1. Welcome to San Diego Chargers NFL Football Podcast and Forum!
    Bolt Talk is one of the largest online communities for the San Diego Chargers.
    We host a regular Chargers podcast during the season.

    You are currently viewing our community forums as a guest user.

    Create an Account or

    Having an account grants you additional privileges, such as creating and participating in discussions. Furthermore, we hide most of the ads once you register as a member!

2007 AFC West Previews

Discussion in 'Chargers Fan Forum' started by Concudan, Jul 25, 2007.

  1. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2006
    Messages:
    47,373
    Location:
    North side of So Cal
    Ratings:
    +3,754 / 39 / -8
    Chargers focused on Super Bowl, nothing less
    Turner just needs to ensure high-powered offense, scary defense thrive

    Norv Turner takes over the Chargers with nowhere to go but the Super Bowl. Anything less will be a disappointment. Although winning one playoff game would be an improvement over last year's 14-2 team under Marty Schottenheimer, playoff improvement wouldn't be enough for Charger fans.

    This is a team with few weaknesses. But after losing both coordinators Cam Cameron on offense and Wade Phillips on defense, Turner must convince his players there will be no setbacks, no learning curves, no overhaul of systems. His task should be simple, because Turner helped install the present offense when he served as Chargers' offensive coordinator in 2001.

    Turner, a specialist with young quarterbacks, should be able to help Philip Rivers improve. It's not a big leap because Rivers was outstanding in his first season as a starter. Already, Rivers has expressed a comfort level with Turner. Other players have praised Turner for adding new twists and different pass routes to an offense already at peak efficiency.

    Turner loves to run and he's in the right place with LaDainian Tomlinson, entering year seven of a spectacular career. The Chargers retained Michael Turner as a backup and Lorenzo Neal remains one of the league's great blocking backs, so Turner could line up and pound the ball if he so desires. More likely, he will allow Rivers more leeway, although it will be difficult to improve on the league's top-scoring team.

    In tight end Antonio Gates, Turner has a weapon he's never had before. Paired with 6-5, 240-pound wide receiver Vincent Jackson, Turner can create mismatches that should haunt defensive coordinators. The Chargers expect Jackson to develop into a No. 1 receiver, with Eric Parker and rookie Craig Davis as secondary targets now that Keenan McCardell is gone.

    Re-signing guard Kris Dielman was a coup for the Chargers, who keep a good offensive line intact and expect an even better year from last year's rookie phenom at left tackle, Marcus McNeill.

    Two changes on defense are expected for new coordinator Ted Cottrell, who takes over the league's 10th-ranked unit that includes a potential defensive player of the year in pass-rush terror Shawne Merriman.

    The Chargers were able to retain bookend outside linebacker Shaun Phillips but lost versatile inside backer Donnie Edwards and will replace him with either Matt Wilhelm or third-round draft pick Anthony Waters, if the rookie is recovered from knee surgery. They also have hopes for seventh-round linebacker Brandon Siler.

    At strong safety, the Chargers cut ties with Terrence Kiel and hope their big draft investment for second-rounder Eric Weddle pays off quickly. They gave up a second-rounder, third-rounder, fifth-rounder and a third-rounder in 2008 to move up for Weddle, so they need him to produce next to holdover Marlon McCree. Already, Weddle has impressed coaches with his intelligence, but veteran backup Clinton Hart made his presence felt in mini-camps and will not concede the job to Weddle.

    Hotseat
    Coach Turner is the man on the spot. His record as a head coach at Washington and Oakland is an unimpressive 58-82-1, so it's surprising he has been able to keep his reputation intact as an effective teacher, especially when it comes to quarterbacks. In San Diego, he takes over by far the best team he's ever had. The Chargers ranked in the top 10 in offense, defense and special teams last year, the only team with that distinction. Schottenheimer's 5-13 playoff record doomed him, so Turner's only chance is to not only win playoff games, but also win a Super Bowl. Quickly.

    Overheard
    Last year's No. 1 draft choice, cornerback Anthony Cromartie, played in 16 games but did not start. Drayton Florence started all season opposite another first-rounder Quentin Jammer. Cromartie was coming off a knee injury that cost him the entire 2005 college season. If he can win a starting spot this season, the Chargers' defense will get a bonus. Florence, one of the fastest players on the team, will not go quietly but he didn't show up in the offseason, which gives Cromartie an edge. Special teams, which already have benefited from Cromartie on kickoff returns, will get an additional boost assuming Darren Sproles can return from a broken leg.

    Outlook
    Nothing but good. Everybody's relatively healthy. Everybody's relatively happy about their contracts. The schedule is favorable because they play the relatively weak NFC North. They get Indianapolis at home week 10 in a game that could decide home field. Their biggest challenge is a week two playoff rematch against the Patriots in New England.

