NFL Nation TV talks Hall of Fame

January, 29, 2015
Jan 29
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Join us at 3 p.m. ET, 12 p.m. PT Thursday for the second special NFL Nation TV Super Bowl Week Spreecast.

Episode No. 42 will review ESPN.com's recent joint venture with Pro Football Focus, which broke down how many "above-average" players each team is from contending for the Super Bowl.

The crew will also preview the Super Bowl matchup between the defending champion Seattle Seahawks and three-time winner New England Patriots as well as break down how the Pro Football Hall of Fame's upcoming class may shake out Saturday.

Host Paul Gutierrez (ESPN Nation's San Francisco 49ers reporter) and co-hosts Coley Harvey (Cincinnati Bengals reporter) and Mike Wells (Indianapolis Colts reporter) will be joined by Jeff Legwold (Denver Broncos reporter) and ESPN NFL Insider Mike Sando, both of whom are among the Hall's 46 selectors.

 

SAN DIEGO – Stating it has not been done in more of a decade of discussions on the stadium issue, San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer said one of the primary reasons for creating an advisory group to study a new home for the San Diego Chargers is putting together a specific financing proposal that can be presented to voters.

“There’s never been a plan,” Faulconer told Dan Sileo of The Mighty 1090 AM radio. “There’s never been a plan that says, ‘This is how you finance it, and this is where it goes – these are all the hurdles that you have to do.’ There’s been a lot of back-of-the-napkin stuff. We’ve seen a rendering from time to time, which is all well and good.

[+] EnlargeQualcomm Stadium
AP Photo/Gregory BullThe Chargers have played in the facility now known as Qualcomm Stadium since 1967.
“But what I’m interested in – and I’m a dollars-and-cents guy, and that’s why I got elected – is we need to make sure that it’s a plan that works, and that there’s some real numbers attached to it. Without that specificity, we’re never going to get this done. I think we have an opportunity here during the spring, summer and early fall to get a plan that works and to build consensus on that plan because there hasn’t been that consensus before.”

You can listen to the full interview here.

Faulconer reiterated the two locations he asked the group to consider. One is a downtown location next to the San Diego Padres' Petco Park that could be a standalone facility or a joint convention center/stadium facility. Faulconer also wants the possibility of building a new stadium at the Qualcomm site examined.

Faulconer said the most important thing from a financing standpoint is what gives the city the best plan that the public is going to support and the best opportunity for success in getting a deal done. Faulconer is expected to announce members of the advisory group this week.

“I’m putting together a fresh group, a new group,” he said. “A group that I think is really going to help us get the dollars and cents. I’m not looking to litigate what’s been going on for the last 13 years. I’m interested here in the next spring, summer and fall of how we get to ‘yes.’”

Faulconer pointed to the effort to get a new stadium built for the Padres as an example of what the city can do for the Chargers if everyone works together. And he believes the current timeline for the task force finishing up work by early fall will give the Chargers enough time to make a decision on whether the team will stay in San Diego or relocate.

“I know it’s not going to be easy,” Faulconer said. “But it’s worth doing. It’s important to this city and to the San Diego region that we keep the Chargers in San Diego. And I can’t put it any more simpler than that.”
PHOENIX – Occasionally, in walking around the events surrounding Sunday’s Super Bowl, you’ll spot a forlorn-looking soul in a Broncos jersey. A No. 18 here, a No. 58 there, a No. 10, maybe a No. 88 or two.

The Broncos opened their offseason workouts last April with the idea they would be one of the two teams in Super Bowl XLIX, that they would be the AFC team working out of a snazzy resort hotel. They said it, stood up for it and lived with that thought for most of the season that unfolded.

“That was the goal all year long," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. in the wake of his first Pro Bowl appearance earlier this week. “We didn’t step back from that. That was our goal; we believed we had that kind of team. We still believe we have that kind of team. We’ll take some time and come back to work. But when you’re here and see all the Super Bowl stuff, it’s right there in front of you, most anywhere you look you see something that has the Super Bowl on it with those Roman numerals, right there. Of course, you want that to be you, you want to be playing for the championship."

