Four Downs
Offseason analysis of the NFL, division by division

Four Downs: AFC West

by Ned Macey

Denver Broncos

The Birth of a Leader

Jay Cutler has often been compared to Brett Favre due to his strong arm and willingness to take chances. Now, Cutler has added another Favre trait: valuable team leadership. When Cutler's top wide receiver Brandon Marshall injured his hand in an off-field accident, Cutler ripped into him in the media: "He's not my favorite person right now. I support him, but it's always something with him and right now you can't have that."

The story behind Marshall's injury is not entirely clear. He was roughhousing with his brother and ended up putting his right arm through a television. The accident took place when the 24-year-old Marshall was on vacation with his family and was wrestling with his brother for fun. How irresponsible. As Cutler noted "it was an accident," but nonetheless, Marshall "knows he's running out of chances."

Cutler should justifiably be upset that Marshall will miss off-season workouts. It is unclear, however, why a quarterback is appointed the role of publicly slamming a fellow teammate. The decision is all the more odd when the teammate is the person most responsible for your success. Perhaps Cutler is overreacting because he's terrified at the prospect of playing without Marshall.

Last season, Cutler threw 496 passes. Of those, 169 were directed at Marshall. Only T.J. Houshmandzadeh was targeted more often. Carson Palmer threw one more pass to Housh than Cutler threw to Marshall, but Palmer threw almost 100 more passes overall. No quarterback relied so much on one receiver as Cutler did on Marshall. Marshall's off-field mishaps may contribute to lost practice time or a lack of "trust," as Cutler put it. Ponder this: Who did more to destroy the relationship between quarterback and primary receiver, the player who gets injured off the field but will be ready for Week 1, or the quarterback who rips into him in the media? That's true leadership!

Marshall was asked about the controversy and chose not to respond publicly. It is unclear which player needs to grow up.

Free Agency Recap

The Broncos approached free agency as addition by subtraction. To prove the point, they cut the head off by firing general manager Ted Sundquist. In the Broncos' hierarchy, it was unclear how much power Sundquist yielded, or how responsible he was for the talent erosion of the past several seasons. When the GM sits below the coach on the organizational flow chart, it is hard to gauge who is responsible for which moves. Clearly unsatisfied with the direction of the team, Mike Shanahan pulled the plug on the long-time Broncos employee. Time will tell if his dismissal leads to improved player acquisitions.

On the field, the Broncos said goodbye to starting safety Nick Ferguson, center Chris Myers, receiver Javon Walker, and kicker Jason Elam. Ferguson and Myers went to Denver South to rejoin old Broncos offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak and the Texans. Ferguson is an average player; Denver could do better, but they could also do worse. Myers is an intriguing player with only a few years of experience who will be blocked by the veteran Tom Nalen.

Walker is one of the odder acquisitions in recent years. He burst onto the scene in 2006 with a surprisingly quick recovery from an ACL injury. Last season, when he theoretically was going to be healthy, he battled injuries all year, feuded with coaches, and generally disappointed. (Walker is reportedly devastated by the death of Darrent Williams, who died in Walker's arms. Needless to say, it is hard to impugn Walker's effort, priorities, or attitude.)

Elam's departure has hit Broncos' fans the hardest, if only because he has been kicking for them since Wade Phillips was head coach. He has exceptional career statistics and has been a fine kicker for a number of years. Still, Elam's age is a factor, and his decline is masked by the high altitude in Denver. The Broncos have been below average on kickoff coverage every year since 2003. Kickers are easy to replace on the whole, but a few missed clutch kicks by his to-be-determined replacement will leave the Broncos' fans up in arms.

The Broncos' moves were not all departures, as they did heavy lifting in the mediocre veteran market. Boss Bailey, Keary Colbert, Marquand Manuel, Marlon McCree, and Casey Wiegmann were all added. If the Broncos are not counting on any of them, then they provide some reliability at various positions. The massive influx of veterans makes it doubtful that the Broncos are considering trusting their young players. Of the added players, maybe the most intriguing is McCree, who should help solidify the porous run defense.

Draft Needs

The Broncos have a glaring hole in the middle of the defensive line, are short a left tackle, and lack a run-stuffing middle linebacker. The one bright side about having a great deal of needs is that it allows you to draft the best player available. Glenn Dorsey and Sedrick Ellis will be gone by the time the Broncos' draft at No. 12. Chris Williams is the most realistic option because he is the most athletic offensive tackle likely to be available at number 12.

