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vailpass
07-22-2010, 09:44 PM
Not a life changing article but hey, at least its football....

Chasing the Chargers: AFC West teams load up

Jamal Williams knows exactly, right down to the last bloody knuckle, how the West is won. Five times in the past six years, the team he spent 12 seasons with, the San Diego Chargers, won the AFC West title. The only blip in that streak was the Broncos' run to the AFC championship game in 2005.
But Williams is a Bronco now, looking at the Chargers like the rest of the division from back in the pack.
"It's a tough division, tough," Williams said. "You have to be physical, tough and you have to stay in it to the end to win it. We always kept ourselves in position early and then finished strong. That's guys making big plays in big games at important times."
Last season the Broncos raced out to the lead, but the Chargers closed things out with 11 consecutive regular-season victories. In 2008, the Chargers made up a three-game deficit to the Broncos in the final month, including a win over the Broncos in the season finale to make the playoffs. They won six straight to finish 2007; 10 in a row to end 2006; and nine out of 10 down the stretch in 2004.
Broncos coach Josh McDaniels has said the Chargers are "the bar right now in the division," but each of the four teams made an impact move in the offseason in an attempt to change the balance of power.
Williams was snared by the Broncos to be the linchpin of a revamped defense after it collapsed against the run in a 2-8 finish last season.
In Kansas City, running back Thomas Jones could prove to be the steal of free agency, a five-time 1,000-yard rusher the Chiefs scooped up days after he was released by the Jets.
The Raiders, meanwhile, may have solved their longtime problem at quarterback by acquiring Jason Campbell in a trade with the Redskins. The former first-rounder gives Oakland a chance to end its alarming parade at the position.
"You feel like draft day all over again," Campbell recently told Oakland reporters regarding his change of scenery.

"You kind of have that nervous feeling all over again."
And the Chargers? They cut Williams and LaDainian Tomlinson as they try to hang on to what they've got and keep their roster young enough to "keep moving on," as Williams said. Running back Ryan Mathews is the player the Chargers hope will keep them running ahead of the pack. Coach Norv Turner was so smitten with him on draft day, he predicted Mathews would have 250 carries and 40 receptions this season.
The Broncos were trampled over the season's final 10 games a year ago, with five teams topping 170 yards rushing in those games. Denver had a playoff spot on the line when the Chiefs rushed for 317 yards in the season finale.
McDaniels tried to bulk up the defensive front as soon as free agency opened, signing Williams, Justin Bannan and Jarvis Green. Several personnel executives have said Williams, who missed virtually all of last season with a torn muscle in his arm, still can be a difference-maker, especially on first and second downs, as he moves into his 13th season.
"You know what you're getting with Jamal," Bannan said. "That's a big man who knows how to play, who knows what needs to be done, and he's done it for a long time."
Jones, the third-leading rusher in the league last season, set a Jets franchise record for rushing touchdowns with 14 and the team's single-game rushing record with 210 yards against the Bills in Week 6.
Jones gives the Chiefs a proven veteran in the locker room, to go with other free-agent signees such as center Casey Wiegmann and Ryan Lilja, and a proven option in the backfield.
Jones is a player respected enough in New York that the Jets took out an ad in the Kansas City Star when he signed with the Chiefs that read: "A person who embodies toughness, dedication and leadership. Thanks TJ for three great seasons." The ad was signed by team owner Woody Johnson, general manager Mike Tannenbaum, coach Rex Ryan and "the New York Jets."
In Oakland, Campbell, who threw 20 touchdowns for the struggling Redskins last season, is next in the line of quarterbacks who have been given the task of shaking the team out of its extended funk. He replaces No. 1 pick and draft bust JaMarcus Russell.
Campbell has the arm strength to appease Raiders owner Al Davis' continued desire to push the ball downfield. But he has more accuracy than most Raiders QBs in recent seasons, having completed at least 60 percent of his passes in each of the three years he started at least 13 games.
"I'm excited," Campbell said. "We can be more explosive."
The Chargers turned the page on one of the franchise's greatest players with Tomlinson's release. Mathews, who rushed for 1,808 yards at Fresno State last season, has a great combination of size and speed. He ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at 218 pounds at the scouting combine.
Upon carrying the ball a few times in the Chargers' first full-team practices of the offseason, Mathews summed up the difference between college and pros as "faster pace, bigger dudes."
And so the Chargers have no plans to go quietly into the night. As he sent his team off into the rest of summer, Turner summed up his team this way:
"I believe this group has a chance to be the best team I have coached as a head coach, and certainly coached here. This is a talented group of guys with unbelievable work ethic. I tell them I believe we'll be bigger, we'll be stronger, we'll be faster."
The chase is on.
Jeff Legwold: 303-954-2359 or jlegwold@denverpost.com