[+] EnlargeEmmanuel Sanders
Doug Pensinger/Getty ImagesEmmanuel Sanders is among the Broncos players participating in Super Bowl festivities this week.
The Broncos have felt the sting in each of the last three seasons. They have exited the divisional round as the AFC’s No. 1 seed (2012). They have exited the divisional round as the AFC’s No. 2 seed (earlier this month). And they have lost a Super Bowl, by 35 points last February as the AFC’s top seed. It was the team's first title game appearance since they closed out the 1998 season as the champion.

As the eight Broncos players went through the Pro Bowl practices last week, they were surrounded by communities doing a Super Bowl countdown, with Super Bowl banners hanging over calendars of Super Bowl events. They continue to be a part of things, as Broncos wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders was on the autograph schedule at the NFL Experience Tuesday and Wednesday, and linebacker Von Miller was on the docket Wednesday.

That, too, is a Super Bowl phenomenon. For players good enough to draw a crowd in the Super Bowl mayhem, it is an odd existence. You’re at the Super Bowl, just not in the Super Bowl.

“You know you had a good season; you were in the playoffs and it’s hard to get in the playoffs," said Broncos defensive end DeMarcus Ware, who played in this past Sunday’s Pro Bowl. “But the goal was to get to where we wanted to go all season and that’s the Super Bowl … It’s why it’s a little different to play [the Pro Bowl] where the Super Bowl is. You see Super Bowl stuff everywhere, kind of reminds you a little every time."

The Broncos have continued to go about their business in the last week as Gary Kubiak fills out his coaching staff. But there may be no bigger crossing of paths between the Broncos and the Super Bowl than Friday when quarterback Peyton Manning is scheduled to be in Phoenix to accept the Bart Starr Award for Manning’s community work.

It will be Manning’s most public appearance since the Broncos’ Jan. 11 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Manning said following that game he was uncertain if he would return for the 2015 season.

Executive vice president of football operations/general manager John Elway met with Manning the day after the loss and told Manning to take several weeks to make his decision.

“It’s hard for the season to be over," said Miller, one of the other Pro Bowl Broncos. “All you can do is get ready to get back to work when it’s time. We wanted to be here for the other game, be in the last game. You’re going to remember that no matter how many banners we see here."

Todd Grantham's decision a bad sign for Raiders

January, 28, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- There are a lot worse things than being turned down by a college coach, but from the outside Todd Grantham’s decision to stay in Louisville isn’t encouraging sign for Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio.

[+] EnlargeTodd Grantham
AP Photo/Timothy D. EasleyTodd Grantham will not be leaving Louisville to become the Raiders' defensive coordinator.
According to ESPN.com’s Brett Murphy, Grantham turned down a two-year offer from the Raiders to stay at his same position in the college ranks.

Del Rio has previously said he would be more hands-on with a coordinator who didn’t have much experience.

Grantham is a veteran college defensive coordinator who held the same job with the Cleveland Browns from 2005-07, so that shouldn’t have been an issue. But it’s conceivable Grantham might have thought Del Rio would want more input on the defense than he was comfortable with. Also, Oakland has already begun assembling defensive assistants, meaning Grantham wouldn't be bringing in his own staff.

It’s probably no coincidence that Grantham coaches under Bobby Petrino at Louisville -- the same guy who turned down an offer from Al Davis to be the Raiders coach in 2006. Grantham interviewed with Del Rio earlier this week and the team quickly put together an offer to try to lure him to the NFL but were shot down on Wednesday.

And so the search for Oakland’s defensive coordinator continues while the list of available candidates continues to shrink.

Del Rio has received mostly high marks for the staff he’s put together, and this probably won’t derail much of the positive momentum the team has generated since the regular season ended. But there was a red flag somewhere that scared Grantham away and that has to be a concern for anyone else who might interview for the gig.

Hue Jackson talks Derek Carr, memories of his time in Oakland

January, 28, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr gained a lot of fans across the NFL during his rookie season. Count former Oakland head coach and current Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Hue Jackson among them.

Jackson coached the Raiders to an 8-8 record in 2011 -- the last non-losing season the team has had. But he was let go shortly after the season ended when new general manager Reggie McKenzie came in and made sweeping changes to the coaching staff and roster. It’s a move that still angers many Oakland fans.

The 49-year-old Jackson still carries a soft spot in his heart for the team he says he grew up watching and thinks Carr has a bright future ahead of him. Jackson practically gushed like a teenager in love when discussing Carr on Bay Area radio station 95.7 FM Wednesday morning.

