So here we are in early training camp, less than a week away from our first preseason game, and I'm getting a bit restless. I don't know about the rest of you, but I need some head-to-head action, mano-a-mano battles on the field at respective positions in a game that has a win/loss outcome. In imagining these glorious battles, I was comparing some of our opponents' starters vs. our own Chiefs. Naturally, I started thinking about our own division first and foremost and how we stack up on a per player/position against the Donkeys, Faiders, and Dolts. I'll start with the offense since this is already going to be a bit long-winded and follow-up with a 2nd part for the defense. I was thinking about doing this with each opponent respectively based on how the season progresses for each player, every week of the regular season, playoffs, and Super Bowl. I may do just that depending on what kind of reception this gets from the AP faithful. Here is my very premature breakdown of our division per position, and remember, this is purely out of boredom right now, is too early to know exactly who will be starting at every position, and going purely off of last season.
In order of rank, in my humble opinion:
SD: Philip Rivers
Den: Kyle Orton
KC: Matt Cassel
Oak: Jason Campbell
- The QBs of our division are simply Philip Rivers and the other guys. Rivers is head and shoulders better than the rest. Interesting note about him though, with the introduction of ESPN's Total Quarterback Rating system (and I don't know about the rest of you, but I'm coming around to it the more I hear about it), Rivers drops from the 2nd highest rated QB to the 9th. If anyone wants to share that breakdown of why he drops, that could be something interesting to add to the comments. I'm assuming it could be because of game situations, but I'm very curious to see exactly why. Cassel and Orton are neck and neck (beard) but I give Orton the slight nod over Cassel at this point from just having more experience as a starting QB in the NFL. Orton started to play badly late in the year, and struggled against some of the better defenses Denver faced. Like Cassel, Orton hasn't shown the ability to make up for his team's shortcomings on a consistent basis, but looks to be a bit more accurate. Campbell is mediocre, and while he may show some marked improvement playing in the same system for more than one season in Oakland, no one expects great things from him, but leaning on Oakland's strength offensively, he might survive the year as the lone Raider starting QB, probably based on lack of a competent back-up more than anything.
HB 1 / 2:
- I can already see the comments ripping me apart for this ranking, but as a whole, the combination of DMC and Bush are just better as a whole than JC and TJ. Bush is younger and more capable than TJ at this point in their careers, and with a full year of health for both of them, Oakland might overtake KC as the top rushing offense in 2011. With that said, however, the fact of DMC and Bush's constant injury situations have them as only being on the field for part of the season and brings them down a peg. JC by himself is the best RB in the division, without question, and will always put the Chiefs in contention to be the best rushing team. Between him and Jones, they managed to stay healthy together through the season and aren't nearly the injury risks that DMC and Bush have been. So it's a tie! Matthews and Tolbert in SD represent an interesting combo, but Matthews drags that combo down, as reports are he reported to camp out of shape; his play last year left much to be desired, and many question his ability to stay healthy. Tolbert as a change of pace seems dynamic, but as a #1, he offers little diversity and can easily be game planned for. He had some good games against some softer run defenses, but struggled against some stout defenses, even with a high volume of carries. Long gone are the days of Shanny in Denver and his revolving door of 1000 yd. RBs. Perhaps John Fox changes that for them, but as of yet, Moreno has been lackluster, weak between the tackles, and inconsistent in all aspects of his game. McGahee doesn't offer much besides a one-year hope he can do what Correll Buckhalter or any other RB the last two seasons couldn't do: give a good compliment to Moreno's ho-hum career.
KC: LeRon McClain
Oak: Marcel Reece
SD: Jacob Hester
Den: Spencer Larsen
- This was tough to justify considering we haven't seen what McClain will do for our team yet, but going off of Haley's coach speak (which is probably dumb to do, but I'm gonna do it anyway), the McClain Train will be our FB, and his track record speaks for itself, as well as his versatility and short yardage ability. Reece would have got the nod if KC was still rolling withthe Big Cox, so he is right there withMcClain as he leads the way for a very good rushing attack in Oakland. He doesn't have the diversity that McClain has, but is a good lead blocker. Hester is an up-and-coming FB that could offer some versatility, as he can catch the ball out of the backfield decently (22 rec. in '10). There will need to be some improvement from Ryan Matthews to justify bumping him any higher. Denver's FB situation is dicey at best, as Larson is the only FB listed outside of a rookie. I assume he will start, and with the rushing offense of Denver, it will go largely unnoticed. I see a lot of 3 WR/TE sets in Denver's future.
