PMD's 2010 AFC West Thoughts
I've been thinking a lot about the division this year and figured I'd share my thoughts with draft now past us. I'm intending this to be as much of an open discussion as possible...
First: San Diego is going to be good this year. Really good.
For the last two seasons, the Chargers have been playing a rather schizophrenic offense. Prior to 2008, they had a pretty great formula of ball control. Keep the defense off the field, rack up the score early, force your opponent to throw to get back in the game, and blitz away. Unfortunately, 2008 they both lost their ball control factor when LT first started showing his age and their best passrusher when Merriman missed 15 games. That led to them basically airing out the ball at every oppourtunity, which meant the offense couldn't control the clock worth a damn and their defense wound playing a ridiculous number of snaps. That was Phillip Rivers' trial by fire, something he survived quite admirably. Now, after trading up for Ryan Matthews (a move I really like), the ball control should be back and will be complimented by a better passing game than I think I've ever seen from a Chargers team. Whether the pass rush shows up or not depends to be seen; Merriman's strength is uncertain and he's surrounded by relative unknowns. There's also a few holes on that defensive line which worry me. Cam Thomas has talent, but there's a reason he fell to the 5th: he wasn't all that great in college. Expecting him to come in and take over the NT spot from day 1 is a bit suspect. However, that offense should be able to put up points against just about anyone. San Diego should run away with the division and challenge for the #1 seed in the AFC.
Second: If Oakland wants to take a leap forward this year, they need to pick a quarterback and stick with him.
And that quarterback needs to not be JaMarcus Russell. You know things have gotten bad when Raider fans start thinking Russell might have turned a leaf and all it took was him showing up to a mandatory team event and hitting a few a passes. Making impressive throws in practice has never been his problem and I for one refuse to be fooled by him again. The offensive line at Oakland actually doesn't look half bad if the starters can stay healthy and on paper Michael Bush could be headed for his first 1,000 yard season. The entire receiving corps suffered from lack of experience last year, but DHB suffered far more from nerves than lack of talent and Chaz Schilens is a very underrated talent when he manages to stay on the field. The pieces for the offense to climb back to respectability are there, is my point. The main factor that could keep that from happening is inconsistency at quarterback. Anyone who watched the Raiders last year saw a completely different offense when Russell was under center and when Gradkowski was and it stemmed directly from their different personalities. Not a single person could argue that Gradkowski wasn't a massive improvement and he's probably well under average for a starter in this league. If the team gets Russell to take a paycut (it looks likely) and keeps him for 2010, they should still conduct a fair competition. If they do, I'd bet large sums of money that Jason Campbell wins it. If he does, he need to be the starter all year, even if he struggles. Period.
Third: Denver looks thoroughly mediocre.
I'm not sure what to think of Denver's offseason. The defense should still show up and play despite Nolan being sacked, but and old secondary is returning a year older and while I like Perrish Cox quite a bit, he's not a difference maker as a rookie. The team will generate pressure on the quarterback, but will that run defense hold up and can the offense possibly force teams to throw the ball late in games? I lean towards no on all these questions. I know a lot of Broncos fans are angry at the Tebow pick, but I think he could eventually turn into a pretty solid game manager for them. He's not ever going to be a greatly accurate passer, but maybe he could become a lesser Donovan McNabb for you guys down the road. That said, that won't happen in 2010 or even 2011. Same deal with Thomas. He's a top notch talent, probably on par with Dez Bryant, but he's no more developed than a guy like Devin Thomas was coming out of college, and we all know how long that pick took to start paying off for Washington. Josh McDaniels has said he drafts for potential, which is fine, but it raises a few questions when the team seems to have mortgaged their 2010 season for their 2013 season. Things could fall a lot of ways for Denver, so I don't want to write them off completely, but I have serious doubts that they'll do better than tie for 2nd in the division.
Fourth: Soctt Pioli is taking a risky gamble that his offensive and defensive lines will take large steps forward.
I didn't mind KC not taking an OL in the first round, but I'm not sure I understand them waiting until the 4th to take one. Similarly on defense, I saw no linebacker get drafted nor did I see some insurance should Glenn Dorsey not take to NT this year like they're assuming. Maybe the Chiefs are just wildly confident that they didn't need contingency plans, but that strikes me as potentially disasterous. They have skill players, to be sure. Flowers and Berry are great building blocks in the secondary and Charles and McCluster are versatile offensive threats, but I don't really see the base being strong enough to support these players this year. I could be wrong, but I think the Chiefs are going to be desperately looking to add to the trenches after this season.
My prediction for final standings are as follows...