Carr
“I’m sure just knowing Jack (Del Rio) that he has a plan on what he wants to do for the young man,” Jackson said. “He is a tremendous talent. When you watched him coming out of Fresno State, he could throw the ball with anybody. He’s smart, he has moxie, he has the ability to make ad-lib plays, he can use his legs.

“The most important thing is just keep surrounding him with really good players and push him over that hump to the next level. He’s the guy that’s going to take them where they want to go. That’s what they drafted him for. When you watch some of the things he did this year, I think the sky’s the limit for this young man.”

Jackson knows a thing or two about quarterbacks, having been a quarterbacks coach in college and for two seasons with the Baltimore Ravens. He’s also a veteran offensive coordinator who has held that title with Washington, Atlanta, Oakland and now in Cincinnati.

One name he’ll forever be linked to is current Arizona quarterback Carson Palmer. The Raiders traded first- and second-round picks to pry Palmer away from Cincinnati, then two years later shipped him to the Cardinals for a pair of low-round picks.

The initial trade to obtain Palmer was a costly one and left many questioning Jackson’s judgment. At the time, Jackson had taken over as the face and voice of the franchise following the death of owner Al Davis, and many fans and critics blamed him for mortgaging the team’s future.

But Jackson denies he was the one who pulled the trigger on the move -- a statement that has been backed up by current owner Mark Davis -- and says he still believes it was the right thing to do at the time.

“Everybody has a different opinion of how it happened and why it happened,” Jackson told 95.7. “The crux of it all was Jason Campbell got hurt. When we tried to go out and look for other quarterbacks, there wasn’t many available. The guys that were available, I think people will be shocked to know that there were some teams that wanted more than what we gave up for Carson, for some other guys who I didn’t know. So when it came to Carson, he was someone I knew, someone I had coached and recruited. But I didn’t want to be the herd of the process, so Mark really took this over. I think everybody thought I was making the decisions at the time. I was the guy that was speaking, I wasn’t making the football decisions. At the time it’s what our team needed. It gave us hope to have a chance to make the playoffs.”

Jackson, who said working for the Raiders was one of the greatest times of his life, also weighed in on running back Darren McFadden. Scheduled to be a free agent this offseason, McFadden had his best season in 2010 when Jackson was the team’s offensive coordinator, rushing for a career-high 1,157 yards and seven touchdowns.

“The most important thing is the young man knew I believed in him, that I truly thought that he had unquestioned ability,” Jackson said. “What I tried to do is build a system that showcased his talent and ability. Obviously he went and had a tremendous couple years for me.”
PHOENIX – In case you don’t know the story of how the Seattle Seahawks secondary became known at the Legion of Boom, strong safety Kam Chancellor explained it Wednesday.

“It was a radio interview,” Chancellor said. “The fans wanted to come up with a name for the group and we saw a bunch of names come across Twitter. None of them were catchy, but when we saw Legion of Boom, it jumped out.”

Chancellor said he and other defensive backs -- Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Brandon Browner (now with the Patriots) -- liked that term.

“Legion is like a vast army,’’ Chancellor said. “We just went with Legion of Boom and it kind of fits the description of our unit, our brotherhood of love, trust, honesty, respect. I think all those elements right there create the power in our group. It creates the talent and brings out the talent. It brings out everything in our group.”

Pat Sims unlikely to be back with Raiders

January, 28, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Oakland Raiders don’t expect to make dramatic changes to their roster like they did each of the past two seasons. However, one player who likely won’t be back in Oakland is defensive tackle Pat Sims.

The 29-year-old Sims played well down the stretch in 2013, but his playing time and production dropped off dramatically in 2014. A former third-round pick by Cincinnati, Sims made only 25 tackles in 2014 and was held without a sack for the second time in his career. He also spent more time on the bench, playing just 37.1 percent of the snaps, according to Pro Football Focus, and lost his spot in the rotation to rookie Justin Ellis.

While the Raiders still need to upgrade their defensive line -- they had just 22 sacks, second fewest in the NFL last season behind the Bengals -- bringing Sims back shouldn’t be a high priority. He lost his starting job to Ellis and made 29 fewer tackles than he did the previous season.

Sims nearly left the team at the end of the 2013 season, when he seemed uncertain of the direction the team was going. He reversed field and signed a one-year deal worth $1.4 million to stay in Oakland but has let it be known he’d like to play in another state because of California’s tax rates.
The Oakland Raiderss and the St. Louis Rams' seasons ended last month, but there is still some postseason intrigue involved for both of the non-playoff teams.

Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Oakland outside linebacker Khalil Mack are expected to be among the top candidates to win the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year award. The award will be announced Saturday.

Rams NFL Nation reporter Nick Wagoner and Raiders NFL Nation reporter Bill Williamson discuss Donald's and Mack's candidacy here:

[+] EnlargeKhalil Mack
AP Images/Ben MargotKhalil Mack has had an outstanding rookie season and has been a steady presence in the Oakland defense.
Wagoner: Bill, it seems Mack and Donald are sort of in the same boat in that they both were major difference makers but didn't garner much attention because they played on losing teams. I'm of the belief that Donald should win the Defensive Rookie of the Year award. What's the case for Mack over Donald?

Williamson: Mack's case is pretty simple: He looked like a five-year All-Pro all season. He was so smooth, so smart. He was Pro Football Focus' top ranked outside linebacker in the NFL -- and we're not talking about just rookie outside linebackers. He never played like a rookie and he got better as the season progressed. He didn't have a ton of flashy plays, but he was just so steady. According to STATS, INC, he was second in the NFL with 11.5 "stuffs." Who led the NFL? MVP candidate JJ Watt with 13.5. He was also good against the pass. He hit the quarterback 25 times and had four sacks.

So, why Donald?

Wagoner: Well, like Mack the case is pretty simple. Also like Mack, Pro Football Focus rated Donald as the best defensive tackle in the league. Not the best rookie defensive tackle, the best defensive tackle in the league. But aside from a subjective grading system, Donald has the hard numbers to back it up. His nine sacks were the most among all rookies and he had 18 tackles for loss, fifth most in the NFL. His value is best recognized in what happened to the Rams defense after he stepped into the starting lineup. Without Donald in the starting lineup the first four games, the Rams had one sack, gave up 152.5 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 0.9 percent of opponent's pass attempts. After he entered the starting lineup, the Rams had 39 sacks, gave up 96.25 rushing yards per game and averaged a sack on 9 percent of opponent's pass attempts.

There are others involved in the mix in this, too. Namely, Baltimore linebacker C.J. Mosley, who has the numbers and plays on a winning team. What do you think are the chances that Donald or Mack is able to overcome that hurdle?

Williamson: I think they are the two frontrunners. If I had to guess, I'd say Donald is going to win the award and Mack will be second. They may not have been on winning teams, but their dominance was so strong, voters couldn't help but notice. That's a testament to both youngsters.

What were the Rams immediate expectations for Donald?

[+] EnlargeAaron Donald
AP Photo/Ed ZurgaThe Rams were surprised Aaron Donald fell to them in the draft.
Wagoner: Honestly, the Rams expected this. I can remember how former Rams offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer saying he thought Donald had a chance to be Defensive Rookie of the Year all the way back in Organized Team Activities when the players were not even wearing pads yet. Jeff Fisher echoed those sentiments. They believed this was one of the most polished players in the draft and they were absolutely right. He probably still exceeded those expectations. The scary part about Donald is despite how good he is right now, he's still just scratching the surface of his potential.

Mack is obviously part of the foundation for the Raiders moving forward whether he wins the award or not. What do you think his ceiling is?

Williamson: There is no doubt; Mack is a building block for the rebuilding Raiders. He will get better as the Raiders add pieces around him. ESPN analyst Merril Hoge told me during the season that he thinks Mack can become one of the most complete, versatile linebackers ever to play in the NFL. That is heady, heady stuff. I don't know if we can expect that type of career, but, because there are no downsides to Mack's game, approach and attitude, I think he has a chance to be a perennial All-Pro player.

Did the Rams focus on Donald or were they surprised he was on the board?

Wagoner: I was told by more than one person in the organization as far back as the combine that they loved Donald but they had little expectation that he would be available. It was made clear as the draft approached that they would take him if he somehow slipped. But even the day before the draft, I was laughed at for even suggesting he might be available. The Rams had plans to take Dallas offensive lineman Zack Martin or Mosley in more realistic scenarios but when Donald slipped to them, it was academic. They were thrilled to get him and that enthusiasm has clearly been justified. He's going to be one of their primary players for the next decade or so.
SAN DIEGO – In need of an upgrade at running back, San Diego Chargers general manager Tom Telesco should explore every option this offseason through the draft, trade or free agency.

