived in Denver.

“For all the chatter that they talk about Von not being the guy they want him to be, when I first got here, he was one of the first guys in the treatment room, working out really hard, over and beyond," Ware said. “You can see how he’s rehabilitated himself to be an even better player than he was. That comes with mental toughness. He’s doing really well. I was very surprised with how athletic he was. He’s very fast and agile. He’s a really quick guy. I thought I was quick, but he’s actually quicker than I am. … When you see a guy that uses the offseason to get himself right … I think that really shows he’s really focused this season."

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