Brandon Williams (DB)

Extra Points: Chiefs, Jaguars, Williams

Andy Reid said the Chiefs might not have to choose between Charcandrick West or C.J. Spiller. The team might retain all four of its top running backs, Reid said (via Adam Teicher of ESPN.com).

If we only keep three, then somebody’s going to get a heck of a player,” Reid said of a running back competition fronted by Spencer Ware and rookie Kareem Hunt. “… If we can keep all four, then that’s great.”

This may not be an automatic indication Kansas City plans keep both West and Spiller, and one could well be trade bait since both smaller backs might not make sense as Nos. 3-4 options. The Chiefs signed Ware and West to identical contracts during the 2016 offseason, and West has two years and barely $3MM remaining on his deal. He received the initial crack at replacing Jamaal Charles in 2015 and led the Chiefs in rushing that season with 634 yards (4.0 per carry). He operated as Ware’s backup last season but possesses top-end straight-line speed that could be useful on a team with less backfield depth.

Spiller caught on with the Chiefs in February after being cut by several teams. The former first-round pick is making the league minimum. Kansas City also has veteran fullback Anthony Sherman in line to occupy a roster spot.

The Jaguars’ quarterback situation has become a key topic this week; here’s the latest on that and other key stories as preseason Week 2 winds down.

  • Doug Marrone opened up the Jaguars‘ quarterback competition after Blake Bortles continued to struggle. But Chad Henne looks like he will be the only in-house challenger, with Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union noting Brandon Allen‘s inexperience (zero regular-season snaps) won’t be ideal in Week 1 against a Texans defense that ranked No. 1 last season. O’Halloran anticipates Henne receiving the nod. The Jags are not currently looking at outside options for this job. Allen is a second-year player out of Arkansas.
  • Aaron Colvin has come off the Jags’ Active/PUP list and resumed practicing in team drills for the first time since December 2011, and O’Halloran notes he’s still expected to be the team’s top nickel option. The fourth-year player is slated to line up in the slot inside of Jalen Ramsey and A.J. Bouye. Colvin confirmed he experienced a rehab setback this offseason while recovering from an ankle injury that took more than seven months to heal sufficiently.
  • Brandon Williams is playing like he will come out ahead of recent UFA addition Tramon Williams, although he’s now unlikely to usurp Justin Bethel in the Cardinals‘ competition to see who starts opposite Patrick Peterson this season. Bruce Arians said (via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com) Williams played “really well” in the Cards’ game against the Bears on Saturday.
  • The Giants will work out offensive lineman Matt Rotheram on Monday, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle tweets. Rotheram has bounced around the league for the past two seasons, residing on the Packers and Lions’ practice squads in 2015 and ’16, respectively. The Lions signed him to a reserve/futures contract in January but cut him earlier this week.
  • Before signing linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to a deal, the Bears worked out fellow ‘backer Michael Scherer, Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets.

West Rumors: Conley, Broncos, Cardinals

It took the Raiders until their training camp eve to reach an agreement with first-round pick Gareon Conley. Although no legal clarity has come after a woman accused the cornerback of sexual assault in April, the Raiders did not design Conley’s contract with that alleged incident in mind. Conley’s deal contains 90 percent guaranteed money, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets, adding the language in the four-year contract is standard despite the legal cloud surrounding the ex-Ohio State defender presently. The Raiders also agreed to terms with second-rounder Obi Melifonwu this week. Titans first-rounder Corey Davis is the only unsigned pick remaining.

Here’s the latest from the West divisions on opening camp weekend.