WR 1 / 2 / 3:
- Hard to argue with the season Bowe put up last year, and the addition of Breaston saved the KC receiving group from possibly being ranked last in this post. Drafting Baldwin put them just slightly ahead of SD. VJax, as long as he's on the field, is an upper-tier receiver with big play potential. Floyd showed he isn't a #1 WR last season with Jackson missing as much time as he did, but Floyd will benefit if Jackson is on the field with him. The loss of Legadu Naanee puts Crayton as the #3, and I'll give Breaston/Baldwin the nod over Floyd/Crayton based on potential. The presense of a certain tight end in SD makes targets hard to come by for the #3 WR, which won't be nearly as much of a problem for the #3 in KC (as of yet, anyway). But as the QB goes, so goes the WRs, so again, based on pure talent and potential at the WR spot, KC over SD. Lloyd had a breakout season with Orton at the helm, and may continue to do so, but I think teams will start treating Lloyd like Bowe was treated late in the season last year. Denver has a lack of consistency from their WRs, and opponents would be wise to make Royal or Decker beat them while doubling Lloyd. Hard to say if Lloyd can overcome getting the attention that a #1 WR gets, as he hasn't had to in his career thus far. DHB might be the worst WR out of this entire division group and clearly drags the sum of the parts down substantially. Ford and Schilens have all kinds of potential, so they might just be slightly below Denver (and could be argued to be in front of them), but we'll wait and see.
SD: Antonio Gates
Oak: Kevin Boss
KC: Tony Moeaki
Den: Dan Gronkowski
- Antonio Gates......that is all. I gave Boss the edge over Moeaki, again, just based on being in the league as a starting TE for longer than Moeaki. Boss is a red-zone threat with good route running and should get a lot of looks from Campbell, the TE Lover, in Oakland (can't blame him, I mean, what man doesn't love a tight end). I think Moeaki will be a better all-around TE, but needs to stay healthy, continue improving his already very good blocking, and develop as a consistent pass-catching threat and safety valve for his QB against the better teams KC will face. Dan Gronkowski.....that is all.
- This was a tough one to rank, but I gave the top notch to Albert and Richardson, just slightly ahead of McNeill and Dombrowski. The pass blocking is a bit better in SD from the OTs than in KC, while the run blocking is much better in KC. I believe both QBs made them look better in the pass blocking department than they really were (Rivers completing tough passes and Cassel throwing the ball away to avoid negative plays, unfortunately). The rushing offense is night and day currently, add to it that both OTs were in their first years playing with each other as starters, and I give the slight advantage to KC. Clady can be argued for as the best OT in the division, despite him coming back from a pretty severe knee injury, but his RT counterpart might just be a rookie in Franklin this year. As a whole, we'll temper expectations from them for now, but Denver is putting together a good looking line that has a bright future, starting with these OTs, if they continue to develop. Oakland has a LOT of uncertainty with their O-line. They too have a young group that has some potential, starting with Veldheer at LT. He did decently in the run game last year, but we will find out how much of that was with Robert Gallery next to him. Barnes has been the RT through the last couple of years, and again, is a decent run blocker, but may have some competition from rookie Joseph Barksdale. Veldheer has a bright future, let's just hope the Black Hole doesn't suck the light right out of that future (actually, let's hope it does).
LG / C / RG:
- The most consistent and established interior O-line resides in SD, as Dielman is arguably the top LG in the division, Hardwick being a staple at center, and Vasquez a young, talented RG coming into his own. Their pass blocking is second to none, but they can continue to improve in the run game and open better holes for their RBs. Denver's interior gets the nod over KC based on bringing back the same starting three from last season in Beadles, Walton, and Kuper. Kuper is a tough, gritty veteran RG in the mold of Wiegmann and will be tasked with possibly helping along a rookie RT. Walton and Beadles are 2nd year players, but have the fortune of staying together and continuing building that coveted O-line chemistry. The interior of KC faces some uncertainties, as currently in KC, Wiegmann is projected to be the starting center, holding the spot for Rodney Hudson until he's ready to take over. The loss of Brian Waters can't go unnoticed, and in his place currently is Lilja, who held his own very well at RG and was the LG in Indy for an extended period of time. Asamoah is the newcomer to the line, and looks to have the makings of a solid guard, and should be very successful. If he continues on as the RG this season, the right side of the line with him and Richardson at RT will be watched and analyzed very closely all year long. The loss of Gallery in Oakland has left them with a lot of uncertainty as well. Perhaps they move Carlisle over to LG. Do they start Wisniewski over Samson Satele? My instinct says yes, considering Wis's connection with the team. Campbell was a project, but played last season, and looks to be either the RG or LG. Hard to say in Oakland, and here's to hoping their rushing game struggles with whatever starting lineup they roll with.
So that's that, finally. Let me know what you think about the post, and if you think it's worth doing for every opponent weekly. I'll complete the defense this weekend, despite if you like the breakdown or not.