AFC West training-camp reports

Posted Aug. 15, 2011 @ 8:39 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

DENVER BRONCOS

Juiciest story line: All offseason, it was expected the major focus was going to be on Tim Tebow's progress as the team's starting quarterback. Instead, there are questions about whether Tebow can maintain his grip on the No. 2 job. With the organization opting not to deal Kyle Orton, the veteran QB remains the starter, and Brady Quinn is charging hard, thanks to a solid camp, to be the top backup.

Player to watch: Three 2011 draft picks are slated to start, two on the defensive side of the ball. No. 2 overall pick OLB Von Miller should ignite the pass rush, but SS Rahim Moore might wind up being more important. A better pass defender than run stopper, Moore will look to improve a secondary that nabbed just 10 interceptions last season.

Strongest position: The offensive line, anchored by OLT Ryan Clady, should be solid once again for the Broncos. Clady is close to returning to 100 percent after knee surgery last year, meaning he should return to his Pro Bowl form. The other four linemen, including rookie ORT Orlando Franklin, should be able to construct a solid wall up front, giving Orton plenty of time to throw.

Weakest position: Head coach John Fox would love to be a run-based team, as the Panthers were when he coached them, but it's unclear if the team's current stable of tailbacks will allow him to do so. Starter Knowshon Moreno has been a bust his first two years, and backup Willis McGahee has little left in the tank. If neither player can elevate his play, Fox will need to do a serious overhaul to his game plan.

 

KANSAS CITY CHIEFS

Juiciest story line: Fresh off their first division title since 2003, the Chiefs are looking to take the next step behind their corps of talented, young players. GM Scott Pioli added to the roster, signing talented vets such as WR Steve Breaston and NT Kelly Gregg to fill holes in the lineup. If the new players can fit in well with a solid returning group, K.C. could have all the makings of a return playoff trip.

Player to watch: A year after the Chiefs saw former first-round picks OLB Tamba Hali and WR Dwayne Bowe have breakout years, they wouldn't mind if two more did the same in 2011. DEs Glenn Dorsey and Tyson Jackson have yet to fully show the ability that made them top-five picks, though Dorsey has emerged as a very good run stopper. Greater contributions from both players should solidify the defensive line.

Strongest position: With Jamaal Charles and Thomas Jones on the roster, the Chiefs were already well-stocked at running back. They then added to that unit by signing former Ravens FB Le'Ron McClain. Don't expect the new arrival to get many carries, but his blocking and short-yardage running should make the backfield even better.

Weakest position: While major upgrades were made to several areas of the Kansas City offense through the draft and free agency, the right side of the offensive line was not addressed. Both ORG Ryan Lilja and ORT Barry Richardson are solid players who will neither dominate their opponent nor be embarrassed. However, for a team with championship aspirations, the weak link on the line could be an issue.

 

OAKLAND RAIDERS

Juiciest story line: Two of the biggest offseason losses any team suffered this summer were CB Nnamdi Asomugha and TE Zach Miller, both by the Raiders. Asomugha was a rare shutdown corner whom opponents didn't even challenge because he was so good. Meanwhile, Miller was the team's go-to receiver the past few seasons. How will the Raiders replace them?

Player to watch: All camp long, new head coach Hue Jackson has been hyping up MLB Rolando McClain, saying the second-year pro is going to not only be a better player this season, but a better leader. The 2010 first-rounder had a good rookie campaign, but Jackson is looking for even bigger things from the player in the center of the team's 4-3 defense.

Strongest position: Boasting both power and speed, the Raiders' defensive line is one of the best in the NFL. Anchored by DT Richard Seymour, the line once again will be asked to collapse the pocket on quarterbacks and take on blockers in the running game, allowing the team's playmaking linebackers and defensive backs to roam free.

Weakest position: Outside of RB Darren McFadden, the Raiders have no established offensive playmakers. The team is very thin at wide receiver, especially now that Jacoby Ford and Darrius Heyward-Bey have missed camp time with injuries. Both are expected back, but the offense could find it very difficult to score points.

 

SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

Juiciest story line: It's make-or-break time for head coach Norv Turner. After another season in which the team didn't meet expectations, Turner is firmly on the hot seat — and he knows it. With one of the league's more talented rosters, the Chargers at the very least need to win the division and might have to do more to allow the coach to keep his job.

Player to watch: All eyes are on the man who wasn't in camp a year ago  WR Vincent Jackson. A holdout and suspension limited him to five games in 2010, and though the team was fine offensively in his absence, there is no doubt they are better with him on the field. Jackson has made his demand for a big contract well-known, and he could be motivated to have a monster season.

Strongest position: It's unclear what Bob Sanders has left in the tank or how long he'll be able to remain healthy, but as long as he remains off the injured list, the Chargers' safeties are going to be among the league's best. With Sanders joining the re-signed Eric Weddle and nickel safety Steve Gregory, San Diego has the versatility and depth in the secondary to match offenses on any down and distance.

Weakest position: Question marks hang over the entire special-teams unit after one of the worse seasons a team has ever had in that department. Several rookies are expected to be major contributors on both the kickoff- and punt-coverage units, and they must find a replacement for Darren Sproles, who was the kickoff and punt returner in recent seasons.