AFC West preseason team capsules (2012 records in parentheses):
OPEN CAMP: July 25
LAST YEAR: Broncos roared into playoffs on 11-game winning streak as AFC's top seed, but promptly lost to Baltimore in double overtime after Jacoby Jones hauled in Joe Flacco's 70-yard TD toss in waning seconds of regulation. Last time Denver lost at home as top seed, to Jacksonville in 1996, it bounced back to win Super Bowl. Broncos are out to repeat history this season.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: WR Wes Welker, RG Louis Vasquez, rookie RB Montee Ball, LB Shaun Phillips, DB Quentin Jammer, CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: DE Elvis Dumervil, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
CAMP NEEDS: Just three years after John Elway rescued foundering franchise, Broncos have very few holes, but do have to make up for loss of Dumervil. Broncos signed Phillips and drafted Quanterus Smith, and hope to see more from Robert Ayers and big jumps from Jeremy Beal and Malik Jackson. Only weak link on offense is battered line in which every starter except Zane Beadles is coming off surgery. All-Pro LT Ryan Clady signed his $57.5 million extension on eve of camp but will miss up to two weeks (right shoulder surgery).
EXPECTATIONS: LB Von Miller said it as soon as last season was over, and Clady reiterated it after signing contract: Super Bowl or bust in Denver. Last year, all questions about how Peyton Manning would hold up and adjust to his new team were answered positively. Now, it's about how they'll all handle expectations of championship run. Elway & Co. have already built solid, deep roster that should withstand adversity. Manning has better backfield and improved receiving corps to work with, and defense led by Champ Bailey and Miller is real deal, giving Denver legitimate shot at Lombardi Trophy. Miller's looming four-game suspension for violating league's drug policy is worrisome.
OPEN CAMP: July 25
LAST YEAR: Chargers missed playoffs for third straight season and owner Dean Spanos finally fired coach Norv Turner and general manager A.J. Smith. Spanos replaced Turner and Smith with pair of 40-year-olds, former Denver offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and former Indianapolis assistant GM Tom Telesco. Continuing offensive line woes led to another subpar season by QB Philip Rivers. RB Ryan Mathews managed to not only break both collarbones, but continued his fumbling problems. Four TV blackouts showed Bolts aren't as popular at box office when losing.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: LT Max Starks, OLB Dwight Freeney, rookie ILB Manti Te'o, rookie RT D.J. Fluker, RB Danny Woodhead.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Quentin Jammer, OLB Shaun Phillips, RG Louis Vasquez, LB Takeo Spikes, SS Atari Bigby, DT Antonio Garay, TE Randy McMichael, DE Vaughn Martin, CB Antoine Cason. LB Antwan Barnes.
CAMP NEEDS: Plenty, starting with finding cohesion on offensive line with three new starters, including Fluker. Veteran Jeromey Clary will move from right tackle to right guard. Bolts also need to find depth at receiver and in defensive front seven, where new regime let plenty of players go.
EXPECTATIONS: McCoy and Telesco don't like word ``rebuilding,'' but this is as close to major overhaul as Chargers have had in some time. Rivers will have to get used to how McCoy and coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, former coach of Arizona Cardinals, run offense. Rivers was sacked 49 times and committed 22 turnovers, and has that fumbling problem. Fourth straight season out of playoffs is possibility.
OPEN CAMP: July 26
LAST YEAR: In first full season following death of longtime owner Al Davis, Raiders struggled under new regime led by GM Reggie McKenzie and coach Dennis Allen. Offense sputtered as RB Darren McFadden was poor fit for zone-blocking system, and defense allowed most points per game for this franchise since 1961.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QB Matt Flynn, DB Charles Woodson, CB Tracy Porter, CB Mike Jenkins, rookie CB D.J. Hayden, LB Nick Roach, LB Kaluka Maiava, rookie LB Sio Moore, DT Pat Sims, DT Vance Walker.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: QB Carson Palmer, DT Richard Seymour, DT Tommy Kelly, LB Philip Wheeler, LB Rolando McClain, DB Michael Huff, P Shane Lechler.
CAMP NEEDS: First priority will be picking starting quarterback from Flynn, Terrelle Pryor and rookie Tyler Wilson. None of them shined during offseason workouts; Flynn has inside track on starting assignment after being acquired from Seattle. Oakland also needs to get more pressure on QBs after tying franchise low with 25 sacks last season.
EXPECTATIONS: Raiders are in Year 2 of major rebuilding project, much time so far spent on clearing out old problems. About 40 percent of salary cap is dedicated to accelerated bonuses of players no longer on team, leaving little depth or star power on 2013 roster. While contending appears unlikely, Raiders are hoping to identify building blocks for better future starting next year, when Oakland should be in position to rebuild with high draft pick and plenty of salary cap room.
OPEN CAMP: July 25
LAST YEAR: Everything that could have gone wrong did. Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn were lousy at QB, Romeo Crennel was ineffective as head coach, and season spiraled out of control from opening kickoff of Week 1. Off field, LB Jovan Belcher was involved in grisly murder-suicide in a season everyone in Kansas City would rather forget.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: QBs Alex Smith and Chase Daniel, CBs Dunta Robinson and Sean Smith, LBs Akeem Jordan and Zac Diles, TE Anthony Fasano, rookie RT Eric Fisher, OL Geoff Schwartz, WR Donnie Avery.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: Cassel, Quinn, TE Kevin Boss, RT Eric Winston.
CAMP NEEDS: After turning over half of roster under new GM John Dorsey and coach Andy Reid, Chiefs need to come together more than anything. QB Smith and WR Dwayne Bowe established good chemistry in OTAs, and offense promises to be more explosive than year ago. Defense returns all its important pieces and looks to improve under new coordinator Bob Sutton.
EXPECTATIONS: Chiefs woefully underachieved last season, yet still had six players in Pro Bowl. So with massive upgrades at several important positions, including QB and DB, and Reid pulling strings, folks in Kansas City are talking about same kind of turnaround Indianapolis engineered last season. Is this playoff team? Questions remain along defensive front and alongside Bowe, but there's enough talent to go .500, and a few breaks could put Chiefs in position to cause trouble for heavily favored Denver in AFC West.
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