The AFC West probably received the best face-lift this off-season as one superstar was traded. There’s a new era beginning in Oakland and Kansas City and one potentially coming to an end in San Diego. Yet the biggest story coming out of the AFC West is the arrival of Peyton Manning in Denver. Manning’s recovery will be the biggest factor in the outcome of this division as it heads into the 2012 NFL Training Camp.
Just as fast as Tim Tebow mania began in Denver, it ended when he was traded to the New York Jets this offseason. Peyton Manning comes over from Indianapolis to inherit a team that won a playoff game last season. Manning inherits a strong run-game and a strong defense. If his neck holds up and he is able to develop Denver’s young receiver core, this could be as dangerous of a team he’s ever quarterbacked.
2012 NFL Draft – The Best Pick – Brock Osweiler. Something that stands out more about Osweiler than his 6’7 height is the fact that he only had one year of starting experience in college. Not often do you see a quarterback in this league taken as high as Osweiler (57th overall) with this lack of experience as a starter. Who better to help mold the young quarterback than one of the greatest to ever do it, future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning? Oh and some guy named John Elway is never too far away either.
The Chiefs were able to finish the season under interim head coach Romeo Crennel on a positive note, going 2-1 with an upset victory of previously undefeated Green Bay. Crennel did enough in his three-game tryout to have the interim part of the title removed this off-season. Crennel takes over a team that is only a year removed from an AFC West title. If the Chiefs are able to stay healthy (e.g. Jamaal Charles), they should be able to compete.
2012 NFL Draft - The Best Pick – Dontari Poe. Poe completes a defensive line that is filled with three first-rounders and a lot of pre-draft hype. From Glenn Dorsey to Tyson Jackson and, now Poe, there have been few that have been hyped like these three. Poe tremendously impressed scouts at the Combine and garnered a lot of attention. Former Pro Bowler and current Chiefs defensive line coach Anthony Pleasant will have to coach up this group, in the 2012 NFL Training Camp, that finished 26th in stopping the run last year.
The start of free agency was not pleasant for general manager AJ Smith and head coach Norv Turner. Vincent Jackson left for Tampa Bay and, for the third offseason in a row, the offense lost a prominent piece. The offense has overcome the losses of LaDainian Tomlinson and Darren Sproles over the last two years, but it will be interesting to see how Phillip Rivers and company fare without Jackson. A top concern heading into the2012 NFL Training Camp will be the defense improving on last year’s performance.
2012 NFL Draft - The Best Pick – Melvin Ingram. Ingram was the 18th overall pick in this year’s draft. He’s an intriguing player. His versatility and athleticism will allow him to play seemingly anywhere on the field. This defense ran into some trouble last year after Ron Rivera left the defensive coordinating position to become the head coach in Carolina. Ingram should help to turn around that defense.
For the first time since 1966, the Raiders will start the 2012 NFL Training Camp and season without Al Davis as the face of the organization. In addition, the team will be starting the season with its third different head coach in as many years. Dennis Allen comes over from the Denver Broncos where he served as defensive coordinator.
2012 NFL Draft - The Best Pick – Juron Criner. The Raiders were without a pick for nearly three rounds. Finally, they were up with the 95th overall pick. Their best pick, however, came in round five with their second fifth round selection of Juron Criner. The former Arizona Wildcat is believed to have slipped in the draft because of a poor showing in the 40-yard dash. (Perhaps the first sign we are living in a post-Al Davis world). Criner enters a core that is filled with young, fast guys. His has the potential to find a niche in that group as a possession receiver. Carson Palmer once turned another slow, 6’2” late-rounder from the Pac 12 into a household name with T.J. Houshmandzadeh. Maybe he will be able to do it again with Criner.