The Chargers called a pass play 63 percent of the time this past season, the 10th-most in the league. The reason for that is San Diego could not get the run game going. The Chargers averaged 3.2 yards per carry on first down -- when defenses know offenses want to run the ball - - which was second-worst in the NFL.

Every-down running back Ryan Mathews is expected to hit the free-agency market in March. The draft is loaded with potential playmakers such as Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon, Georgia’s Todd Gurley and Alabama’s T.J. Yeldon.

Peterson
Peterson
But one player whose name had not been mentioned in connection to the Chargers is Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. However, in a conversation with Marty Caswell of The Mighty 1090 AM radio, Hall of Famer and former San Diego running back LaDainian Tomlinson brought up Peterson’s name as a possibility for the Chargers when asked about the chances of Mathews returning to San Diego.

“You have to explore options,” Tomlinson said. “You have to see what Ryan wants – if he wants to be back in San Diego – and then what he’s asking for, because if you have a guy like Adrian Peterson, who might be on the market, then you have to explore that option.”

You can watch the entire interview here.

I agree with Tomlinson. Peterson would be a great fit in San Diego, and Telesco should go after the talented runner.

Peterson was indicted on Sept. 12 for injuring his son in an act of corporal punishment. He was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list on Sept. 17 and suspended for the remainder of the season in November.

Arbitrator Harold Henderson upheld the suspension on Dec. 12, and the NFL Players Association is suing the league on Peterson’s behalf, seeking the running back’s immediate reinstatement and arguing that the appointment of Henderson -- a former league executive -- was unfair.

Under the current terms of his suspension, Peterson cannot be considered for reinstatement until April 15. However, the player’s association is suing to have Peterson reinstated as soon as possible in a case set to begin next month.

Peterson will be 30 in March. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer has said he wants Peterson back. Peterson is scheduled to make $13 million and count for $15.4 million against the Vikings’ salary cap next season. Peterson is not interested in taking a pay cut. ESPN Vikings beat reporter Ben Goessling said whether Peterson stays in Minnesota could come down to if he agrees to restructure his deal and make it more cap friendly.

The Chargers have plenty of salary cap space to sign Peterson should the Vikings release him, or they can broker a trade for the running back’s services. And with Peterson playing in just one game in 2014, he will be recharged and ready to play at a high level.

Veteran playersPhilip Rivers and Eric Weddle are at the end of their contracts, and openly questioning San Diego’s commitment to chase a Super Bowl. Signing Peterson would emphatically answer that question for the Chargers.
PHOENIX -- It's been just more than four years since Denver Broncos owner Pat Bowlen decided he couldn't wait any longer, that he couldn't look at any more losses or empty seats in the team's home stadium, and fired Josh McDaniels in December of 2010, just 38 games into McDaniels' tenure as the 12th head coach in franchise history.

Now the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots and preparing for Super Bowl XLIX, McDaniels said he's learned some things, understands what happened and he hopes for another chance to be a head coach again.

"I think I know now, each team is different, each player is different, I don't believe everybody has got to be the same," McDaniels said. "I think I'm a better listener than I was then. I was young, made a lot of mistakes, learned from them -- hopefully -- try to be a better person, a better coach.

[+] EnlargeNew England's Josh McDaniels
Photo by Elsa/Getty ImagesPatriots offensive coordinator and former Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels says he would be "a better listener" as a head coach now.
"I learned every day from it," he added. "The players on the team are the reason why we win, you don't have to treat them all identically, they're not going to be all the same, your ability to lead and motivate those guys differently is important."

McDaniels' tenure with the Broncos started in flamboyant fashion -- 6-0 in 2009, including a win over the Patriots -- but things unraveled from there as the Broncos went 2-8 the rest of the way and started 3-9 in 2010 before McDaniels was fired. There was a Spygate scandal in 2010, when a former Broncos employee took video of a portion of the San Francisco 49ers' practice in Wembley Stadium during a London trip, and plenty of grumbling in the Broncos' locker room from players who believed McDaniels wasn't responsive to their questions or concerns.

