» I’m in the camp that believes Paxton Lynch won’t start right away as a rookie. But John Elway’s recent comments mean it wouldn’t be a surprise if Lynch starts sometime around Week 7. That’s when the Broncos have 10 days to prepare for a Monday Night game against Houston that will inevitably be dubbed the Hunt for Red Brocktober.
|QB: Mark Sanchez||DE: Derek Wolfe|
|RB: C.J. Anderson||DT: Sylvester Williams|
|WR1: Demaryius Thomas||DE: Vance Walker|
|WR2: Emmanuel Sanders||OLB: Von Miller|
|WR3: Jordan Norwood||ILB: Brandon Marshall|
|TE: Jeff Heuerman||ILB: Todd Davis|
|LT: Russell Okung||OLB: Demarcus Ware|
|LG: Ty Sambrailo||CB1: Aqib Talib|
|C: Matt Paradis||CB2: Chris Harris|
|RG: Max Garcia||S: Darian Stewart|
|RT: Donald Stephenson||S: T.J. Ward|
» Third receiver is a total mystery. Give Jordan Norwood the slight edge over Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimerbecause Norwood had the most snaps of the three in the playoffs last year, including the Super Bowl.
» Combine the receiver question with an open tight end competition, andMark Sanchez only has two proven outlets in the passing game. Consider second-year player Jeff Heuerman as a small favorite in a competition withVirgil Green and Garrett Graham, although Heuerman is a wild card after missing his rookie year with a torn ACL.
» The Broncos have a few big position battles on defense too. Todd Davis, an unproven 2014 undrafted player that started his career in New Orleans, leads a shaky group trying to replace Danny Trevathan. This could be a big problem for a defense that relies plenty on its inside linebacker.
» That’s the bad news. The good news is that the depth of Denver’s pass rushers and cornerbacks rival any team in football. Shane Ray, Shaq Barrett and Bradley Roby are quality players not listed above.
Kansas City Chiefs
|QB: Alex Smith||DE: Jaye Howard|
|RB: Jamaal Charles||DT: Dontari Poe|
|WR1: Jeremy Maclin||DT: Allen Bailey|
|WR2: Albert Wilson||OLB: Tamba Hali|
|WR3: Chris Conley||ILB: Derrick Johnson|
|TE: Travis Kelce||ILB: Josh Mauga|
|LT: Eric Fisher||OLB: Dee Ford|
|LG: Laurent Duvernay-Tardif||CB1: Marcus Peters|
|C: Mitch Morse||CB2: Phillip Gaines|
|RG: Jah Reid||S: Eric Berry|
|RT: Mitchell Schwartz||S: Ron Parker|
» The receiver shortage doesn’t bother me that much. Jeremy Maclin and Travis Kelce should be 1,000-yard receivers. The backfield is deeper than any team in football with Jamaal Charles,Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware. Plus, Albert Wilson and Chris Conley are both ascending players who can play a role.
» The Chiefs upgraded at right tackle with Mitchell Schwartz. But Kansas City lost two quality starting guards and have a four-way battle for two spots. Fourth-round pick Parker Ehinger could win a spot.
» Kansas City’s exceptionally deep secondary took a hit this offseason with Sean Smith, Tyvon Branch and Husain Abdullah moving on.Phillip Gaines should be a starter, while three rookie cornerbacks led by KeiVarae Russell will battle for snaps. Top-to-bottom, the Chiefs have a rock solid roster without a ton of flash.
|QB: Derek Carr||DE: Khalil Mack|
|RB: Latavius Murray||DT: Justin Ellis|
|WR1: Amari Cooper||DT: Dan Williams|
|WR2: Michael Crabtree||DE: Mario Edwards|
|WR3: Seth Roberts||OLB: Bruce Irvin|
|TE: Clive Walford||MLB: Ben Heeney|
|LT: Donald Penn||OLB: Malcolm Smith|
|LG: Gabe Jackson||CB1: Sean Smith|
|C: Rodney Hudson||CB2: David Amerson|
|RG: Kelechi Osemele||S: Karl Joseph|
|RT: Austin Howard||S: Reggie Nelson|
» It’s crazy how settled this Raiders team is, especially on offense. They return nearly all their starters and they are young. It’s an exciting blend of continuity and upside that should have Raider Nation dreaming big.
» We love Clive Walford‘s chances of making the leap this season if his offseason ATV accident isn’t too serious.
» Ben Heeney, a fifth-round pick last year, is the biggest unknown among the front seven starters. He impressed in spot starts late last year. Malcolm Smith has the flexibility to play inside and Heeney won’t necessarily be on the field every down.
» Oakland’s starting 22 rivals any team in the league outside of the top-five teams. If there is any criticism of this roster by general manager Reggie McKenzie we would call it top heavy. There are fewer experienced or promising backups than most playoff teams, making the Raiders more susceptible to injuries than most.
San Diego Chargers
|QB: Philip Rivers||DE: Corey Liuget|
|RB: Melvin Gordon||DT: Brandon Mebane|
|WR1: Keenan Allen||DE: Joey Bosa|
|WR2: Stevie Johnson||OLB: Melvin Ingram|
|WR3: Travis Benjamin||ILB: Denzel Perryman|
|TE: Antonio Gates||OLB: Jeremiah Attaochu|
|LT: King Dunlap||CB1: Brandon Flowers|
|LG: Orlando Franklin||CB2: Jason Verrett|
|C: Matt Slauson||CB3: Casey Hayward|
|RG: DJ Fluker||S: Jahleel Addae|
|RT: Joe Barksdale||S: Dwight Lowery|
» Melvin Gordon‘s microfracture surgery is a concern. But the Chargers don’t need to panic and add a veteran like Arian Foster. Branden Oliver and Danny Woodhead could handle things just fine and Gordon should be ready for the season. The backfield won’t be the deciding factor in the Chargersbouncing back or not.
» It wasn’t that shocking to see the Chargers mostly ignore the offensive line in the draft. This is actually a solid-looking group if they can stay healthy. But the injuries last season were catastrophic beyond all understanding. Still, it’s rare to see so much continuity on offense for a team coming off a 4-12 season.
» Brandon Mebane‘s contention that this roster is more talented than theSeahawks is hogwash. With that said, this is not a typical “rebuilding” team. All four teams in the AFC West have legitimate reason to believe they can make the playoffs, including theChargers. There aren’t a lot of huge holes on the defense.
» A rebound by Corey Liuget combined with a big rookie season by Joey Bosa would improve theChargers‘ shaky pass rush greatly. They also need Melvin Ingram to maintain his gains from the second half of last season.
» Denzel Perryman was a revelation late last season at inside linebacker. We didn’t list Manti Te’o as a starter because he figures to be taken off the field more this season in sub-packages. The addition of Casey Hayward gives the Chargers another nice cornerback trio.