    Prediction
    First.
     
  2. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2006
    Messages:
    47,373
    Location:
    North side of So Cal
    Ratings:
    +3,754 / 39 / -8
    Broncos’ bolstered defense should aid Cutler
    Second-year QB under pressure to succeed as Elway’s latest replacement

    Rebuilding a defense that faltered down the stretch is the Broncos' priority. In losing four of their last six games and toppling out of the playoff picture, the Broncos gave up 35 and 48 points to archrival San Diego.

    Coach Mike Shanahan has spent the offseason collecting more defensive players than any other team. He started with new coordinator Jim Bates and hasn't stopped, adding defensive tackles Sam Adams and Jimmy Kennedy as mini-camps wound down.

    The sense of urgency on defense was tragically underscored by the shooting death of cornerback Darrent Williams shortly after the season ended. Later, running back Damien Nash died suddenly of a heart ailment, leaving the Broncos stunned and refocused for an all-out effort to win in 2007.

    They traded for Detroit cornerback Dre' Bly to start opposite the team's star, Champ Bailey. After parting ways with long-time middle linebacker Al Wilson, they are experimenting with moving outside linebacker D.J. Williams inside and hoping that holdover Nate Webster or newcomers Warrick Holdman or D.D. Lewis can take up the slack outside.

    Adams and Kennedy join Gerard Warren inside as the Broncos try to improve a pass rush that ranked in the league's bottom third. They also signed another former Cleveland lineman, Alvin McKinley, and drafted three defensive lineman, hoping Jarvis Moss, Tim Crowder and Marcus Thomas can provide the kind of rookie impact Elvis Dumervil did last season with 8.5 sacks. They all will challenge incumbent ends Kenard Lang and Ebenezer Ekuban in what promises to be lively camp competition including holdover John Engelberger.

    Safety Nick Ferguson, who went on injured reserve in November with a knee injury, looked good in mini-camps and should be ready to rejoin John Lynch in the backfield.

    Defense wasn't the entire offseason focus. The Broncos officially made it Jay Cutler's team by trading veteran quarterback Jake Plummer. They also signed Tennessee's 1,200-yard running back Travis Henry to replace leading rusher Tatum Bell, traded to Detroit.

    The Broncos relish their ability to plug in just about any back in their system and be successful and are excited about Henry, who could be their most effective rusher since Terrell Davis. The offensive line gets Matt Lepsis back from injured reserve. Newcomer Montrae Holland from New Orleans will compete with second-year prospect Chris Kuper to replace departed right guard Cooper Carlisle.

    Tight end Daniel Graham was a bigger free agent catch than Henry, as the Broncos snagged the former Patriot to improve on Tony Scheffler and Stephen Alexander combined 36 receptions. Graham will get more action than he did in New England, especially after a foot injury suffered by Scheffler.

    Shanahan expects second-year receiver Brandon Marshall, who caught 20 passes as a rookie, to challenge Rod Smith for the starting job opposite new go-to guy Javon Walker. Smith could finally be on his way out. At 6-4, 230, Marshall has the size and hands to become a major factor. David Kircus and Quincy Morgan are holdovers and it would be a bonus if slot receiver Brandon Stokley can recover from Achilles surgery that knocked him out of Indianapolis plans.

    Hotseat
    Any quarterback who ever plays for Denver will be on a hotseat until he wins a Super Bowl or two, or at least goes to four or five of them. Cutler appears better suited to the task than other John Elway successors, simply because he was a first-round draft choice who understands expectations. As a rookie, he threw multiple touchdown passes in the first four games of his career, a record not even Elway can boast. The key, of course, is continued improvement and there's certainly room for it. Cutler didn't throw enough passes to qualify for official statistics, but if he had he would have finished ninth in the league. As impressive as that it, his efficiency rating wasn't as high as new Dallas starter Tony Romo or new San Diego starter Philip Rivers. Shanahan will stress higher percentage passes and getting rid of the ball quicker.

    Overheard
    Kircus backed up the late Darrent Williams on punt returns, an area of need entering camp. Domenik Hixon is coming off the non-football injury list and could help. The Broncos were in the bottom third in special teams, so the return of punter Todd Sauerbrun to replace Paul Ernster is a plus if Sauerbrun is up to it.

    Outlook
    They would be the favorite to win any NFC division and should push the Chargers if their new defense holds up. Back-to-back games at Indianapolis and at home against the Chargers in weeks four and five will set the tone. Since the AFC West plays against the relatively weak NFC North, more than one AFC West team should advance to the playoffs.

    Prediction
    Second.
     
