AFC West Lacks a Little Toughness

Improvements across the board will be made in the off-season. Each team in the west division will make changes. But the Chiefs, Broncos, Raiders and Chargers will have to do a lot to challenge for a Super Bowl after a disappointing 2004. The Chargers surely exceeded their goals, but even then a collapse in the playoffs left them with a bad taste in their mouths. The rest of the division goes without saying.

If there was one word that describes the teams in the west it has to be "finesse" and that doesn't seem to be getting it done in today's NFL. The teams that made it deep into the playoffs this year each had defense and the threat of a big play offense at anytime while being able to grind it down the field. The West teams seem to run the ball and run it well with somewhat consistent quarterback and excellent tight end play but something seems to be missing and that may be on the outside.

When teams such as the Jets and Colts are able to dismantle teams in the west then the future for the division really doesn't look that bright. The draft will help out but big moves in free agency may be the key to success. For everybody but San Diego the defense will be the question and with Oakland in desperate need of a quarterback as well.

Defensively there are only a few guys that can help the teams in the west through unrestricted free agency. One of the bigger names played in the division for the Denver Broncos last year. Bertrand Berry had a great season for the Cardinals with 14.5 sacks giving him 26 over the last two seasons. For a team like the Chiefs Berry would be a good fit helping to solidify that defensive line that has had its bright spots on occasion.

Rod Coleman from the Atlanta Falcons is well experienced after six years in the league and he helped out with 11.5 sacks. Another consistent and young player that plays with a little toughness is John Engelberger from the San Francisco 49er's. Engelberger has shown the capacity to play hurt and come up with big plays. Either of these two players would help the Chiefs as well. The Raiders would be smart to look at Coleman and Engelberger as well.

Another improving player on the line that could help out on the defense for any of the west teams may be James Hall from the Detroit Lions. Hall had 11 ½ sacks last year. While his tackles were down a bit, he still provides youth and overall his stats have improved.

While the linebacker position looks to be in short supply, the safety position is at a premium too with a thin crop being unrestricted. Three players do stand out that have skill in the secondary and come from good defensive roots. Two Jacksonville Jaguar safety's help to lead the list and the Broncos are well aware of that. Donovan Darius is the seasoned hard-hitting veteran for the Jags that had five picks last season. He has seen a lot of NFL action so his presence would be valuable. His battery might Deon Grant has played well in his career as well. In his sixth season, playing the first five with Carolina, Grant has put up good consistent numbers and has played on some of the better defenses in the NFL. The Chiefs, Raiders and Chargers all need help in the secondary as well.

Michael Green from the Chicago bears has played well in his first five years in the league as well. Green has improved from year to year and may help out in the division that gives up a lot of points through the air.

Sedrick Wilson from the San Francisco 49er's and Darrell Jackson from the Seattle Seahawks lead the way at wide receiver and that may not be saying too much. Wilson caught just under 50 balls for the 49ers with three touchdowns but only in his fifth year and given the chance on a big play offense he may flourish. Jackson has done well in Seattle but he'll have to live with the memory of dropping a last chance ball in the end zone during the playoff game against the Rams ending the Seahawks season. .

With a desperate need at quarterback the Raiders may make a pitch at Tennessee's Billy Volek. That may be hard with the chance that Steve McNair may retire. The Titans would be foolish to lat Volek slide away. The salary cap may on the other hand give the Titans no choice as they have problems to deal with in that regard.

On the restricted side of things Detroit quarterback Mike McMahon has shown signs of promise but never got a legitimate shot with the drafting of Joey Harrington; now there is talk that the Lions might release Harrington and turn the reigns over the McMahon but first they'd have to sign him. Disgruntled in Detroit, McMahon may be the perfect Raider as he would definitely fit in the Norv Turner mold. Running back Shaun Alexander is s great candidate at running back and will get a look form the Raiders and Broncos. Kevin Faulk from the Patriots should get offers as well.

San Diego just needs to improve a little bit. Depth at every position would help. The Chiefs and Broncos need defense and help on the receiving end on offense. The Raiders needs are endless and the youth movement looks to be their only answer.


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