In all, he was 11-17 as the Broncos' head coach. While he oversaw the drafts that included Demaryius Thomas, Eric Decker, Zane Beadles and Tim Tebow, there were plenty of draft misses. He also traded quarterback Jay Cutler before he had coached Cutler in a single practice and then traded wide receiver Brandon Marshall the following year.

McDaniels said on multiple occasions in Tuesday's media day that he believes he would be "a better listener" in the job now.

"When you do something like that for the first time you feel like you have to run through everything and be in charge of too many things and sometimes that is a significant negative," McDaniels said. "I have tried really hard in St. Louis and then here back in New England. We really gather ideas, we listen to one another and try to do the best thing for the offense in this particular case and it has really been a great thing. Our atmosphere on our staff has been very healthy and a big part of that is that we have a lot of guys that can contribute and it doesn't come from one source. I made a lot of mistakes there and you know that."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick was asked Tuesday why things didn't work out for McDaniels with the Broncos.

"I mean, Josh did a great job for us, he's always done a great job for us," Belichick said. "... [He] does a great job with the offense, works hard, very well prepared, great rapport with the quarterbacks and the entire offensive staff and the players, and I love having Josh on our staff. Really, I mean, I'm lucky to have a great staff and very fortunate to have Josh. You'd have to ask Josh about what his experiences were somewhere else. I don't know."

"He's a great coach, a great friend," Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. "... I hope he's my coach for as long as I keep playing."

McDaniels did receive interest in recent weeks for head-coaching jobs in Atlanta, Buffalo and San Francisco. But all but one of the open jobs have been filled already this offseason with the Falcons job expected to go to Seattle Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in the days following Sunday's game.

Following the 2013 season, McDaniels did turn down the opportunity to interview with the Cleveland Browns. Tuesday, he made no secret he would like another chance to be a head coach "for a team that sees it as the right fit, for them, and that it's the right fit for me."

"... Yeah, I would love to do it again," he said. "I think the most important thing to me is to just be in the right situation and just be in a place where I feel good about being. There are a lot of great teams and great places out there. I happen to be in a good situation for myself right now and for my family. If it comes up again and it is like there it is, that is the right spot, then I would love to do it again and give it another shot."
SAN DIEGO – ESPN NFL Insider Adam Caplan appeared on the air with Darrin Smith of The Mighty 1090 AM radio from Arizona on Tuesday.

You can listen to the full interview here.

Mathews
Caplan pointed to the defensive side of the ball when asked to address the San Diego Chargers' most pressing needs in the draft and free agency this year.

“They’ve got to go defense,” Caplan said. “I think that [Chargers defensive coordinator] John Pagano has done a nice job, they just don’t have enough talent. Cornerback is an issue. They need safety depth and outside linebacker obviously -- they need more pass rushers.

“At receiver they’re fine. Tight end they’re fine. Offensive line is always a problem, always an issue, and they need help there. This is a team on paper that is 9-7 -- they played to their record.”

Caplan also was asked about the possibility of running back Ryan Mathews returning to the Chargers in free agency.

“The leverage is clearly with the Chargers based on his injury history,” Caplan said. “The one thing though in his favor is that they have no one who is ready to take over. They don’t have anyone. [Branden] Oliver is a nice story, but he’s more of a change-up. [Donald] Brown is a nice No. 2 back, a good third-down back, but he’s not a starting running back.

“The committee thing is just not going to work. You’ve got to be able to run it. Running back is a position you can fill in the draft. You’d like to bring him back. I think he’d be better off taking a one-year deal with the Chargers, having a great season and seeing what he can do. He’s still a young running back.”
PHOENIX, Ariz. -- Just minutes after Sunday's Pro Bowl had concluded, Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller said he hoped to know “pretty soon," how the Broncos defensive staff would look for the coming season.

Then Monday the Broncos formally finished a up deal with their second defensive assistant as linebackers coach Reggie Herring joined defensive line coach Bill Kollar on Gary Kubiak's staff. Herring replaces Richard Smith, who had been strongly considered to be retained from John Fox's staff, but who told team officials this week he has accepted a job to be the Atlanta Falcons defensive coordinator.

The Broncos continue to search for a defensive coordinator and need a secondary coach as well. Around the league former Broncos defensive coordinator and head coach Wade Phillips continues to be considered a primary candidate to call defensive plays for the Broncos in the 2015 season.

