Found July 22, 2013 on Taking Bad Schotz:
PLAYERS: Peyton ManningNorv TurnerCharles WoodsonNick RoachWillis McGaheeKnowshon MorenoRonnie HillmanMontee BallEdgerrin JamesJoseph AddaiWes WelkerJohn ElwayAustin CollieEric DeckerTavarres KingRobert AyersShaun PhillipsDerek WolfeDominique Rodgers-CromartieChamp BaileyChris HarrisTony CarterOmar BoldenKayvon WebsterDonnie AveryDwayne BoweBrandon FlowersSean SmithEric BerryKendrick LewisDunta RobinsonSanders CommingsBranden AlbertEric FisherDonald StephensonKurt WarnerMatt FlynnRussell WilsonTyler WilsonTerrelle PryorHue JacksonJared VeldheerStefen WisniewskiMike BrisielLucas NixMenelik WatsonKhalif BarnesAlex BarronDenarius MooreRod StreaterJacoby FordDarren McFaddenJuron CrinerDerek HaganBrice ButlerSam McGuffieStacy McGeeChristo BilukidiPat SimsVance WalkerAndre CarterLaMarr HoustonKevin BurnettSio MooreMiles BurrisKaluka MaiavaTyvon BranchUsama YoungD.J. HaydenPhillip AdamsTracy PorterMike JenkinsChimdi ChekwaD.J. FlukerKing DunlapMax StarksMalcolm FloydVincent BrownDanario AlexanderRobert MeachemKeenan AllenMelvin IngramDwight FreeneyLarry EnglishJarret Johnson
TEAMS: Denver BroncosSan Diego ChargersOakland RaidersChicago BearsIndianapolis ColtsKansas City ChiefsSeattle Seahawks
The AFC West was handed to the Denver Broncos in the media as soon as Peyton Manning signed with them. To no surprise, Peyton almost took the Broncos to the Super Bowl in 2012, proving that he still has it after almost half a dozen neck surgeries. However, the Kansas City Chiefs had an impressive offseason that, on paper, which will allow them to be far more of a threat than they were last year. The Chargers, once again are even more unpredictable, as they have finally parted ways with HC Norv Turner. And the team that the media loves picking on, the Oakland Raiders, had an offseason full of mixed emotions depending on who you ask. Some say they had the best draft, some say it was horrible. Some people love the signings of Charles Woodson, Nick Roach and others, while others believe that Oakland has the worst roster in the NFL and are in the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes. Only time will tell which teams are for real and which are not, as the AFC West is once again, a volatile division that one has to watch over the course of the season to see who separates from the rest of the bunch, and who remains stagnant. Training camp will be the beginning of who is the real deal, and a harsh reality for many others. 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Who will be the Denver Broncos’ starting RB after the release of Willis McGahee? It appeared that Denver had written off Knowshon Moreno a while ago, but he still has a chance at starting, as does second-year guy Ronnie Hillman. However, the guy who’s running game is reminiscent to McGahee, rookie Montee Ball, is more than likely to be the starter heading into week one. To put this in Manning terms, Ball has the running style that reminds me of Edgerrin James. However, Hillman’s elusiveness is redolent of Joseph Addai at the time the Colts beat the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI. A three-headed monster-type RB system is more reasonable in Denver, as they have three unselfish guys who I assume wouldn’t mind sharing the load. The signing of Wes Welker was a genius move by John Elway and co. Arguably the best QB in the league gets arguably the best slot WR in the league, and we have seen Peyton work miracles with slot guys like Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzales. However, the outside guys don’t have much to worry about in training camp, at this immediate moment at least. Eric Decker was a steal for Denver in the 3rd round, as he proved he could be a day one draft guy. However, Decker is in the last year of his contract, and bloggers have already started trying to sort out suitable teams for Decker in 2014, as well as what a reasonable contract will be if Denver retains him. A WR to watch in Broncos camp is rookie 5th rounder Tavarres King, who also graded higher than most WRs drafted ahead of him like Decker. King will see significant time in the preseason and probably steal snaps from Decker and Thomas. If Decker isn’t retained after this season, King could be a potential replacement of Decker. Watch that kid in camp. Robert Ayers is penciled in as the starting Right Defensive End. However, Denver runs a lot of 4-3 packages, and veteran Shaun Phillips is a questionable player to compete for a starting job. He played 3-4 OLB in San Diego, so the verdict as to if he can play with his hand in the dirt is still out there. If he can, he’ll go after Ayers’ job. The Broncos also got a steal in 2nd year DE Derek Wolfe, and he is probably safer than Ayers for a starting job. Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie is propelled to being the starting corner on the opposite side of Champ Bailey, with Chris Harris as the starting nickel corner. However, DRC’s inability to tackle and hang with physical WRs will make it hard for him to keep his starting job with young, hungry guys chasing his spot in Tony Carter, Omar Bolden and Kayvon Webster. You also can’t rule out the possibility of Chris Harris, one of the most underrated corners in the league, starting on the outside to bring more dynamics to his game. Bailey’s job on the outside and Harris’ job on the inside at nickel are the only spots safe at corner in Denver. That job opposite of Bailey is in the air. DRC will have to work extra hard this TC to keep that job. Kansas City Chiefs via chiefconcerns.com Of all the free agent signings the Chiefs made, the most underrated one was that of WR Donnie Avery. Not sure how many people had Jon Baldwin as a 1st round WR coming out of college, but he has been nothing short of a disappointment for a 26th overall draft pick. He has shown minimal flashes, but lacks consistency. The signing of Donnie Avery will make or break Baldwin. Avery was an unheralded WR in St. Louis who couldn’t stay healthy, so on a one-year deal with the Colts, he showed how good he can be when healthy, which allowed him to cash in with the Chiefs for more than $8M over the next three seasons. Avery can play in the slot and on the outside, so his ability to play wherever should motivate Baldwin to prove he is the guy in the starting rotation with Dwayne Bowe. And the fact that the Chiefs are under new management, Baldwin has to work that much harder to prove that they should move forward with him. Starting cornerback Brandon Flowers recently went on record saying the Chiefs could have the best secondary in the NFL this season. That is a bold statement from him, being that they lost Brandon Carr last offseason and he is a better corner than new Chiefs CB Sean Smith. But then again, certain schemes bring out the best in a player if you use them right. The Chiefs have one of the best safeties in the NFL in Eric Berry. Kendrick Lewis is an inconsistent guy at SS, so there is no telling how he will perform this year. Also, KC has two quality backup CBs in Dunta Robinson and rookie Sanders Commings. Robinson will see some time at nickel, but it will be interesting to watch Commings in training camp to prove he deserves playing time, despite being the 4th corner on the depth chart. Branden Albert has caused more attention than needed disputing that he wants a long-term contract with KC and that he is not moving to RT after the drafting of Eric Fisher. His deadline for a long-term contract is less than a week away, so if he does get one, it will be more of a shocker than if he did not. KC has a quality backup in Donald Stephenson who can plug in at RT, LT or Guard, so Albert should make sure he works harder than everyone in camp, because he will more than likely be auditioning for a new team throughout the 2013 season with KC. Once Albert is gone, which I assume will happen, KC can easily move Fisher to LT and Stephenson to RT, and depending on if Fisher is the real deal in the pros like he was in college, they won’t miss a beat without Albert. Can the Chiefs go from worst to first in the AFC West? We shall see fairly soon. Oakland Raiders Photo Credit: Marcio Jose Sanchez, Associated Press As Kurt Warner infamously said, “the most important position in the NFL is the QB. And the second-most important position is the backup QB.” That being said, who the hell will be Oakland’s starting QB week one? It is speculated and most obvious that Matt Flynn will be the starting QB; however, that was the same case last year in Seattle, where, despite being handed the starting job, the Seahawks still gave backup Russell Wilson a fair opportunity to compete for the starting job – which he did – and he won. If the same objective discretion occurs in Oakland, then will Tyler Wilson or Terrelle Pryor be the starter come week one? Hopefully we find out if they are all given a fair shot. Wilson is in the best situation in competing with Flynn because he is a rookie who has not been in a different pro system, where Pryor had Hue Jackson’s system one year and Greg Knapp’s the next; now it is Greg Olsen’s offense he has to adjust to. The dimension that Pryor brings to the table, which the others don’t is his ability to extend plays, something we saw in his first career start last year in week 17. All three QBs will have to put in extra work this upcoming TC, and hopefully the best QB is the starter week one, not the one handpicked because of their contract. Oakland’s Offensive Line was disastrous last year aside from the obvious two, Jared Veldheer and Stefen Wisniewski. RG Mike Brisiel was signed in 2012 for Oakland’s attempted adjustment to a Zone Blocking offense, which completely failed. Brisiel was in a ZBS system his entire career as a pro, so adjusting to a power scheme will be a test for him, as he has Lucas Nix pushing him for a starting job. To the right of those two, rookie RT Menelik Watson is penciled in to start heading into TC over veteran Khalif Barnes. Whether Watson can keep that starting job is up to him. He has another veteran in Alex Barron also on that side fighting for a roster spot, so it will be an interesting challenge for the rookie and how he fights to keep his job. Oakland has an intriguing, inexperience group of WRs. Denarius Moore is more than likely the #1 WR heading into camp, but undrafted second-year WR Rod Streater will push him for that job, as he came out of thin air and surprised a bunch of people. Jacoby Ford is in the last year of his contract and has missed about the last 24 regular season games. When healthy, Ford is