Later in the draft, the Broncos will look for offensive playmakers with deep speed and players who excel at stopping the run. The Broncos would love for Jerod Mayo to fall to them in the second round, but he seems to be a fast riser and solid first-round pick. Dan Connor seems like a bit of a reach in the first round. The Broncos could look to move down and acquire a stout linebacker a few picks lower. Many predict that Denver will go after a wide receiver early, but Marshall appears to be on track for a full recovery, and Shanahan has a habit of finding talented receivers with later picks.

Kansas City Chiefs

Rebuilding and Proud of It

Sometimes in a 16-game season, a not-very-good team can seem deceptively close to championship contention. Bad teams often make the playoffs by sneaking in with a 9-7 record. The 2006 Chiefs were such a team. When you make the playoffs, it is difficult to justify rebuilding. The Chiefs were an aging team with numerous reasons for concern about long-term prospects. Still, the Chiefs almost needed a bad season to justify making the necessary changes to rebuild a flawed roster.

Nine straight losses to end 2007 are certainly an opening, and the Chiefs did not stand pat. Free agents acquired in recent years to shore up the defense -- such as Ty Law and Kendrell Bell -- were jettisoned. Aging players who helped the outstanding offenses of earlier this decade -- such as Eddie Kennison, Jason Dunn, and John Welbourn -- were sent on their way. The only free agents they have retained to date are their punter, Dustin Colquitt, and their outstanding defensive end Jared Allen.

Free Agency Recap

Needless to say, the Chiefs were not exactly big players in free agency. They did make two signings: wide receiver Devard Darling and linebacker Demorrio Williams. Both players are young and are good athletes. Williams should be an immediate starter, which could be a sign that Napoleon Harris is headed to the bench. Darling may slot in as a starter, which is a great deal to ask of someone with so little experience.

Draft Needs

The Chiefs have innumerable holes, but the biggest weakness is the offensive line. The Chiefs have Brian Walters, Damion McIntosh, and three guys who have never been in my kitchen. Drafting fifth the Chiefs are likely to miss out on Jake Long, the premier offensive tackle. They could go with Ryan Clady, the Boise State tackle, who is also a prime prospect.

The Chiefs' other options are troubling for a variety of reasons. Their biggest strength is along the defensive line, and five of the draft's first ten likely picks were defensive linemen in college. Add in Darren McFadden (the running back who would duplicate Larry Johnson) and the likely off-the-board Long, and all the Chiefs really have to consider is Clady or quarterback Matt Ryan as the likely top rated players available.

The decision on Ryan, if he is available, will prove extremely interesting. Brodie Croyle remains, at best, a work in progress. Color me skeptical that Croyle is the future starter of a playoff-caliber team, but I remain a bit skeptical of Ryan as well. If the Chiefs think Ryan is a franchise quarterback, then they should jump at him if he is available (and Jake Long is gone).

After the first round, the Chiefs should look to the secondary. Law was released, and Patrick Surtain cannot have more than another year or two as a productive starter. They are also exceedingly thin at wide receiver, as Darling's assumption of a starting role on the depth chart attests. If they come out of Day One with an offensive lineman, cornerback, and receiver, they will have done a good job. The second day should be devoted to building offensive line depth. No number of offensive linemen would be too many.

Oakland Raiders

Ahead of the Curve or Simply Mad?

The Raiders have become a bit of a punch line after a free agent shopping spree that would shame Daniel Snyder. The Raiders paid out big money to questionable targets in Javon Walker, Gibril Wilson, Kwame Harris, and Tommy Kelly.

The money is not as crazy as it first appears. Harris is easily cut after one year if he fails to develop. Wilson's $16 million guaranteed is excessive, but he is only 27 years old and a solid run defender, one of the few on the roster. Kelly is also only 27, and he can play either defensive end or defensive tackle. Walker is perhaps the most questionable acquisition because of repeated injury issues, advanced age for a receiver, and an excessive contract.

The salaries might be acceptable because the Raiders still have cap room even with star cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha franchised as an exclusive rights free agent. The simple truth is that the salary cap has increased faster than salaries have escalated. Almost every team has salary cap space to spare. Furthermore, the Raiders do not exactly have a boatload of talented people playing at undervalued rookie contracts. Two bargains they had were Asomugha and Justin Fargas, who also just signed a big contract. In the next several years, they need only re-sign Thomas Howard and Kirk Morrison to expensive raises.

