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Barbara Bruno

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NFL 2012 Preseason Preview: The AFC West

Posted: 08/21/2012 10:03 pm

The Chargers have already lost their RB and a major WR, Kansas City is a sleeping tiger for 2012, Oakland still goes as Darren McFadden goes and, despite appearances, it's not all about Peyton Manning in Denver.

Denver Broncos

It's the nature of having one of the biggest all-time NFL stars move into your neighborhood that you will lead the breakdown.

For the sake of enjoying football, let's assume that Manning will be at least back to 2010 form (66.3 completion percentage with 4,700 yards, 33 TDs). Denver fans will be quite happy with that. Especially since Willis McGahee averaged almost 5 yards per carry last year.

2011 wrap-up:
1. Not including Tim Tebow runs, the Broncos rushed for 1,972 yards last season.
2. The 19th-ranked defense should be better in its second year with coach JohnFox (although the Elvis Dumervil arrest could hurt and Champ Bailey is, well, old). They need to improve to tenth.
3. Tebow completed 46.5 percent of his regular-season passes. The WRs are happier now.
4. I cannot tell the difference between Denver RB Knowshon Moreno and the Jets' Shonn Greene. I suspect they're the same under-performing, oft-injured guy who just flies back and forth across the country and changes jerseys.

2012 off-season
1. You Know Who
2. Rookie rusher Ronnie Hillman has Denver hoping he'll be a playmaker. Watch his injured hamstring.
3. An offensive line that returns all five starters hopes to continue opening rushing lanes, thanks to the constant Manning threat.
4. Peyton brought his TE Jacob Tamme and his BFF WR Brandon Stokely to Mile High. Add in WRs Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker and No. 18 has some weapons.
5. John's Fox and Elway have been drafting for defense. LB Von Miller was the NFL's Rookie of the Year in 2011 and rookie lineman Derek Wolfe is impressing. They also hired former NFL linebacker/Jaguars coach Jack Del Rio, who will bring the fire.
6. Denver hired very veteran LB Keith Brooking and S Jim Leonhard to provide leadership and some mature play-making ability. Could be too mature.

Storylines:
1. Peyton Manning's arm strength and rust level. Do I really need to elaborate?
2. Can the O-line protect their quarterback and block for a needed running game, too?
3. How will LB D. J. Williams' six-game drug suspension affect defensive cohesion?
4. For some insane reason, Denver signed failed-Bear Caleb Hanie to back up Manning. They also drafted Brock Osweiler -- a giant filled with loads of potential and absolutely no polish. The intriguing man in this QB room is Adam Weber: the only QB left from 2011. Will Weber make Hanie redundant?
5. Can Knowshon Moreno stay healthy and revitalize his image?
6. WR Thomas is the typical diva. With he pout about balls? Yeah, that'd go over well with Peyton.

Oakland Raiders

The Oakland Raiders are still trying to figure out what kind of team they will be in the post-Al Davis era.

2011 wrap-up:
1. Carson Palmer landed in Oakland after his Bengals divorce. He's been roundly criticized, which hardly seems fair after being thrust into the starting lineup practically right off the tarmac.
2. RB Darren McFadden couldn't stay off the injury report. Again.
3. Aside from Safety Tyvon Branch, the secondary was an absolute disaster, the linebackers weren't much better and the D-line was frequently hurt.
4. The entire defense ranked 28th in the NFL. They gave up 136.1 rushing yards per game. Ouch.

2012 offseason:
1. Dennis Allen became the sixth new head coach in the last nine years.
2. Reggie McKenzie was hired by new owner Mark Davis to be the GM. If you think he's everywhere -- he hired his twin brother.
3. Matt Leinart is reunited with USC buddy Carson Palmer as the backup QB. 2011 supplemental pick Terrelle Pryor is still a project.
4. Rookie WR Rod Streater bears watching.
5. McKenzie brought in Dave Tollefson from the Giants to help the defense line.
6. Jason Tarver is the new defensive coordinator. Who? He coached the 49ers linebackers for a long time. Well, a relatively long time considering that he looks like a teen.
7. Mike Goodson came in to backup McFadden along with sophomore rusher Taiwan Jones.
8. The team brought in two corners on one-year deals. Not a great sign.

Storylines:
1. Is Carson Palmer done? There really isn't any other way to say it. New coordinator Greg Knapp worked with backup Matt Leinart in Texas. Hmmm.
2. Al Saunders (former architect of the Trent Green Chiefs offense) is a Senior Offensive Assistant. Palmer could certainly play the Green role. Now, where is Priest Holmes?
3. Can McFadden play 16 games?
4. Can Rolando McClain save his career? McClain was so highly touted out of college as a highly intelligent, NFL-ready MLB that his struggles are disappointing to say the least. Not to mention the bizarre gun-toting behavior that will certainly result in a suspension of some sort.


San Diego Chargers

Philip Rivers has welcomed Peyton Manning to the AFC West. Well, what was he supposed to say: "I have my hands full trying to win, here -- please go away?"

