Strengths – The Broncos once again have an athletic offensive line lacking big names. However, this is an ideal fit for Josh McDaniels’s offense. As a rookie, LT Ryan Clady proved to be one of the best pass blockers in the game. Center Casey Weigman was a pro bowler. At TE, the team has Daniel Graham who was successful in his days in New England in the same offense. Tony Scheffler may not be as athletic as Ben Watson, but isn’t far, and boasts better hands. Look to them to be a strength in the offensive attack. On Defense, if either Robert Ayers or Jarvis Moss step up, the LB crew could bring this defense to the level that can help the team survive in the playoffs.
Weaknesses – Many will disagree, but I think settling on Kyle Orton was a mistake. Sure, he won some games in Chicago, but this is an offense that’s built on padding a QB’s stats. If Orton’s numbers don’t shine, he’s gotta go. Could people be laughing at the Broncos for passing on Jason Campbell in a very easy trade? The defensive line is made up from a bunch of junk from other teams. Ronald Fields may be the best of the bunch, and that’s not saying much. All three starters look like stop-gaps that will be replaced at some point.
Opportunities – Correll Buckhalter, if healthy, can show why Andy Reid kept giving him so many chances after so many season ending injuries. Eddie Royal steps into the WR1 role with Brandon Marshall’s situation in flux. Brandon Stokely must return to form from when he was a 1000 yard receiver. If not, Orton doesn’t have many long options. Alphonso Smith is a mature rookie who will be needed at CB. The starters are either past their prime or getting there quickly.
Threats – The Brandon Marshall situation could have an effect in the locker room and on the field. Players could be torn on whether he should stay or go. One thing remains clear: If he leaves, there will be some huge shoes to fill on offense, as he is an elite receiver on the field. One of the things the team has lacked (and still does) is an offensive leader. The team could use someone like that to keep teammates like Marshall in line.
Passing/Receiving the Torch – Dawkins (the older player in this case) taking the Defensive Captain/Leadership role from Champ Bailey. Honestly, while Bailey has heart, he’s never been a defensive captain type. Dawkins brings a lot to the table for this team.
Position Battle – OLB opposite Elvis Dumervil: Five candidates. Mario Haggan is penciled in as the starter for now. However Darrell Reid, Robert Ayers, Jarvis Moss and Tim Crowder will all vie for the spot.
Rookie Contributor – CB Alphonso Smith could wind up starting over Andre Goodman, depending on what happens in the preseason. OLB Robert Ayers is in the mix for the starting OLB spot. Both Darcel McBath and David Bruton could see time at SS.
Kansas City Chiefs
Strengths – This is a young team. Give them a season to pull it all together, and they can surprise. The DBs are a very young crew. They did an admirable job last year with their top 3 CBs being rookies (Brandon Flowers, Brandon Carr, Maurice Leggett), and both Ss in their second year (Jarrad Page and Bernard Pollard). This group could end up leading this defense for the next half-decade. The O-Line is a tough group. Larry Johnson has every opportunity to return to All-Pro form. Adding Mike Goff at RG solidified the weakest link on the line and forms a great run-blocking tandem on the right side with Damion McIntosh.
Weaknesses – At this point, the backup D-Line looks better than the starters. Tank Tyler and Tyson Jackson need to step up and claim their starting spots. Glenn Dorsey just needs to show up in some way…any way…to give the team some hope that he might one day pan out. Beyond Dwayne Bowe, the WRs on this team are weak. When the team is counting on Ashley Lelie, Bobby Engram, Amani Toomer and Devard Darling to step up, there is trouble.
Opportunities – The quartet of LBs have two leaders that the team can learn a lot from. Mike Vrabel has lived in the 3-4 defense, and Zach Thomas (whether he can get on the field or not) can teach youngsters about heart. With both of those players placed around him, Derrick Johnson takes on a playmaker role that could have him putting up great numbers. On offense, Brad Cottam must show that he can take the starting TE spot. He has a lot of untapped potential that would ease the loss of Gonzalez, even if it’s only eased a little.
Threats – With Dwayne Bowe given extra bench time, how soon before he formally asks for a trade? Apparently the Jets are interested. The team doesn’t have the receiving corps to make up for that loss. Todd Haley also has to remember that he doesn’t have Fitz, Boldin and Breaston anymore.
Passing/Receiving the Torch – Matt Cassel from Larry Johnson as the new big-money under-achiever.
Position Battle – QB: Matt Cassel vs. Brodie Croyle. Apparently Croyle is putting the heat on Cassel. I’ve liked Croyle since he came into the league. Too bad Cassel has the contract.
Rookie Contributor – Tyson Jackson should eventually unseat Alphonso Boone at the left DE spot.
