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Monday, May 13, 2002
AFC West: Raiders have right parts

By Mike Golic

Team Golic's analysis
Oakland Raiders Even though Jon Gruden left as head coach and Bill Callahan has taken over, the Raiders have the same core. Bringing in veteran defensive players like Bill Romanowski and Rod Woodson, they are loading up for a good one- or two-year run. Cornerback Phillip Buchanon and outside linebacker Napoleon Harris were excellent first-round draft choices to boost their defense. The Raiders didn't have a ton of holes until they lost their defensive tackles, Grady Jackson and Darrell Russell. They picked up John Parrella, but he is more of a blue-collar player. Defensive tackle could still be an area to watch. The Raiders have the most pieces in place on offense, with Rich Gannon, Jerry Rice, Tim Brown and a solid backfield.

Kansas City Chiefs The Chiefs found themselves with a running game behind Priest Holmes. While one of their biggest problems was stopping the run, they addressed the need by drafting defensive tackles in Ryan Sims and Eddie Freeman. Sims was a great pick because he could be either a one-gap or two-gap player, making penetration or taking on blockers to help protect the linebackers more. The Chiefs need to resolve the Tony Gonzalez contract situation. They also need bigger contributions at receiver. They get Sylvester Morris back from injury. Johnnie Morton was a fantastic offseason pickup. Can Snoop Minnis step in? The Chiefs have themselves up well for a strong season.

Denver Broncos Here's the enigma: Can Brian Griese carry the Broncos if they don't have a running game, and can he stay healthy? He has been too much of a question mark, and so have the running backs. In the draft, they added speed on the outside with receiver Ashley Lelie and a great athlete in running back Clinton Portis. Defensively, they did well against the run and should be able to compete. But Griese has to take a bigger role and they need a running back who can stay healthy. While I see the Broncos finishing third in the AFC West, you never know how far they could go if they stayed healthy.

San Diego Chargers The Chargers will be improved. I wouldn't be shocked if they finished higher. Eventually, the quarterbacking job will go to Drew Brees. While defense has been the team's strength, Quentin Jammer was a great first-round pick and could be the shut-down corner they need to give them even more defensive options. Second-rounder Toniu Fonoti is a Marty Schottenheimer type of offensive lineman, a big road grader at guard. The Chargers also drafted receiver Reche Caldwell, giving the quarterback -- whether it is Brees or Doug Flutie -- another fast weapon. They are also setting themselves up for LaDainian Tomlinson to have more success on the ground.