  • The Broncos opened 2016 with a dominant outside linebacker corps, with DeMarcus Ware, Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett joining Von Miller in the fold. Miller has none of those sidekicks available for the time; Ray and Barrett may both be out throughout the preseason. Vance Joseph discussed the early replacement hierarchy here Saturday, calling recent UFA signing Kasim Edebali the top edge rusher alongside Miller (via Mike Klis of 9News, on Twitter). Edebali played three years with the Saints but wasn’t offered an RFA tender in March, leading to his one-year deal with the Broncos.
  • Bruce Arians said Justin Bethel and Brandon Williams could be battling for the Cardinals‘ No. 2 cornerback job until the final week of the preseason, but Williams and others will have some additional opportunities to build a case early. Bethel suffered a hyperextended knee and will be out for the coming days, Josh Weinfuss of ESPN.com reports. Arians did not believe this injury was serious, but given this position duel likely coming down to the wire, it stands to raise Bethel’s degree of difficulty here.
  • Regarding Williams, the second-year man has evidently been usurped on the depth chart by Ronald Zamort — a 2016 UDFA who spent last season on Arizona’s practice squad — according to Kent Somers of AZCentral.com (on Twitter). The Cardinals have been connected to Brandon Flowers and Tramon Williams this week, and Arians’ status on his own corners looks to have changed. Somers notes he now wants to add a veteran.
  • The Raiders‘ handling of Donald Penn‘s holdout will be key to how future free agents view the team, Jerry McDonald of the San Jose Mercury News writes. The Raiders relied immensely on free agency in recent years, Penn being one of the key signings. On a two-year deal worth $6.25MM AAV, the 34-year-old Penn is now by far the fourth-highest-paid offensive lineman on his own team, after the Raiders made Gabe Jackson an $11MM-per-year man in June. Penn saw a host of less proven tackles sign for more than him this offseason, and he’s seeking top-10 left tackle money. His per-year wages rank 20th presently. The Raiders have just more than $14MM in cap space. Oakland lined up Marshall Newhouse at Penn’s left tackle spot and second-year man Vadal Alexander at right tackle on Saturday.
  • Menelik Watson has missed 37 of a possible 64 regular-season games due to various injuries through four seasons, and the Broncos‘ projected right tackle starter dropped a lot of weight in an attempt to stay on the field. The former Raiders right tackle is close to 315 pounds after playing in the 340s earlier in his career, per Troy Renck of Denver7 (Twitter links), noting Watson told him the reduction is because of the slew of setbacks he encountered.
  • Joseph won’t have 5-foot-7 rookie Isaiah McKenzie return kicks due to his slight frame, Klis tweets. Carlos Henderson and Cody Latimer are vying to handle those duties for the Broncos while McKenzie has the inside track to return punts. This is a deviation of sorts for a Broncos team who received high-end kick-return production from 5-5 Trindon Holliday in 2012-13. The team has not had much success in this area since, leading to the selection of McKenzie in the fifth round.

NFC Notes: Packers, Vikings, Falcons, Cards

After taking a swing around the AFC earlier today, let’s take a look at a few NFC notes:

  • Teddy Bridgewater is likely to begin camp on the Active/PUP list, but Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.com reports (on Twitter) the rehabbing quarterback has enjoyed some productive training sessions in Florida recently. The 24-year-old passer has not been cleared to practice but did do some throwing while at Vikings OTAs in May. Apparently, Bridgewater’s progressed further in between minicamp and training camp. But he’s still less than a year removed from the gruesome knee injury that changed the course of his career.
  • The Packers added defensive tackle Ricky Jean-Francois earlier this year to bolster a defensive line that badly needed reinforcements, and as Ryan Wood of PackersNews.com writes, Green Bay has been interested in the LSU product for years. The club wanted to sign him after the 2012 season, but Jean-Francois joined the Colts instead before moving on to Washington. The Redskins released him in March, clearing the way for his one-year pact with the Packers.
  • Patrick Peterson‘s running mate at corner has served as one of the main discussion items of the Cardinals‘ offseason. Bruce Arians said Sunday (via Darren Urban of AZCardinals.com) the position remains open and likely won’t be decided until the regular season begins. Arians, though, praised the work of Justin Bethel (Twitter link, via Urban) — less than a year after the coach labeled the corner a “failure in progress.” The Cardinals could still be in the market for a veteran corner, Urban writes, but as of now the battle is between Bethel and second-year man Brandon Williams.
  • Falcons head coach Dan Quinn and assistant head coach/offensive pass game coordinator Raheem Morris have been close for years, and Quinn believes Morris will get another head coaching job in the NFL, as Vaughn McClure of ESPN.com writes. Morris, of course, coached the division-rival Buccaneers from 2009-11 and compiled a disappointing 17-31 record. Nonetheless, Quinn said Morris is more than equipped to handle a head coaching position and hopes he will get his next chance in the near future. Morris declined to talk about his head coaching ambitions out of respect for Quinn and the team.

