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Thursday, September 9, 2010
Expect a lot from the rookies in Week 1

By Bill Williamson
ESPN.com

Matt Williamson of Scouts Inc. begins his rookie watch focused on San Diego running back Ryan Mathews.

Williamson thinks Mathews is both going to have an outstanding season and a big opening game. The Chargers open the season Monday night at Kansas City.

San Diego traded a truckload to move up from No.28 to No. 12 to take Mathews. The team thinks he is the player to recharge their running game, which finished No. 31 in the NFL last year. The focus will surely be on Mathews.

However, there are several intriguing rookies in the division. The following is some of the rookies, in addition to Mathews, to watch in Week 1 in the AFC West:

Javier Arenas, cornerback/returner, Kansas City: Arenas has been an explosive return man in the preseason. If he can give the Chiefs good field position, they could have a chance to upset the Chargers.

Eric Decker, receiver, Denver: The third-round pick has a chance to make an immediate impact. Don’t be surprised if he makes a few big plays at Jacksonville.

Eric Berry, safety, Kansas City: Expect Berry, the No. 5 overall pick, to make an immediate impact. He is a difference maker already.

Lamarr Houston, defensive end, Oakland: Houston is very feisty and the game is not too big for him. He will be expected to help contain Tennessee star running back Chris Johnson.

Rolando McClain, linebacker, Oakland: McClain is a very confident player. He should be. McClain will quarterback the Oakland defense and getting the job done against Johnson and friends is a top priority.

Dexter McCluster, receiver/running back, Kansas City: He could be the most exciting rookie in the division. He will likely be given many opportunities to make plays in his NFL debut.

Tim Tebow, quarterback, Denver: Tebow may get a chance to play in some packages, such as the Wildcat and in the red zone in his hometown of Jacksonville.

Cam Thomas, defensive tackle, San Diego: The nose tackle will get a chance to play a lot at a vital position in San Diego’s defense.

Demaryius Thomas, receiver, Denver: Thomas has practiced fully, but he has been dealing with a foot injury for months. If he can stay healthy, Thomas can make an impact against the Jaguars.

Jared Veldheer, center, Oakland: This is one of the rookie stories in the division. Veldheer, the tallest center in NFL history at 6-8, is starting at the position despite having limited experience there. He was a tackle at tiny Hillsdale College.

J.D. Walton, center, Denver: The third-round pick is expected to start at center. Walton is big and tough, but he’s a rookie playing a tough position.