AFC West: One big question

Chiefs: One big question

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
12:00
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Is quarterback Matt Cassel ready to lead this team on a deep playoff run?

There is no doubt the Chiefs believe in Cassel. It is up to him to prove the team right.

There was speculation in both free agency and before the draft that the Chiefs would replace Cassel, or at least bring in legitimate competition. Like many teams, the Chiefs showed initial interest in Peyton Manning, but he never returned the interest. The Chiefs also investigated some of the top quarterbacks available in the draft.

In the end, the Chiefs choose not to replace Cassel, but to build the roster around him.

As a result, the Chiefs have constructed one of the deepest rosters in the AFC. Many league observers believe the Chiefs are completely set, but Cassel remains a question mark.

If Cassel doesn’t succeed this season after being given every opportunity to do so, the Chiefs will have to consider making a change in 2013.

Chargers: One big question

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
12:00
PM ET
Did the Chargers do enough on defense?

If the San Diego Chargers are going to end a two-year playoff drought and coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith are going to save their jobs, the defense must make strides.

The unit was the worst in the NFL on third down last season, and it lacked fire.

Improving the defense was one of the primary goals in the 2012 offseason. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky, who some in the organization believe was a major reason for the unit's lack of success, was fired, and linebackers coach John Pagano replaced him. Pagano reminds some of former successful San Diego defensive coordinator Wade Phillips because of his approach.

The team signed underrated former Baltimore linebacker Jarret Johnson in free agency and concentrated on defense in the draft.

San Diego drafted South Carolina pass-rusher Melvin Ingram, Connecticut defensive tackle Kendall Reyes and LSU safety Brandon Taylor in the first three rounds. All three players are expected to contribute right away.

Ingram is highly regarded and has a chance to make an instant impact as a pass-rusher, which the Charges badly need. If these players develop quickly and Ingram is as polished as expected, the Chargers should be much more effective defensively.

Broncos: One big question

May, 4, 2012
5/04/12
12:00
PM ET
Did the Broncos improve enough on defense?

Yes, it’s all about Peyton Manning in Denver. If the quarterback is healthy, the Broncos should score a lot of points and be in position to win a lot of games.

But if the Broncos are going to be a true contender in the AFC, they must improve on defense. Denver made solid strides last season on defense -- it went from No. 32 to No. 20 in total defense. Still, improvements are needed heading into 2012.

The Broncos went into the draft with a hole in the defensive front. They added Cincinnati defensive tackle Derek Wolfe in the second round and Tennessee defensive end Malik Jackson. He is versatile, but he is expected to play at end. Both players are expected to step into the defensive line rotation.

The Broncos tried to improve all layers of the defense this offseason, and they are better. The pass-rushing duo of Von Miller and Elvis Dumervil gives Denver a tremendous advantage. It doesn’t need to be great on defense, but it has to be better.

The draft picks of Wolfe and Jackson should help.

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