  3. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2006
    Messages:
    47,373
    Location:
    North side of So Cal
    Ratings:
    +3,754 / 39 / -8
    Chiefs plan? Ride L.J. until Croyle develops
    Second-year QB could vie for starting job, while defense should be steady

    After getting to the playoffs in his first year as coach, Herm Edwards must convince Chiefs' fans they aren't rooting for a team on the wane. They are the only playoff team that got rid of its starting quarterback and is starting over with an unproven youngster.

    Dumping 37-year-old Trent Green and hoping for the rapid development of second-year prospect Brodie Croyle is a logical progression, and the Chiefs have the advantage of pointing to last year's Chargers and Broncos in their own division as examples of winning teams who made similar switches.

    If Croyle can give the Chiefs what Philip Rivers gave the Chargers and Jay Cutler gave the Broncos, the move will be quickly justified. More likely, Croyle will be giving the ball mainly to running back Larry Johnson, who became the league's all-time one-season workhorse last year with 416 carries. Assuming Johnson's bruises have healed, and assuming he is happy with his contract, the Chiefs expect to ride him again as long as he holds up, unless Edwards can concoct a way to get Michael Bennett more than 36 carries. If healthy, Bennett is a speedy veteran and former 1,200-yard back himself who could provide a nice change of pace if Johnson can be convinced to rest once in a while.

    The other option on this team remains tight end Tony Gonzalez unless No. 1 rookie Dwayne Bowe or second-year free agent Chris Hannon prove ready to challenge ordinary receivers Samie Parker and Eddie Kennison. Gonzalez probably will remain the team's top target and best friend to Croyle if the young quarterback indeed stays ahead of last year's surprise performer Damon Huard. As soon as Croyle falters, fans will be calling for Huard, who kept the Chiefs in the playoff chase but hasn't been able to shed his career backup label.

    The offensive line, once the picture of stability in Kansas City, is a work in progress as the Chiefs try to adapt to the retirement of guard Will Shields one year after the exit of tackle Willie Roaf. It's not easy replacing All-Pros. The Chiefs also lost Roaf's replacement, free agent Jordan Black, so they signed Miami's Damion McIntosh to protect the quarterback's backside. They hope Chris Terry can take over at right tackle and enable John Welbourn to slide to Shields' spot at right guard.

    Although Edwards and defensive coordinator Gunther Cunningham improved the defense to a respectable 16th, matching the offensive production, more overhauling is in order. The Chiefs hope second and third-round draft picks Turk McBride and Tank Tyler can develop as quickly as last year's No. 1 pick, Tamba Hali, who led the team with eight sacks. The Chiefs also signed Chicago veteran Alfonso Boone to join a rotation that includes Ron Edwards and James Reed inside. The Chiefs will have to make due for two games without suspended pass rusher Jared Allen.

    Minnesota's Napoleon Harris and San Diego's Donnie Edwards joined the linebacking crew that lost inside starter Kawika Mitchell. Edwards is in his second stint in Kansas City. Second-year safeties Bernard Pollard and Jarrad Page are going to get plenty of opportunity in camp to win starting jobs for Sammy Knight, now gone, and Greg Wesley.

    Hotseat
    Cornerbacks Ty Law and Patrick Surtain benefit from Edwards' cover-2 defense, which doesn't force its corners into a lot of man coverage. But Law is 34 and Surtain 31, and the pickings behind them are slim. The defense relies on penetration and quick pressure up front, which is why Edwards keeps drafting defensive linemen. But until they develop, it puts added pressure on the cornerbacks to cover for longer times than they may be capable of doing. That, in turn, puts pressure on the safeties in coverage and the Chiefs want two inexperienced safeties to start.

    Overheard
    The Chiefs ranked in the middle of the pack on special teams and traded fading return specialist Dante Hall to St. Louis, leaving two jobs open. The hope is for second-year receiver Jeff Webb to return kicks and if nobody else steps forward to return punts, the job may fall to 34-year-old Eddie Kennison. The Chiefs also traded place-kicker Lawrence Tynes to the Giants, leaving the job to fifth-round rookie Justin Medlock.

    Outlook
    Very shaky. Just when Edwards arrives to help stabilize the perennially challenged defense, the offense begins to crumble before his eyes. The line, the quarterback, and the leading wide receiver all got old at once and the team's best receiver, tight end Gonzalez, is 31. The Chiefs missed their window of opportunity with Trent Green, never recovering from the disappointment of a first-round playoff loss in 2003 following a 13-3 season.

    Prediction
    Third.
     
  4. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2006
    Messages:
    47,373
    Location:
    North side of So Cal
    Ratings:
    +3,754 / 39 / -8
    Raider respectability still long way off
    Oakland’s defense will be solid again, but offense faces too many unknowns

    What's forgotten or ignored about the dismal Raiders and their 2-14 record is they had the league's third-ranked defense, behind only Baltimore and Jacksonville in yards allowed. They gave up more points than they would like, 21 a game, but they had virtually no help from the league's worst offense.