1st: San Diego (12-4)
2nd: Oakland (8-8)
3rd: Denver (7-9)
4th: Kansas City (5-11)
I do think, however, that this is going to be one of the more competitive years in recent memory. The interdivision games are going to be a blast to watch.
Good write up. I'll touch on a few points about Kansas City.
We addressed offensive line in the third round (68th overall) when we selected Jon Asamoah, who is a perfect fit in the ZBS we're running. Many of us Chiefs fans here have been saying for months that offensive tackle was not a need, and we're feeling a little vindicated now that Pioli didn't take one. Albert was great switching to the ZBS and Ryan O'Callaghan is good enough. RT could be upgraded, sure, but he played well enough to earn a full year on that line before a decision was made.
As for Dorsey at NT, that was a rumor and nothing concrete has come out of Arrowhead to that effect. The team thinks he COULD do it, but they haven't said one way or the other if he WILL do it. We signed Shaun Smith (Cle) in the offseason and picked up Garrett Brown (NT) as an UDFA, so I think Dorsey will stay there at 3-4 DE, a position he played well last year.
As far as ILB is concerned. you're not the only one who is worried about it not being addressed. ILB is by far our biggest weakness and if we have any hopes of being a solid overall team (or hell, even a top 20 defense) we need to be able to stop the run. It's something that has plagued us for years. I'm not sure what they're planning to do at those positions this year, but I think Derrick Johnson will be back in the starting line up, so hopefully he can do some good things. I still look at stopping the run to be our downfall this year. We need some elite talent inside to make it work.
As far as our offensive line goes, if Asamoah doesn't start this year (which I think he could from day 1) he'll be starting at one of the guard spots next year. Our tackle situation seems solid, but we'll know at the end of the year how they (Albert/O'Callaghan) held up in the ZBS after a full year. Our biggest problem right now is C. We didn't really address that in this draft. Wiegmann is old and Niswanger is not starter material. I fully expect C to be high on our draft board for next year.
With our schedule, I think we're a 6-8 win team if our defense finds a pulse. Hopefully Eric Berry can give that to us.
Enough 2:30am rambling from me!
There are a lot of questions for Denver, as there really are for the Chiefs and Raiders too I suppose. For Denver the things to watch for are:
- How much does the imported d-line improve the def? If Bannan, Williams and Green can win the line of scrimmage (or at least not lose it), then Denver's def will not get as exposed as it did at times last season. Can Robert Ayers play like a first round pick and hold down the lolb spot full-time (and can Mario Haggan move inside)? The secondary is older, but can still be very effective if they dont get over worked. It all comes down to the front 7 doing their job.
- Can Orton improve from last year with more experience in the system, or is he at his ceiling already? Is Moreno just an average NFL back, or can he work out how to be a more effective weapon in this offense? Will the short-yardage power offense be able to convert any third or fourth and shorts this season? Can any of the WRs step up?
If Orton and the run game can become more effective, then the old defense is less likely to wear down and Denver could quite easily win 10 or 11 games. If they struggle like last year, then it might be 6 wins.
Oakland's biggest hurdle to reaching .500 is leadership
Seriously, Al Davis and the recent organizational culture have been a major problem. A dysfunctional organization making poor decisions will trump talent every time. The comments PMD made about the QB situation are just an example of this.
Leadership has to be delegated effectively. The front office and coach staff have to be empowered to act in the best interest of the team, even if it means second guessing the Old Man. The 2010 draft must've been encouraging for Raiders fans in this respect. We'll see what the season brings.
I think Asamoah will be one of the Top 5 best OL of this draft. Loved the pick for KC.
Raiders... I dunno what they are doing overall. They need a real GM, but everyone knows that.
The Chiefs also picked up a starting OL from a Super Bowl team, Indianapolis in this case. Ryan Lilja has started at RG for the Colts for 6 years. Physically, he is more of a C type, but the Colts had Saturday. NFL.com has him list as C, but the mother ship has him at OG.
I would not be at all surprised for Niswanger to move to OG, and Lilja to C. Niswanger's height has created problems in the middle, but they had no other options. Asamoah is the future RG IMO, rather than LG (Waters will retire soon). That is where I see Niswanger moving. So the line would look Albert-Niswanger-Lilja-Asamoah-O'Callaghan. Also in the mix are Colin Brown and Baarry Richardson. Brown in particular has had a lot to relearn, since he played spread offense OT in college.
About the DL, Jackson can expect significant improvement over his rookie year. Dorsey has been an unsung beast at DE (see Cleveland game, when he was out). What has been added is depth. Smith was signed to play NT. The DL leader in sacks, Wallace Gilberry, will be in the rotation. 2009 3rd round pick Alex Magee is looking good at OTA. Like Jackson, he should be significantly better.
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