NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC West Teams

Get the Athlon Sports Newsletter

Scouts offer their opinions on how the AFC’s most accomplished division last season will fare in 2014

NFL Scouts Talk Anonymously About AFC West Teams

Besides being home to the AFC champions, the AFC West was the only division in the NFL last season with three playoff teams. Denver is a legitimate Super Bowl contender again this season, but what about fellow postseason participants Kansas City and San Diego? And does Oakland have any reason for optimism following significant roster turnover?

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of how the AFC West is shaping up heading into the 2014 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Broncos, Chiefs, Chargers and Raiders.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff. 

 

Denver Broncos

 

“Only the 1972 Miami Dolphins came back from a Super Bowl loss to win the world championship the following season, that’s 40 years of history working against John Fox and Peyton Manning.” …

 

“The Broncos got exposed up front against the Seahawks, however, not everyone can play like Seattle does.” …

 

“Manning had a record-breaking year and earned a fifth MVP award, but he will have some new working parts around him in 2014. At WR, Emmanuel Sanders was signed to replace Eric Decker who left for the Jets and the Broncos drafted Cody Latimer in the second round. Julius Thomas had a breakout season and even more will be expected of both he and Demaryius Thomas moving forward. Wes Welker proved once again that he is an elite slot receiver.” …

 

“Knowshon Moreno departed for Miami, so Montee Ball will have a bigger role, especially in pass protection this year. The return of Ryan Clady from injury will allow Denver to re-shuffle their offensive line and potentially put Chris Clark at RT with Orlando Franklin sliding inside. Will Montgomery was signed from the Redskins to bolster the middle in support of Louis Vaszquez and Manny Ramirez.” …

 

“On paper, the Broncos’ front seven looks really strong with Terrance Knighton, Sylvester Williams and Derek Wolfe handling the run game with Von Miller, DeMarcus Ware and Malik Jackson taking care of the pass rush. The organization is hoping Miller can get back to his previous level of play, while Ware ended up as a cap casualty in Dallas and leaves the Cowboys as their all-time leading sacker.” …

 

“Aqib Talib unexpectedly became available and the Broncos ponied up a 6-year/$57M contract to obtain him. The other corner spot is up in the air, since Chris Harris went down with a knee injury in the playoffs, so they drafted Ohio State’s Bradley Roby in the first round. They signed T.J. Ward to pair up with Rahim Moore, but neither is classified as a cover safety.” …

 

“Team health and mental approach are the two unknowns, but key factors to Denver making a return run to the Super Bowl.” …

 

Kansas City Chiefs

 

“The Chiefs fixed the two most important positions in pro football last year with head coach Andy Reid and QB Alex Smith. Then, the team stayed healthy and won 11 games.” …

 

“Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson is a rising star in the business and he helped Smith provide a steady hand to this team, while distributing the football efficiently to Jamaal Charles, Dwayne Bowe and Donnie Avery. They could use another WR and an interesting prospect to watch will be second-year TE Travis Kelce.” …

 

“The loss of Dexter McCluster in free agency will hurt, but they may find an answer in fourth-round pick De’Anthony Thomas.” …

 

“The Chiefs sustained losses on the offensive line when Brandon Albert, Geoff Schwartz and Jon Asomoah  departed via free agency, but give GM John Dorsey credit for having the foresight in 2013 (in a draft devoid of stars) to pick Eric Fisher, who will now shift from RT to his more natural LT spot. Rodney Hudson is underrated in the middle and Jeff Linkenbach was signed from the Colts.” …

 

“Bob Sutton may have been the assistant coach of the year last fall when this unit responded and put five players in the Pro Bowl: Dontari Powe, Tamba Hali, Justin Houston, Brandon Flowers [Editor’s note: Flowers was released by the Chiefs in late June and signed a one-year deal with San Diego] and Eric Berry.” …

 

“At corner, they got the most out of Sean Smith and a lot of mileage from Marcus Cooper who was picked up on waivers just before opening day.” …

 

“If Smith will take another step forward and vertically push the football upfield, their run game with Charles and this defense should keep them in the mix again for AFC honors.” …

 

Oakland Raiders

 

“Entering the 2014 offseason, owner Mark Davis waited a full week before having discussions with head coach Dennis Allen and GM Reggie McKenzie. After they were kept intact, then there was quite a bit of talk regarding the Raiders’ assistant coaching contracts, in terms of one-year renewals or two-year extensions. All of this is to say, despite their best attempts, Oakland is a difficult place to win in the NFL.” …

