By Christian Binder, WSOE Sports
Denver Broncos (2008 Record: 8-8)
-Key Additions: QB Kyle Orton, RB Knowshon Moreno, S Brian Dawkins, WR Jabar Gaffney, RB Correll Buckhalter, LB Andra Davis, RB LaMont Jordan, QB Chris Simms, RB J.J. Arrington, DE Robert Ayers
-Key Losses: QB Jay Cutler, DT Dewayne Robertson, CB Dre Bly
It’s not a good time to be a Broncos fan. Exit Mike Shanahan, the man who brought two titles to the team with John Elway and enter 33-year-old Bill Belichick product Josh McDaniels. When McDaniels arrived in town, everything was rosy. Not too long after, there was a big controversy as word was leaked that McDaniels wanted to bring in former New England Patriots quarterback Matt Cassel to run his offense in Denver. Incumbent quarterback Jay Cutler was offended and immediately requested a trade. After a lot of bickering, his request was granted and he was traded to the Chicago Bears in exchange for Kyle Orton and several draft picks. Now, all-pro receiver Brandon Marshall is upset with the team and has also requested a trade. The positive for this team is that it is greatly improved on defense, an area that the team was absolutely horrific in last year. If the ship can get righted in Denver, this could be a very dangerous team.
Kansas City Chiefs (2008 Record: 2-14)
-Key Additions: QB Matt Cassel, DE Tyson Jackson, WR Bobby Engram, LB Mike Vrabel
-Key Losses: TE Tony Gonzalez, DE Jason Babin, LB Donnie Edwards, QB Damon Huard, CB Patrick Surtain The Chiefs are clearly in a rebuilding phase.
New head coach Todd Haley, the offensive mastermind of the Arizona Cardinals, is looking to build a similar offense in Kansas City. The acquisition of Matt Cassel is certainly an upgrade over Brodie Croyle and Tyler Thigpen, but this team still has a lot of glaring holes. Running back Larry Johnson is openly unhappy about playing for the Chiefs and the wide receiving corps is very weak. The team’s best offensive weapon, tight end Tony Gonzalez, now plays for the Atlanta Falcons. There are a few good players on the defensive side of the ball, but for the most part, the defense is not very good at all. There will probably not be much improvement for the team this year, though they will almost certainly garner more wins.
Oakland Raiders (2008 Record: 5-11)
-Key Additions: WR Darrius Heyward-Bey, DE Richard Seymour, LB Greg Ellis
-Key Losses: LB Napoleon Harris, LB Morlon Greenwood, CB/KR Justin Miller
Everyone was shocked when the Raiders selected Darrius Heyward-Bey with the seventh overall pick in this year’s NFL Draft while other big-name receivers Michael Crabtree, Jeremy Maclin, Percy Harvin, and Hakeem Nicks were all still available. It’s no secret that owner Al Davis loves speedy receivers and that’s exactly what Heyward-Bey is, but there were clearly better options available. QB JaMarcus Russell has been handed the keys to the offense after veteran QB Jeff Garcia was cut. The Raiders seemingly have talent, but they are unable to put it all together. They have three talented running backs and several defensive stars, most notably cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, but the holes on the team overshadow all of the talent. Not much is expected of the team this year, but it looks like if JaMarcus Russell is given some time, he could mature and become a league-average quarterback or better. The Raiders may see a little improvement this year, but they are not expected to take any great leaps or strides to returning to their former glory.
San Diego Chargers (2008 Record: 8-8)
-Key Additions: LB Larry English
-Key Losses: DE Igor Olshansky
The Chargers underperformed greatly last year, especially since they are in a week division. The Chargers do have a lot of talent, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but have not been able to put it all together. Last year, running back LaDainian Tomlinson was not 100% healthy all season. However, his injuries opened up the door for backup Darren Sproles to showcase his talent. Though he stands only 5’6″, Sproles proved that he has the talent to be a viable weapon in a two-back system. Philip Rivers will look to have another great season since he was rewarded with a large contract extension in the offseason. The defense is a little shaky and it could give up a lot of points this year. Shawne Merriman is returning from knee surgery, though, and will bring stability back to the front seven. The Chargers were the highest scoring team in the NFL last year, but if they plan to live up to their Super Bowl potential, they’ll have to put it together on defense.