Sam Robinson contributed to this report

Impact Rookies: Arizona Cardinals

The old adage that defense wins championships may or may not be true, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a title-winning team that didn’t build heavily through the draft. Rookie classes, naturally, are evaluated on the perceived upside of the NFL newcomers, but which rookies are ready to contribute right out of the gate? And, how do they fit in with their new team schematically?

To help us forecast the immediate future of these NFL neophytes, we enlisted the help of draft guru Dave-Te Thomas who has served as a scouting personnel consultant to NFL teams for multiple decades.

First Round – Robert Nkemdiche, DT (Mississippi State, No. 29 overall)

The NFL Draft Report casts a wary eye on the Cardinals’ first round selection. In sort of a déjà vu’ for the staff, could this Ole Miss prospect pull a “Honey Badger” and see the error of his ways off the football field, or are we again seeing a remake of the Demetrius Underwood situation, where a talented player simply self-destructs in life? We are very cautiously including him in this article, because it’s hard to cast the troubled Nkemdiche as an “impact player,” despite his talent. Robert Nkemdiche (Vertical)

[RELATED – Click here to read our in-depth recap of the Cardinals’ offseason] 

Currently, Nkemdiche is slated to be one of the first defensive ends off of the bench in relief of Chandler Jones and Calais Campbell. The Cardinals say they want to extend Campbell, but that could be a tall order as they also have to carve out a monster deal to retain Jones. If all works out with Nkemdiche, he can serve as insurance against Campbell going elsewhere in free agency.

Nkemdiche has Ndamukong Suh-like athletic ability, but his problems occur when he seems to throttle down more than he plays with intensity. His occasional “let-ups” on the field became much more noticeable this year and he did seem to be more concerned about his running back duties than he did in giving pursuit as a defender. The Ole Miss defender made only two long distance tackles this year, despite having valid lateral agility and burst to give proper chase. When his head is in the game, Nkemdiche demonstrates the ability to easily take plays from the chalkboard to the field.

He needs minimal reps to retain and evident by the fact that he has started every game during his career, he has a good feel for blocking schemes and the vision to locate the ball in a hurry. He understands his assignments and his feel for the ball is above average, but his woeful inconsistency and attention to detail can be maddening, at times. He is not the type who will make an effort on every play to get to the ball and there are more than a few times where he is caught out of position due to a mental error.

Nkemdiche is a hard worker in the weight room, but is the type that needs to be pushed to get the best effort out of him. He has the ability to be a self-starter and he is a good field leader who lets his actions speak louder than his words, but his inconsistency has now become an issue. He is compliant to the coach’s wishes and plays with good intensity and effort when he performs to his ability, but he runs too hot-and-cold to be strongly considered a football player on par with his athleticism.

Ultimately, on the field, we believe that Nkemdiche has a lot to offer. How he performs at the next level, however, will hinge largely on his own head.

Read more

Draft Signings: Packers, Seahawks, Chargers

The Packers have signed second-round pick Jason Spriggs, as Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com writes. The tackle from Indiana will earn just over $5MM on his four-year deal with nearly $3MM guaranteed. Spriggs is now the the fifth Packers draft pick to sign and only two rookies remain unsigned for Green Bay in first-round pick Kenny Clark and third-rounder Kyler Fackrell.