    The Raiders scored only 12 touchdowns on offense all season, a virtual impossibility in these days of high-powered passing attacks. It was no wonder that 32-year-old coach Lane Kiffin, former offensive coordinator at USC, started his regime by getting rid of quarterback Aaron Brooks and receiver Randy Moss.

    Now for the rebuilding. Training camp will help Kiffin decide whether to let Andrew Walter or newcomer Josh McCown keep the quarterback seat warm for No. 1 draft pick JaMarcus Russell or whether to throw Russell into the fray week one vs. Detroit.

    Walter suffered a setback when he had to undergo arthroscopic surgery on a recurring knee problem in June, leaving his readiness in question for camp. It might be enough to convince Kiffin there is no reason to delay the Russell era. Russell has the advantage of learning Kiffin's offense at the same time as all of his teammates, no matter how long they've been pros.

    Kiffin is also trying to rehabilitate the receiving corps by reinstating Jerry Porter, who was in Art Shell's doghouse all last season, and finding out whether former No. 1 draft choices Travis Taylor and Mike Williams have the ability to challenge Ronald Curry, Doug Gabriel or Alvis Whitted for playing time. Curry emerged as the go-to receiver last year with 62 catches, but scored only one touchdown in the anemic offense. Drafting tight end Zach Miller in the second round is an effort to improve a needy position.

    The offensive line is under reconstruction after two Hall of Fame offensive linemen, Shell and former co-offensive line coach Jackie Slater, failed to mold a cohesive unit. Kiffin must first find a place for former No. 1 draft pick Robert Gallery, who plays more like a right tackle or left guard than a left tackle, his position last season.

    Barry Sims will move to left tackle, where the Raiders also drafted Mario Henderson in the third round. They added two free agents in San Francisco's Jeremy Newberry and Denver's Cooper Carlisle. If Newberry is healthy enough to play center, Jake Grove might move to guard, where Kevin Boothe started 14 games as a rookie. Obviously, the Raiders would like to see some progress on the line before putting franchise quarterback Russell behind it.

    The Raiders got a blow they didn't need when running back Dominic Rhodes, signed from the Colts after an outstanding Super Bowl effort, was suspended four games for substance abuse. Incumbent LaMont Jordan finished on injured reserve and needs help. He may get it from an unlikely source, as fourth-round draft choice Michael Bush looks like the broken leg that knocked him out of the first round is on the mend.

    Last year's draft yielded two outstanding starters in safety Michael Huff and linebacker Thomas Howard. If this year's third-rounder Quentin Moses comes through, he could provide a pass rush opposite Derrick Burgess on a line that includes an effective tackle rotation of Warren Sapp, Tommy Kelly, Terdell Sands and Anttaj Hawthorne in defensive coordinator Rob Ryan's scheme. Linebacker Kirk Morrison has led the team in tackles for two years and is one of the league's up-and-coming stars.

    Hotseat
    Kiffin's offseason program was halted by NFL Players Association complaints that it was more intense than the collective bargaining agreement allows. But Kiffin understands that hard work is the only way out of the current Raider mess. He takes over a team that is 15-49 since its Super Bowl loss following the 2002 season. If he seems young now, it's conceivable that he could look about 50 by midseason. He has to build an offense virtually from scratch, using parts that may or may not fit.

    Overheard
    Warren Sapp showed up at offseason training a whopping 49 pounds lighter than his playing weight of 334. The Raiders strengthen a strong secondary by signing ex-Jaguar safety Donovin Darius, expected to push Stuart Schweigert for playing time opposite Huff. Cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha is coming off an outstanding season and Fabian Washington isn't far behind in a strong secondary. To improve below average special teams, the Raiders hope third-round receiver Johnnie Lee Higgins can help Chris Carr in the return game.

    Outlook
    Not good. Too many moving parts have to fit together for any rational observer to expect Lane Kiffin to win more than five games. Improvement is the key because the Raiders need to rehabilitate their attitude as much as anything and if the players don't detect progress, they could go south.

    Prediction
    Fourth.
     
  5. Concudan

    Concudan Caffeinated Commando

    Joined:
    Mar 5, 2006
    Messages:
    47,373
    Location:
    North side of So Cal
    Ratings:
    +3,754 / 39 / -8
    All other teams available at the site linked in the posts above.
     
  6. PowderLove

    PowderLove Former Mod, Current Slacker

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2007
    Messages:
    3,910
    Location:
    San Diego
    Ratings:
    +494 / 0 / -0
    It's interesting how every sports writer seems to know what Turner HAS to do.
     

Share This Page