AFC West: 2011 back to work FYI

Chargers back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:05
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Chargers may be one of the most prepared teams in the NFL after the long lockout. Quarterback Philip Rivers has held workouts with many players since March, and several players got together four days a week. It won’t completely match the usual supervised time with the coaching staff, but the Chargers should be in sync. This is a veteran group that should be ready to go.

Biggest challenge: There are two new coaches in major roles. Greg Manusky is taking over the defense and Rich Bisaccia is taking over the special teams. Manusky is a former San Diego coach and will run the same system former defensive coordinator Ron Rivera employed. Because special-teams units often change during the season anyway, that group should have no problem learning on the fly. So, although there is a new flavor on the staff, the Chargers should be fine.

Free agency will be a factor: San Diego has several key free agents, including running back Darren Sproles, receiver Malcom Floyd, safety Eric Weddle, tackle Jeromey Clary and linebacker Kevin Burnett. Weddle, Clary and Burnett may be priorities; Floyd and Sproles could get solid offers elsewhere. Still, the Chargers will have immediate work to do and may have to sign some replacement players at key spots, which hasn’t been a tendency during the A.J. Smith era.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Sproles, Floyd, Weddle, Clary, Burnett.

Raiders back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:04
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Raiders should be able to get going quickly. Yes, they have a new coach in Hue Jackson, but he was the team’s offensive coordinator last season and there won’t be much change. New defensive coordinator Chuck Bresnahan isn't familiar with the current roster, but he is a former Oakland defensive coordinator, so he knows the system and has worked with Jackson in the past. New offensive coordinator Al Saunders has worked with quarterback Jason Campbell in Washington. This team should be able to get in sync quickly. More than 30 players participated in a four-day camp in Georgia in late May, which was led by Campbell and defensive lineman Richard Seymour.

Biggest challenge: The Raiders have several key unrestricted free agents, including cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, safety Michael Huff, tight end Zach Miller and guard Robert Gallery. The Raiders could be facing salary-cap restrictions because they re-signed several prospective free agents before the lockout. They could be missing some key players. Also, the offensive line is in flux and must come together quickly.

Campbell has to be ready: Campbell is a free agent after the season and has to have a productive season to prove he can be the answer at quarterback for the foreseeable future. He had an up-and-down season in 2010, but finished strong and has the backing of Jackson. Still, I would have liked to have seen Campbell get some offseason time with his coach.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Asomugha, Huff, Miller, Gallery.

Chiefs back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:04
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Chiefs are in pretty good shape. They didn’t have many major changes. New offensive coordinator Bill Muir was on the staff last year, and big pockets of players worked out together on a few occasions. I don’t think there will be any major obstacles to this team getting rolling quickly.

Biggest challenge: Quarterback Matt Cassel's progression is vital for this team. He made great progress last season, but he stalled in the Chiefs' final two games after offensive coordinator Charlie Weis announced he was leaving for the University of Florida. New quarterbacks coach Jim Zorn is charged with working with Cassel. The two have met briefly, but they will have to get on the same page quickly to ensure Cassel can continue to lead the offense effectively.

Getting rookies ready: The Chiefs are excited about their draft class. Players such as receiver Jon Baldwin, center/guard Rodney Hudson and front-seven defenders Justin Houston and Allen Bailey have a chance to play right away. They must get up to speed without the benefit of an offseason program.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Center Casey Wiegmann.

Broncos back-to-work FYI

July, 25, 2011
7/25/11
2:03
PM ET
NFC: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South Unrestricted FAs

Readiness factor: The Broncos are a weird mix. They have a lot of veterans, and safety Brian Dawkins led several weeks of player workouts during the lockout. Yet they are rebuilding and will rely on young players. Denver will probably start five rookies and will be looking for several contributors in free agency. So the final makeup of this team is unknown.

Biggest challenge: The Broncos will probably be the most challenged of the AFC West teams because they are in the middle of a big transition. They are starting the John Fox era, and he has yet to see his team up close. The team is dealing with change once again on defense. Dennis Allen is the team's sixth defensive coordinator in six years.

Is it Tebow time? The biggest on-field question is who will be Denver’s quarterback. The team would like to trade Kyle Orton, but he will compete with second-year quarterback Tim Tebow if Orton is kept. The Broncos would have liked to see Tebow in the offseason, but they will have to make a decision very quickly at the most important position on the field.

Key players without contracts for 2011: Tackle Ryan Harris and defensive tackle Marcus Thomas.

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