dynamic and electrifying in the slot and on the outside at WR. He is also a phenomenal kick returner. He, along with RB Darren McFadden will be fighting for a new contract this season by staying healthy and continuing to be productive, as they have been in the past. 2012 5th rounder Juron Criner had a golden opportunity in front of him last year, but undrafted WR Rod Streater and veteran Derek Hagan both surpassed him. He has a golden opportunity once again to get more playing time and a better roster spot this season. He is competing with three rookies in Brice Butler, Sam McGuffie and Connor Vernon. All four will more than likely not miss the 53-man roster, so being that Criner has more experience, he is in a make-or-break situation this training camp and preseason. As far as defense goes in Oakland, their DT positions are wide open for either the youngsters Stacy McGee and Christo Bilukidi or the veterans Pat Sims and Vance Walker to steal the starting job. “Old man” Andre Carter is more than likely to be the starting DE opposite of Lamarr Houston, or at least in passing situations, as his game has been questioned against the run. The LBs will also duke it out, as Nick Roach is probably the only person with a starting job at MLB. Kevin Burnett, Sio Moore, Miles Burris and Kaluka Maiava will all be fighting for a starting job. Moore has been used as a DE in college, so don’t rule him out as a possible DE in nickel situations. The DBs will also be a bit complex, as Tyvon Branch is the starting SS and Charles Woodson the starting FS. Having Woodson in one position ruins having him on your depth chart, so it is believable that he will come down in nickel situations and Usama Young will plug in at FS. The starting CB jobs are up for grabs. First round miracle survivor DJ Hayden will be ready for camp, and being that he is a first rounder, he should be one starting corner. But the other starting CB job could go to either Phillip Adams, Tracy Porter, Mike Jenkins or even Chimdi Chekwa. Oakland took its weaknesses on defense (except pass rushers) and addressed it by stacking up, which will bring out the best in players to prove they deserve to start. The corners should be the most interesting to watch. San Diego Chargers Photo Credit: Kirby Lee, USA TODAY The immediate question when the Chargers come to mind is who’s going to protect Phillip Rivers’ blindside? The drafting of DJ Fluker still leaves the verdict out there because Fluker is a RT who doesn’t seem to be moving to LT anytime soon. Therefore, the signings of King Dunlap and Max Starks means that the two veterans will compete on earning a starting job in camp and preseason. Starks is listed as the immediate starter, but the competition has yet to begin. As of now, it is his job to lose. He was written off in Pittsburgh several times, but injuries kept him on the roster. He will have to prove he belongs in Southern California with the Chargers, as protecting Rivers’ blindside can be a very difficult task. The most interesting position to watch in San Diego’s camp is of course the WR position. Malcolm Floyd appears to be trade value for SD, if they were willing to send him off, despite re-signing him last offseason. San Diego surprisingly has WR depth. Vincent Brown showed flashes his rookie season, but missed all of his sophomore season in 2012. A starting job is his to lose. With Floyd, he and Danario Alexander share similarities at the position, so if they hang on to them both, it might be a bit surprising to say the least. If Floyd does retain his job and prove he is worth his salary, Robert Meachem could then rightfully be a guy getting cut during camp or the preseason. He struggled adjusting to SD’s system last season, and had a costly drop against Cleveland that might still be detrimental to his value on the team. SD also used a draft pick on Keenan Allen who surprisingly fell. So with all that being said, it appears Allen and Brown are the future for San Diego, while Alexander and Floyd’s future yet to be determined and Robert Meachem controls his own fate on the team. The unfortunate injury to Melvin Ingram forced the Chargers to sign veteran Dwight Freeney, a traditional 4-3 DE who played 3-4 OLB in 2012 for the first time, hoping he does a better job his second time around. Ingram will more than likely be placed on the PUP list, meaning he won’t be cleared until after week six. However, when he returns, someone will lose a significant amount of snaps in practice and in games, whether it be Freeney, Larry English or Jarret Johnson. SD could make things work with them sharing snaps like Baltimore did last year, but that remains a pipe dream because unfortunately, they won’t be able to compete in camp due to Ingram’s injury. Hopefully he makes a speedy recovery, because the Bolts have big plans for him this season. Freeney and English have a tough task to handle until his return. A division that people want to hand to one team appears to be getting more and more competitive. Not sure if more than one team from the AFC West will make the playoffs in 2013, but all four teams will have hard fought out victories and losses this season. There will be some interesting and intense games between these clubs. -Johnson
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