Phillips was the defensive coordinator on Kubiak's staff in Houston and is expected to visit the Broncos complex in the coming days, possibly as soon as Tuesday. The Broncos have also been rebuffed by the Cincinnati Bengals in attempts to consider Bengals defensive backs coach Vance Joseph for the coordinator job.

According to multiple team sources, the Bengals have blocked Joseph's attempt to take the job because he is under contract with the team. The Broncos interviewed Joseph earlier this month for the team's head coaching job, two days before they met with Kubiak.

The Broncos did continue their efforts to hire Joseph over the last week, but the Bengals have held the line to this point, despite the fact the Broncos' position would be a promotion for Joseph, who was also an assistant coach on Kubiak's staff in Houston. Internally the Broncos held out some hope earlier this week if the Bengals could find an assistant coach who could conceivably replace Joseph -- former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell was one name that kept coming up around the league -- perhaps the Bengals would change their approach.

However, the Broncos have now picked up their efforts with Phillips as well. Phillips took over as Texans interim head coach 13 games into the '13 season after Kubiak was fired. The Texans were 30th in total defense in 2010, 29th in scoring defense and last in the league in pass defense when Kubiak looked to Phillips to repair the unit.

The team drafted defensive end J.J. Watt in the first round of the '11 draft and Phillips pushed the improved unit to No. 2 in total defense in 2011, No. 4 in scoring defense. The Texans were also No. 7 in total defense in 2012 and were No. 7 in total defense in 2013 even as the team finished 2-14.

Phillips was the Broncos head coach in 1993 and 1994 and was fired after a 7-9 finish in 1994 when Broncos owner Pat Bowlen hired Mike Shanahan. Phillips was 16-16 in his two seasons with a loss in the wild-card round following the '93 season.

Phillips had been the Broncos' defensive coordinator 1989-1992.

Charles Woodson still durable at age 38

January, 26, 2015
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ALAMEDA, Calif. -- The Raiders got an early jump on free agency Monday, signing veteran safety Charles Woodson to a contract extension.

Woodson
Woodson was one of the Raiders' defensive leaders in 2014 when he led the team in tackles and interceptions. The 38-year-old was also the only member of Oakland's starting secondary to play in all 16 games after injuries sidelined Tyvon Branch and cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers.

The former Heisman Trophy winner and 2009 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Woodson was scheduled to become a free agent in March. He had stated his desire to return to Oakland but did it with a caveat, saying he only wanted to come back if the team retained then-assistant defensive backs coach Marcus Robertson.

Robertson was not only re-hired to be a part of head coach Jack Del Rio's staff last week, he was promoted to defensive backs coach as well.

"I wouldn't have spoken so strongly about him if I didn't feel he was so important," Woodson said last week while attending a Golden State Warriors game with his wife and children. "I definitely plan on playing."

Woodson, an eight-time Pro Bowl selection, became the first player in NFL history to have at least 50 career interceptions and 20 sacks.

The rest of Oakland's secondary remains uncertain. Brown played very well before getting hurt while Rogers had an up-and-down season. Both are slated to hit the free-agent market, while Branch could be a salary cap casualty.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he accepted good wishes from some of the NFL’s biggest names Sunday night, Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. took a moment to reflect on the season that was now officially over.

Yes, his first Pro Bowl appearance was a nice parting gift to end of the season, but it was not the game Harris or his seven Broncos teammates in the league's all-star game wanted to be playing in University of Phoenix Stadium, not with Super Bowl XLIX to be played on the same field this Sunday.

Harris
“Just to leave the year with a win somehow, it feels pretty good,’’ Harris said following his work in Team Irvin’s 32-28 win over Team Carter. “But we know what we wanted all year, we didn’t get there, so it won’t be everything we wanted. But it still was a big year for me.’’

Harris returned to the Broncos’ starting lineup in the regular-season opener just seven months after ACL surgery. He earned his first Pro Bowl spot, and changed from a player overshadowed by others with bigger reputations to one who is now considered one of the best at what he does.

The Broncos rewarded Harris with a five-year, $42.5 million contract extension in the season’s stretch run as GM John Elway offered that Harris "is everything we want in a Denver Bronco.'' And while the Pro Bowl is an oft-criticized affair for its less-than-average tempo when the game is played, the players who go often speak of the week’s practices being of particular interest.

