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Fire Me Boy!
08-31-2005, 12:20 PM
NFL 2005: Can anyone here play defense?

By BARRY WILNER
AP Football Writer

This truly will be the Wild West. Scoreboards in San Diego, Kansas City, Oakland and Denver could short out from all the points being posted.

And if any of these teams figures out how to play defense — the Chargers are, by far, the best bet to do so — a division title should come its way.

Although the Raid-ers are the division’s best bet for major improvement in 2004, they still look like a .500 team. That won’t cut it against either San Diego or Kansas City, but it should get Oakland out of the cellar.

The Chargers figure to build on their turnaround of last season, particularly if quarterback Drew Brees remains at the high level he finally reached in guiding San Diego to its first AFC West title in nearly a decade. Brees is fortunate to have the league’s best all-around running back, LaDainian Tomlinson, and a superb tight end, Antonio Gates. His receivers, particularly the steady Keenan McCardell, are underrated — watch for Eric Parker to break out.

“I expect to have a great season and I expect us to have a great season,” Brees said. “How else would you expect us to look at it?”

When Brees looks behind him and sees Tomlinson, he should feel that way. And he also should recognize that San Diego’s defense is way better than those of the other AFC West members.

Few teams have a better set of linebackers. Steve Foley and Donnie Edwards can play anywhere and do almost anything. Edwards will play inside with Randall Godfrey. In front of them is the underrated Jamal Williams at nose tackle.

The Chargers could be set back by a tumultuous summer — and not just because of Gates’ holdout that led to a suspension that will sideline him for the opener against Dallas. Both first-round draftees have gotten hurt. DT Luis Castillo injured his foot and LB-DE Shawne Merriman, around whom several defensive formats might be based, sprained his knee after ending a lengthy and contentious holdout.

A young, go-get-em secondary is vulnerable, meaning San Diego must find a pass rush, which it didn’t have a year ago.

Kansas City will find out early whether its defense is upgraded enough to bring it back from a distressing season. The Chiefs slipped from 13-3 to 7-9 because they couldn’t stop anyone, allowing 435 points. Sure, they scored 483, but such numbers won’t get you any championships.

In the opening month, the Chiefs play the Jets, Raid-ers, Broncos and Eagles, all of whom figure to provide tests for the Kansas City defense. Coach Dick Vermeil went the opposite route from 2004, when he believed a change in coordinator (Greg Robinson to Gunther Cunningham) and style would boost the D. It failed, and now the Chiefs have added a bunch of new talent: top draft pick Derrick Johnson, a playmaking linebacker; and free agents LB Kendrell Bell, end Carlos Hall, safety Sammy Knight and, most notably cornerback Patrick Surtain.

Surtain could solve the biggest need on this unit, which Chiefs receiver-kick returner Dante Hall has noticed already.

“Last year, no matter what they had, you could kind of get them regardless of what the coverage was,” Hall said. “Now it’s harder for us to get off the ball. They’re a lot more aggressive. They’re a lot more patient, more disciplined. They’re smarter.”

The offense might begin showing some age, with such key players as QB Trent Green, RB Priest Holmes, TE Tony Gonzalez and a handful of offensive linemen having been around for a while. But, barring injuries, don’t expect it to slow down much, if at all.

Gonzalez remains the most dangerous tight end in the league and comes off a league-leading 102 receptions. Holmes is as versatile as any back and now has a solid substitute in Larry Johnson. Green is among the top half-dozen quarterbacks, but he needs more production from his wideouts.

Hall sparks the return teams, which helped catapult the Chiefs to the West title in ’03.

The Raid-ers have been abysmal since winning the AFC crown in 2002. They don’t have the look of a contender, either, but have improved thanks to the additions of Randy Moss on offense, and Derrick Burgess and a group of backs on defense.

Moss feels he has much to prove in his new home, and Kerry Collins will throw to him often. Complemented by Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry, Moss could be just as potent as he was in Minnesota.

“He’s got a little fight in him, got a little bit of an attitude,” Collins said. “He talks a little trash. But that’s part of what makes him great. All the great ones do that.”

Oakland also is convinced LaMont Jordan will be the workhorse running back its lacked. But Jordan never showed that with the Jets.

A defense that ranked 30th a year ago still relies on too many veterans (Warren Sapp, Ted Washington, Charles Woodson) who aren’t as good as they once were. The secondary is suspect, particularly if Woodson remains unhealthy or unproductive.

Denver is hoping for defensive line production from a slew of former Browns who rarely distinguished themselves in Cleveland. The linebacking is outstanding with Al Wilson and D.J. Williams, and Champ Bailey is the division’s best cornerback, if not the league’s best.

But this team doesn’t make enough big plays on either side of the ball, and unless QB Jake Plummer becomes more consistent, mistakes will mark Denver’s season again. About the only certainty with the Broncos is that someone — Mike Anderson, most likely — will rush for 1,000 yards.

Predictions: San Diego (10-6); Kansas City (10-6); Oakland (8-8); Denver (7-9).

Lzen
08-31-2005, 12:30 PM
Not sure how he thinks the Chargers are, by far, the best bet to figure out how to play defense or that San Diego’s defense is way better than those of the other AFC West members. Last I checked, KC made a lot of upgrades on defense and Denver has a had a good defense the past few seasons. Not to mention that the Chargers defense wasn't that great last year.

Scorp
08-31-2005, 12:45 PM
Oakland (8-8); Denver (7-9). ROFL

go bowe
08-31-2005, 12:47 PM
remember those big plastic eightballs that you would shake while asking a question and then look at the bottem for the answer?

StcChief
08-31-2005, 12:50 PM
SD - 10-6 with their schedule. Good luck.

Dunit35
08-31-2005, 01:05 PM
Chiefs=TRENT GREEN
broncos=Jake Plummer
Chargers=Drew Brees
Raiders=Kerry Collins

END OF DISCUSSION

UKMike
08-31-2005, 02:24 PM
Thats probably the best roundup i've read.