2011 wrap-up:
1. Everyone swears that franchise stability is a good thing. But, seriously, San Diego -- for the last three years everyone has been begging for regime change. Norv Turner and Jim Caldwell can form a support group for really decent human beings who should not be head coaches.
2. Let's review: In 2007, Marty Schottenheimer coached the Chargers to a 14-2 record. The last two years combined have resulted in 17 victories.
3. It's not as if the Chargers don't have a franchise quarterback. Philip Rivers is everything you could possibly ask for. Rivers is an honorable guy who went to bat to keep Turner. Why GM A.J. Smith is still around is a complete mystery, since he not only fired Schottenheimer and tanked his last few draft classes -- he also has the benefit of being universally disliked.
4. Three O-linemen on IR certainly didn't help.
5. The Chargers were incapable of generating a pass rush.
6. There is some room for optimism at linebacker: Shaun Phillips is a stud when healthy, Takeo Spikes has game and Antwan Barnes made 11 sacks.
7. Safety Eric Weddle lived up to his contract and RCB Antoine Cason is pretty good, while DB Marcus Gilchrist was a rare bright spot from the draft.
8. PK Nate Kaeding went down in Week 1 and the rest is just part of the continuing Special Teams nightmare.

2012 offseason:
1. Star WR Vincent Jackson left, but was replaced by Vincent Brown -- who just broke his ankle. Eddie Royal can be a waterbug-type scooter -- when he's healthy. Malcolm Floyd is the anchor for now, but Turner has a new toy in former Saint Robert Meachem.
2. First-round 2010 draft pick, RB Ryan Matthew, broke his collarbone on his first preseason carry and power rusher Mike Tolbert is a Panther. Evidently Jaguars star holdout, Maurice Jones-Drew, is open to being traded. Just a suggestion.
3. Or Ronnie Brown, Curtis "this is your chance, dude" Brinkley and FB Le'Ron McClain can tote the rock for at least six weeks.
4. LT Jared Gaither has a back problem. Not good news for Rivers' six children.
5. In the "unqualified good news" column -- TE Antonio Gates is healthy for the first time in three years.
6. In the "wring his neck" column is the four-game drug suspension of DT Garrett Brown.
7. The Chargers added pass rusher Jarret Johnson from Baltimore. They also drafted Melvin Ingram, who is exciting folks thus far.
8. Charlie Whitehurst is back with Norv Turner as the No. 2 QB. It's good to have friends.

Storylines:
1. How soon can Ryan Matthews return? Vincent Brown?
2. How quickly can Rivers develop chemistry with Royal and Meachem?
3. Can TE Gates' new slimmed-down form keep him healthy?
4. Will there be anything resembling a pass rush?
5. Will Rivers bounce back from a sub par year? Will he have to carry the entire team? If the answer to the second is "no," then the answer to the first is "yes!"


Kansas City Chiefs

In Week 1 of the NFL season, several Kansas City Chiefs will be back in meaningful action for the first time in a year. RB Jamaal Charles, TE Tony Moeaki, QB Matt Cassell and S Eric Berry cannot wait to put the injuries of 2011 behind them:
"It was good just to be on the field again and running the ball again in a real live game," Charles said. "It was great to be out there with my teammates."

2011 wrap-up:
1. Basically, the injury report was last season.
2. Dexter McCluster remains an underrated weapon at both scatback and WR. If only he didn't look so fragile.
3. Matt Cassel isn't Tom Brady, but he's far better than current backups Brady Quinn and Ricky Stanzi. Cassel is 18-of-24 for 15.5 yards, one score and zero INTs in August.

2012 offseason:
1. Romeo Crennel made his defense happy by becoming the new head coach.
2. Dwayne Bowe didn't report until August 17th. Will he be rusty?
3. Peyton Hillis came over from the Browns. Their loss.
4. Dontari Poe was drafted at NT after a brilliant combine performance that may or may not translate into production.
5. 2012 brings a new offensive system under incoming OC Brian Daboll.
6. Second-year LB Justin Houston is getting some buzz. Safety Kendrick Lewis has a shoulder injury.
7. Cornerback Brandon Carr is now a Cowboy, so things will need to shake out a bit opposite Brandon Flowers (who has a bruised heel). Former Raider Stanford Routt is replacing him. Not sure that is exactly an apples-to-apples situation. (To be fair, Routt was seen staying late to tutor some of the younger DBs.)

Storylines:
1. Matt Cassel has the arm. If only he could be more consistent.
2. Defensive star Tamba Hali has just been slapped with a one-game suspension.
3. Rookie WR/return specialist Devon Wylie is a welcome dash of speed, while Brandon Kinnie can play. Jon Baldwin is making routine circus catches. Remember, before Jermaine Simpson went all gymnastics, there was Baldwin's behind-the-back grab.
4. Will Peyton Hills rebound to the form that placed him on the cover of Madden 2011? Probably.
5. Safety Eric Berry is back and just might be turning into a combination of Troy Polamalu and Bob Sanders. No pressure.

NFL 2012 Season Preview: Complete AFC Breakdown

 

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