 

“Once the league year rolled around, McKenzie did not re-sign DE Lamarr Houston and negotiations with OT Jared Veldheer became personal in nature, so both players departed from the Silver-and-Black. After the Rodger Saffold/failed physical situation, the Raiders signed seven new starters with six of them being 30 or older.” …

 

“They traded a sixth-rounder for Matt Schaub and will hope that he can return to 2011-12 form when he was a Pro Bowl selection. Oakland did draft Fresno State QB Derek Carr in the second-round, so he is the likely future at the position.” …

 

“The key offensively will be the cohesion and continuity of the rebuilt offensive line (under the direction of Tony Sparano) and their ability to protect Schaub.” …

 

“They like TE Mychal Rivera as a pass-receiving threat and WR Denarius Moore has shown flashes of quality play in his first two seasons. Still, this is a team that is lacking in offensive firepower.” …

 

“Defensively, the Raiders are hoping DEs Justin Tuck and LaMarr Woodley can regain their previous pass rush form to provide some pressure in a division where they will face Peyton Manning and Philip Rivers on four different occasions.” …

 

“The Raiders sat at No. 5 in the draft and Khalil Mack, arguably the best player in the 2014 class, fell right to them. OLB Sio Moore had a productive rookie season and SS Tyvon Branch, when healthy, can be a competent player.” …

 

“Again, they will need a big step forward out of 2013 first-round pick, cornerback D.J. Hayden, and defensive coordinator Jason Tarver will rely on Charles Woodson’s return to communicate the scheme to a very young back end.” …

 

“The reality is this team has so many players and coaches from different backgrounds and philosophies, there just doesn’t seem to be much hope of them improving in 2014 against the toughest schedule ranked by win percentage going into September.” …

 

“if Hayden and OT Menelik Watson don’t play well and another 4-12 season ensues, with the specter of stadium issues and relocation always in the discussion, major changes would be expected for 2015.” …

 

San Diego Chargers

 

“It’s amazing how far a new messenger and team health can go in pushing an organization up the ladder in the NFL. GM Tom Telesco hired Mike McCoy as head coach and he enjoyed a very successful first year.” …

 

“Their coordinators are all communicators and well-liked by the players: Frank Reich on offense, John Pagano on defense and Kevin Spencer with special teams.”…

 

“Philip Rivers regained his confidence and returned to previous Pro Bowl form with the help of a reliable Ryan Matthews, the emergence of Keenan Allen, and surprisingly, a better-than-expected offensive line. People knock Rivers for his lack of a championship, but put him in the same situation as Eli Manning or Ben Roethlisberger, and he might have a couple of rings too.” …

 

“Many were shocked at how well LT King Dunlap played in 2013, can he do it again this year? Nick Hardwick has had a very good career at center and D.J. Fluker proved worthy of the No. 11 pick a year ago when he performed as well as any rookie lineman in the league.” …

 

“Antonio Gates still has something left and Ladarius Green began to show signs that he can be the legit heir apparent at the position. The Chargers need Malcolm Floyd to return from injury and that should only help Allen who showed why he should have been a first-round selection despite his injuries coming out of Cal.” …

 

“Defensively, Pagano can rely on Corey Liuget and Kendall Reyes on the front with re-signed Donald Butler and Manti Te’o patrolling the middle. Jarrett Johnson just keeps on playing winning football regardless of circumstance, while Dwight Freeney only appeared in four games before going down with an injury. Melvin Ingram gave them a boost at the end of the year and should be fully recovered from his knee injury in 2014. They drafted Jerry Attaochu from Georgia Tech in the second round and he has legit rush potential.” …

 

“This secondary is worrisome, because there is no lockdown corner and both safeties are somewhat undersized. Eric Weddle plays small and is over-hyped and Marcus Gilchrist is really an ideal third safety. They got even smaller on draft day, when they selected TCU CB Jason Verrett who has a slight build, but can play man-to-man as a nickel or outside corner.” …

 

“The Chargers gained great confidence under McCoy during his rookie season, but they reside in a tough division with Denver and KC, so it’s not an automatic that they make the playoffs again this year.” …

NFL Conferences: 
NFL Divisions: 
Exclude From Games: 
Include In Games
Previous Article: 
Oakland Raiders 2014 Team Preview and Predictions

Home Page Infinite Scroll Left