How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

November, 3, 2009
11/03/09
11:00
AM ET
NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

Falling
Orton
Kyle Orton, Broncos, quarterback: It is no coincidence that the Broncos lost their first game of the season on the day Orton struggled. Orton had his least effective game of the season in a 30-7 loss at Baltimore.

He threw for only 152 yards and could never get his offensive troops going. Denver entered Baltimore territory only three times.
Cable
Tom Cable, Raiders, head coach: Cable is having a tough time these days. His team is 2-6 at its bye week and has shown few signs of becoming a quality team in Cable’s first full season as Oakland’s coach.

Plus, Cable is dealing with off-field issues. ESPN’s "Outside the Lines" looked into allegations of past physical abuse against women. This comes shortly after Napa, Calif. authorities declined to pursue charges against Cable based on allegations that he assaulted Oakland defensive assistant Randy Hanson.

Denver’s special teams: The Denver coverage unit has to tighten up. It allowed a kickoff return for a score against Baltimore on Sunday. In Denver’s previous game, at San Diego on Oct. 19, the Broncos allowed a punt return for a score. Allowing returns for scores in back-to-back games is cause for concern.

Rising
Merriman
Shawne Merriman, Chargers, linebacker: Merriman had two sacks against Oakland on Sunday, his first two sacks of the season. He struggled to regain his superior pass-rushing skills in the first several games as he came back from a major knee injury. Merriman has improved each week and looks to be at full strength.
Phillips
Chargers’ pass rush: Merriman isn’t the only Charger getting his pass-rush groove back. San Diego has had nine sacks in its past two games, after struggling early in the season.

Linebacker Shaun Phillips has four sacks in the past two games. San Diego is getting very creative in its pass-rush schemes, often using safeties on blitzes. The schemes are working and the Chargers are suddenly a sack threat again.

AFC West punters and kickers: Several AFC West kicking specialists are performing well. Punters Shane Lechler of Oakland and Dustin Colquitt of Kansas City are excelling. Kickers Nate Kaeding of San Diego, Sebastian Janikowski of Oakland and Matt Prater of Denver are also at the top of their game. Not all is great in this division, but there is some fine kicking going on.

Bill Williamson | email

ESPN San Francisco 49ers reporter

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