Here are the rest of today’s draft signings from round two and lower:

  • The Panthers announced the signing of second-round cornerback James Bradberry and seventh-round tight end Beau Sandland. Bradberry started his collegiate career at Arkansas State but finished up at Samford.
  • Derek Watt, former Wisconsin fullback-tight end and J.J. Watt‘s brother, signed his sixth-round rookie deal with the Chargers today, Aaron Wilson of The Houston Chronicle tweets.
  • The Raiders announced the signing of seventh-round guard Vadal Alexander. Alexander is the first member of Oakland’s draft class to officially put pen to paper.
  • The Raiders also announced the signing of quarterback Connor Cook. The Michigan State product fell to Oakland in the fourth-round of last month’s draft.

Earlier Updates:

  • The Seahawks signed seventh-round pick Zac Brooks, as Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times tweets. All ten of Seattle’s draft picks have now signed.
  • The Chargers signed fourth-round linebacker Joshua Perry, as Jenna Laine tweets.
  • The Ravens have signed fourth-round cornerback Tavon Young, as Jeff Zrebiec of The Baltimore Sun tweets.
  • The Bengals announced (Twitter link) the signing of seventh-round safety Clayton Fejedelem.
  • The Cardinals signed three of their rookies in cornerback Brandon Williams, center Evan Boehm, and cornerback Harlan Miller (Twitter link).

Draft Rumors: Texans, Pats, Bears

The latest draft rumors from around the NFL:

  • Texas A&M cornerback Brandon Williams worked out privately for Texans coach Bill O’Brien and also visited the Steelers, Patriots, and Bears, Wilson tweets. Williams bench pressed 225 pounds 18 times at the NFL scouting combine and is said to be turning heads with his athleticism. Wilson writes that the A&M product, who had 34 tackles and seven passes defended in 2015, is drawing third/fourth round grades from scouts.
  • Michigan linebacker James Ross is drawing interest from the Colts, Raiders, Ravens, and Lions, Wilson tweets.
  • Temple wide receiver Robby Anderson had visited the Packers, Browns, Bengals, Chiefs, and Raiders, Wilson tweets. Anderson caught a career-high 70 passes for 939 yards on his way to an all-conference selection in 2015. The 6’3″, 190-pound receiver ran a 4.28 second 40-yard-dash at his Pro Day.
  • The Buccaneers and Chargers worked out Iowa State receiver Quenton Bundrage, according to Tony Pauline of DraftInsider.net (on Twitter). Bundrage, who posted a 4.5 second 40-yard-dash time, finished his senior year with 41 receptions, 548 yards, and one touchdown as a senior. He missed the 2014 season with a knee injury.
  • Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton is drawing late interest from the Texans, Vikings, and Cardinals, Wilson tweets.

AFC Draft Updates: Ravens, Lynch, Texans

The final visit for Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch will take place in Baltimore, according to agent Leigh Steinberg, who tweets that Lynch will meet with the Ravens on Wednesday. Holding the No. 6 overall pick, the Ravens seem like an improbable first-round suitor for Lynch, so perhaps the team is just doing its due diligence in case it trades down in the first round or Lynch slips to round two.

Here are more draft updates from out of the AFC:

  • The Texans hosted Louisiana Tech quarterback Jeff Driskel for a visit this week, and are also hosting Eastern Michigan running back Darius Jackson today, according to Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. Houston fortified its offensive backfield by signing Brock Osweiler and Lamar Miller in free agency, but could still be eyeing additional depth.
  • We heard yesterday that Virginia Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller had a Monday visit with the Jets and a Wednesday visit in Carolina this week. Aaron Wilson fills in the gap in Fuller’s schedule, tweeting that the young corner is meeting today with the Titans.
  • The schedule for Oklahoma State defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah includes a pre-draft visit with the Chargers this Wednesday, writes Aaron Wilson in a piece for the Chronicle. Wilson reported yesterday that Ogbah was also visiting Carolina and Atlanta this week, though he doesn’t include the Panthers in his list of Ogbah’s visits in his latest piece.
  • Texas A&M cornerback Brandon Williams has been busy during the pre-draft visit, making five visits and taking part in 14 private workouts, according to Aaron Wilson, who tweets that Williams is meeting with the Steelers today. Utah running back Devontae Booker and Michigan safety Jarrod Wilson are also in Pittsburgh to visit the Steelers, Wilson adds (via Twitter).