“AFC West-About to Become Wild West”
NFL Teams are pouring into camps. Optimism lots of places. And the AFC West looks as if anyone can win it.
Here are storylines involving each of the four teams in the ‘Wild West’.
CHARGERS…..The team looks loaded. Philip Rivers is the best QB in the division. Ken Whisenhunt, with whom they had great success, is back as offensive coordinator. A new offensive line coach, Jeff Davidson, brings a tough guy mentality to the front. Joey Bosa makes the pass rush more dangerous. Brandon Mebane will bring size-grit to the run defense upfront. The secondary added trustworthy DBs in Casey Hayward and Dwight Lowery. The kicking game looks solid. The only questions, and these are not red-flag issues, will Melvin Gordon have any after-effects of the minor microfractre surgery on his knee? OTA workouts didn’t seem to show any. And can an injury ravaged offensive line, led by new center Matt Slauson, stay on the field this year, after using 11-different linemen, and 23-combinations a year ago. A healthy OL means this team wins the division.
BRONCOS…Changes everywhere. That Super Bowl trophy was impressive, but that was last year. Mark Sanchez is being asked to manage the offense, not win a lot of games. Gone are the ever dangerous Peyton Manning and the young developing Brock Osweiler. They wanted to run the ball alot last year, changed their personality, and got enough done, to play the final Sunday of the season. The run game will be better a second year into their zone blocking run system. The defense may not be better, in fact, worse. DE Malik Jackson took the money and ran to Jacksonville as a free agent. LB-Danny Travathan followed suit and headed to Chicago. And DeMarcus Ware is coming off back surgery and won’t be on the practice field to begin August drills. Those are big defections-issues. Getting full games out of replacements will be the challenge. The Broncos will be tough, physically, but I don’t think they will be a dangerous, dynamic, down-the-field team. I don’t think Denver can play conservative ball for 16-weeks and wn the division.
CHIEFS…Lots of changes, and the injury factor weigh heavily on Kansas City right now. RB-Jamal Charles and LB -Justin Houston start on PUP, both coming off knee surgeries. Whether they will be ready to play in seven weeks is the biggest question in that camp. The Chiefs are still searching for game changing wide receivers to compliment Jeremy Maclin. They have to replace two free agent OL defections too. The defense, with an aging Tamba Hali, and the ailing Houston, wasn’t the same at the end of the season. QB Alex Smith makes plays, but does not have enough play-makers around him. Not enough weapons to be a first place team.
RAIDERS…A new era has arrived. They’ve been building for this breakout season for awhile. The last winning season was 2002, but under GM-Reggie McKenzie, and now coach JJack Del Rio, this franchise has made giant strides in the draft, and in select free agency. A powerful offensive line, in front of QB-Derek Carr, will be tough to handle. They do run it, and he will throw it. Much more athletic, and young, on the defensive side of the ball. Veteran additions like CB-Sean Smith, DT-Dan Williams, S-Reggie Nelson will mean alot to LB-Khalil Mack and the other young players, who have been learning on the job thru the tough rebuild years. Could be the division winner with the diverse, athletic, young group they put on the field.
SUMMARY…Each team’s schedules are tough. They could all wind up (9-7) in the season. This is a quarterback’s league, and Riversw is the quarterback of the division.