“It definitely makes me more hungry to get back and try to get in again,’’ Harris. “I wasn’t drafted, a lot of these guys have gotten to meet me, see how I play, see how I practice. Like I said it’s been one of my favorite things is just getting with these guys, sharing ideas. All of the corners, pretty much everybody in the secondary, it was great to meet them. Playing by Joe Haden, Brent Grimes, Vontae (Davis) -- we just hung out all week. It’s been fun. And Joe Haden, getting to know him, that’s one person that I’ll stay in touch with for sure.’’

Like he did much of the season, Harris played all over the defensive formation, covering all manner of receivers either in the slot or on the outside Sunday night.

The Dallas Cowboys' coaching staff, which directed Team Irvin, moved Harris all over the formation, left and right, inside and outside -- “I mean, has anybody else done that? It was fun.’’

In the end Harris said he will now take a little time off, his first since the offseason following the 2012 season. Last year, coming off his surgery, Harris remained in Denver for the entire offseason, rehabbing his knee.

“I’m going to take a month, maybe a little longer off,’’ Harris said. “Last year, it was my knee, I didn’t want to miss a minute, not a day, because I didn’t want anything to keep me from getting back out there. I’ll be back in a little bit, ready to go, get to work. Because we still want to get in that last game and win it.’’
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He has already accepted his new job, but freshly minted Denver Broncos offensive coordinator Rick Dennison hasn’t actually started his new job.

But within minutes of the final play of Sunday’s Pro Bowl -- Dennison called the plays for Team Carter in his final official duty as part of the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff -- he said he was more than ready to begin the second tenure of his coaching career on the Broncos staff.

Dennison was a Broncos assistant coach beginning with Mike Shanahan’s first season as Broncos head coach in 1995 through the end of Josh McDaniels' first season as head coach in 2009. Within days of Gary Kubiak being hired as head coach last week, Dennison was named his offensive coordinator.

But Dennison had to finish out his duties as Ravens wide receivers coach, a stint that ended in the Pro Bowl when Baltimore's staff replaced Denver's staff after the Broncos and John Fox parted ways Jan. 12, the day after Denver's playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

[+] EnlargeRick Dennison
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsRick Dennison returns to Denver, where his history with the Broncos as a coach and a player stretches nearly 20 years.
“This past year in Baltimore was awesome," Dennison said. “John [Harbaugh] does a great job, Ozzie [Newsome] was great, everybody in the building was great."

Dennison's history with Kubiak is extensive. He was on a Broncos coaching staff with Kubiak for 11 seasons and on Kubiak’s coaching staff in Houston for four seasons. Dennison was on the Ravens staff with Kubiak this season. He was Kubiak’s teammate -- and Broncos executive vice president and general manager John Elway's -- for eight seasons.

So when Kubiak offered Dennison a chance to return to the Broncos, he quickly agreed, with Harbaugh’s blessing.

“It was a chance. It was time to go back," Dennison said. “I’m a Colorado guy. I’ve spent all my summers there even after I left [the Broncos after the 2009 season]. It’s easy to go back to that building, easy to go back to that team and be a part of it."

Kubiak has said he expects to have plenty of the play-calling duties on game day, but Dennison is a valued strategist with a varied background that includes coaching special teams and the offensive line. When the Broncos were at their best running the ball in Shanahan’s tenure, both Shanahan and Kubiak said plenty of that success could be traced back to Dennison’s work.

Dennison said after Sunday’s Pro Bowl he was ready to get to work in his new duties with the Broncos. This past week in Arizona, he had an up-close look at some of the players he will now see in practice each day in the coming season.

Offensive tackle Ryan Clady was on the Team Carter squad the Ravens' staff was coaching, while wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders and running back C.J. Anderson played for Team Irvin. Sanders finished the game with 70 yards receiving and two touchdowns as the Broncos had eight players in the game overall, including five on the two teams' defenses.

“I haven’t looked too much at the roster," Dennison said. “But I was part of drafting Ryan and I spoke to C.J. a little bit as well. Emmanuel showed some of the things he can do. … I know there’s a lot there."

The Broncos led the league in scoring with a NFL single-season record 606 points in 2013 and were second in the league, behind Green Bay, in scoring this season. Quarterback Peyton Manning, however, has not formally announced whether he intends to return for the 2015 season.

“I’ve spent a lot of my career in that building, been there for a lot of years," Dennison said. “I’m excited to see some familiar faces and excited to get started."

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