Strengths – Hello!!! Hello-hello-hello. Echo!!1 Echo-echo-echo. Anything? Ok...I’m exaggerating a little, but why is it that every season, I’m saying that this team is in need of a makeover? So…strengths. The trio of RBs (Justin Fargas, Darren McFadden and Michael Bush) is the kind you could see on a championship club. They could all be starters, and they could also all fill roles. On defense, Nnamdi Asomugha, Kirk Morrison and Thomas Howard are the kind of players you can build a defense around.
Weaknesses – Where do I start? Heck…where else do you start? The Front Office (specifically Al Davis). This is one of the biggest jokes in the league. Daniel Snyder and Vinny Cerrato should send oversized gift baskets to these folks every year, just for being able to say, “At least we’re not THAT bad.” A lot can be blamed on the coaching staff too, but the front office chose them too. On the field there are many weaknesses, highlighted by a defensive line that’s not only embarrassing on the field, but on paper as well. Tommy Kelly must step up and prove he deserves his huge contract.
Opportunities – Chaz Schilens steps in as the #1 WR and is ready to show that even though you’ve probably never heard of him, he can put up some numbers. I was high on Jon Alston coming out of Stanford in 2006. he never got a fair shot in St. Louis, but now he’ll have the first crack at the starting strong-side LB role. Samson Satele should have a chip on his shoulder to prove Bill Parcels wrong in his assessment that Satele cannot block the bigger DTs in the NFL.
Threats – What threats? At this point there is nowhere for this franchise to go but up. Or, maybe they’ve hit rock bottom, and have broken out the jackhammers and shovels. This team brings deeper meeting to the word “Suckitude”
Passing/Receiving the Torch – Justin Fargas is penciled in as the starter, however it looks like McFadden is ready to take on the Lion’s Share of the load. Michael Bush is in line to receive more carries as well. Fargas could lose a lot of time. Maybe that’s why the team quietly had him on the trading block. He’s a good RB, and teams like the Bengals could really use him.
Position Battle – QB: JaMarcus Russell vs. Jeff Garcia. It’s the Fat kid with no friends versus the pencil-necked geek. No matter who you pick, you’re probably ending up with a loser.
Rookie Contributor – WR Darrius Heyward-Bey is slated to start. Maybe being thrown to the wolves isn’t such a bad thing. He has all the tools to be great. WR Louis Murphy has the tools to be a #1 WR, but he needs the coaching and maturity to put it all together. He could be a steal in the 2009 draft.
San Diego Chargers
Strengths – The passing game for this team is elite. Phillip Rivers led the NFL in passing TDs last year. Vincent Jackson came into his own along with Malcolm Floyd. Chris Chambers is still good for a big catch here and there. If Antonio Gates can get back on track, this offense will be tough to stop. The left side of the offensive line is built to open holes for the running game. They are just good enough in pass blocking to keep Rivers off his back. Marcus McNeill leads the charge next to Kris Deilman. Over the last two seasons, Quentin Jammer has been fulfilling his draft day potential. With Antonio Cromartie healthy and Antoine Cason rounding out the trio, this team has one of the better sets of CBs in the league.
Weaknesses – The defensive line leaves a little to be desired. Ryon Bingham fills in for Igor Olshansky, who may be a bigger loss to the D-0Line than most would realize. Jamal Williams is up there in years and there isn’t another true NT on the roster that can spell him. Luis Castillo needs to decide if he’s an elite player or an average one. He follows up a great game with one where he disappears. The right side of the offensive line could give defenses an opportunity to attack. Many viewed this area as an area of need going into free agency, and the club didn’t do much to address it outside of the draft. Kynan Forney and Jeromey Clary could end up having a long year.
Opportunities – LaDanian Tomlinson looks to be ready to go, and some experts claim that he isn’t washed up yet. Look for LT to come out of the gates firing and to turn some heads, especially working with a change of pace back like Darren Sproles. At safety, Eric Weddle and Clinton hart started to gel last season and could prove to be a decent no-name tandem.
Threats – Can Norv Turner prove that he is over his inconsistency issues and keep this team at the top of the AFC West? On the field, Shawne Merriman’s knee is a big question mark. There was talk of the issue being a career threat. If Merriman gets back to 2007 form, Shaun Phillips will regain his form on the other side.
Passing/Receiving the Torch – Marcus McNeill from Mike Goff as the leader of the offensive line. Goff was the cagy veteran that led this group. It’s now McNiell’s show to run, as he’s the man now.
Position Battle – WR2: Chris Chambers vs. Malcolm Floyd. Floyd made some huge catches last year, and seemed to surpass Chambers. However, Chambers is a solid target, and could fight Floyd off for another year. At ILB: Tim Dobbins vs. Kevin Burnett. Dobbins won’t be giving up the spot, until newly signed Burnett is comfortable with the system.
Rookie Contributor – Barring injuries, there may not be a rookie contributor. Closest thing would be Louis Vasquez at guard, if Fornay falters.