The question in some sense is whether or not the team is better off having these players than not having them. They could have let Walker go elsewhere for less, but then they would have almost no competent wide receivers. Wilson is better than Stuart Schweigert. Kelly was the team's best defensive lineman two years ago when they had an excellent defense.

Free Agency Recap

If the Raiders were capable of drafting and developing young players, then they would not need to venture into free agency. Had they not been willing to pay the price, they would have a weaker team this upcoming season. The rising salary cap should allow them to keep the majority of their desirable players going forward. This off-season spending spree may not be genius, but it is not as crazy as it first appears.

The final piece of the puzzle, and a much more defensible contract, was given out to DeAngelo Hall. The super-talented cornerback plays inconsistently and is overrated. At the same time, he becomes the Raiders' second cornerback and probably the best second cornerback in the NFL. The Hall acquisition shows the lack of faith the Raiders have in Fabian Washington, but even if they are giving up on him early, Hall could help create a dominant defense.

Draft Needs

The Raiders have the draft's fourth overall selection, and it is a make-or-break pick for this draft. The Raiders do not pick again until the fourth round.

The Raiders are the opposite of the Chiefs in that they could use almost every player considered a top eight pick except for Matt Ryan. Fargas is a serviceable running back, but Al Davis may be excited by the big-play ability of McFadden. Adrian Peterson provided a big-play threat to an otherwise weak offense in Minnesota, and McFadden could provide the same spark to the Raiders, with Fargas playing the role of Chester Taylor. Long or Clady are the "safe" picks, but a team still suffering from Robert Gallery is unlikely to think that offensive linemen are all that safe.

The most intriguing move would be to pursue one of the top defensive linemen. The Raiders defense was gashed in the middle last season and never solved its run defense problems. If they acquired either Dorsey or Ellis, they could return to their 2006 form as a dominant defense.

The Raiders probably cannot afford to ignore the offensive side of the ball. The decision to try and build excellence on one side rather than mediocrity on the other makes for an interesting team-building exercise.

San Diego Chargers

The Next Frontier

The general premise of this second round of Four Downs is a look at holes that teams have and how they go about filling those holes. For almost every team, we identify the hole, ponder whether it was filled in free agency, and then predict what college player would best fill that need.

The Chargers have reached a level of sustained excellence that changes the calculus for them. Their internal debates are not about filling holes but about which established starters will be released. They are loaded with cap room, and their roster spots are devoted to only those players they actually want. They do not need to cut anyone due to his high salary.

That is what makes the Chargers' last four months so interesting. The team have outright released Shane Olivea, Marlon McCree, and Lorenzo Neal. Admittedly, Olivea lost his job late in the season, but as recently as 2006, he was regarded as an up-and-coming tackle. McCree is only 31 years old and has been starting at safety for the past two seasons. The Chargers, however, drafted Eric Weddle last season and apparently believe he already is the superior player.

Free Agency Recap

The one player the Chargers probably wanted to keep is Michael Turner, but even with cap room to spare, it would be silly to pay for two starting running backs. Darren Sproles is an excellent complementary second back, but he would be less conventional as an every-down back if something were to happen to LaDainian Tomlinson. Turner has been a great back-up running back for the past several seasons, and his departure will lead to a loss in value. Some of that value was earned in blowouts, but he also played a crucial role as an in-game substitute for Tomlinson in a number of close games. He will be missed.

The Chargers also differentiate themselves from most other clubs by their team-wide decision to be inactive in free agency. With tens of millions of dollars available to spend, the Chargers added Derek Smith, the 33-year-old linebacker released by the inept San Francisco 49ers, and... well, they added Derek Smith. He will provide support at inside linebacker.

Draft Needs

The Chargers do not have any needs other than depth. No player taken where they draft would be assured of a place in the starting lineup. With that in mind, they can go with best available player. They are in many ways drafting for 2009 or 2010. The only borderline old players on the team are nose tackle Jamal Williams and guard Mike Goff. Do not be surprised if the Chargers take a nose tackle and an interior lineman at some point.

Some mock drafts predict San Diego to go with an offensive lineman to replace Olivea. The Chargers, however, appear happy with Jeromy Cleary, who really played well in the run game after assuming a starting role late in the season. A stronger need is at cornerback, where the departure of Drayton Florence leaves them without a proven nickelback.

One thing worth remembering is that the Chargers traded away their second-round pick to Miami to acquire Chris Chambers in the middle of last season. The lack of a second-round pick and no pressing needs make the Chargers a natural trading partner for anyone hoping to move up into the end of the first round.


108 comments, Last at 26 Apr 2008, 3:28am

1 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The Chargers also traded their 3rd round pick to trade up in last year's draft.

2 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I agree that the Cutler comments were surprising, but it does seem there is more there than just this one arm through the TV incident. "With him it is always something.." What other trouble has Marshall been in publicly? If not it might be an internal problem. That or Denver QBs are just suppose to be a-holes.

3 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

#2: Click my name for the full article on ESPN, but the relevant piece is below.

Since joining the Broncos, Marshall has been arrested for drunk driving, for which he could serve a short suspension this season if convicted; was arrested for a domestic-violence charge (charges were later dropped); was involved in a heated argument with an assistant coach the day after a game; and was alleged to have participated in a ruckus at a nightclub before teammate Darrent Williams was killed on Jan. 1, 2007.

Marshall also had a "thigh contusion" in training camp last year, missed half of it, and only eventually got back on the field because he was pushed to do so.

Ned clearly has a different opinion, but I don't think that Cutler's "not my favorite person right now" statement is out of line.

5 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The Chargers were very good the last two years and given the flaws of the other teams in this division, should be favored to win it again.

But let's not forget this was the #15 offense (DVOA) last year - distinctly middle of the pack. The line, aside from Goff, is perhaps young enough to improve - and although it was ranked 8th in sacks allowed, it was 24th in ALY, indicating there is room for improvement. Tomlinson will be 29, not that young for an rb and was 13th in DVOA last year. Rivers was 16th. Chambers and Jackson were 55th and 46th. Chambers is also 30, which is the same as the "advanced age" Walker. Davis was -8.3% DVOA in limited playing time as a rookie. Gates was the best offensive player, 2nd in DVOA. The WR corps is adequate if Gates is healthy but below average if he's not.

Which brings up the inuries to their key offensive players. Rivers had ACL surgery with his patella tendon replacing his ACL. Tomlinson's knee injury was still giving him pain in March. Gates had foot surgery and "should" be ready for the regular season. If those three players play worse than in 2007, this offense goes from middle of the pack to below average in a hurry.

The glaring hole to me is backup QB. Volek played well in a short stint against IND in the playoffs and very poorly in the regular season in brief appearances. The last time he got significant playing time was in 2005, where his DVOA was -25.5% on 97 passes. In 2004 with 383 passes, his DVOA was -10.2%. With Rivers coming off of significant surgery, I'd think this would be an area to address for a team with championship aspirations.

6 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Chargers only have picks in 1,5,6,7 and the 5 is a compensatory pick.

The third rounder went to move up last year to pick up Weddle and the 4th was spent in the Supplementary Draft on Paul Oliver from Georgia. People seemed really high on Oliver, so maybe he can be the nickel? Remains to be seen since he wasn't active for a single game last year.

As a bolts fan, I'm advocating for a NT. Williams is great, but when he was cycled out last year, the defense was really not good. Castillo is also injured a lot lately, and I wonder if that could be prevented with a NT almost as good as Williams who is at least on the field for every play.

Some people have liked Balmer in the first round, but if he's gone, maybe we can trade down with the Falcons and pick up both Sam Baker and Pat Sims/Dre Moore in the second.

Also, I'm interested in how Hart's signing changes things. May be bad news for Kenny Phillips? Who knows whats going on in AJ's mind, though. Craig Davis was a mystery pick to me last year. If it broke though, let him do what he wants

7 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

mrh, I totally agree. The odd thing, though, is that those numbers include the terrible beginning of the season. Using only the the last 12 games, the O gets much better, largely because the line stopped giving up as many sacks.

If they start next season more in sync, I expect these numbers to be higher. If, as you pointed out, they are affected by the fact that almost every player on both sides of the ball had significant surgery, then they will be lower.

One thing this team really needs, which unfortunately you can't draft, is to teach Rivers to run the 2-minute drill. The guy saunters up to the line and jaws at the fans while the clock counts down. I know he's the slowest runner in football (may be slower than Shaun Rogers), but at least make it look like you are trying to keep time on the clock!

8 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Stan Marsh said it best in South Park one episode: "That's Jay Cutler! He kinda sucks, but my dad says he's going to be really good some day."

Ha! Anything Randy Marsh thinks is clearly not true.

10 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

For our younger readers, Cliff Clavin is a character on the TV show Cheers. See the Jeopardy section of this Wiki entry for more background on Ned's excellent reference.

11 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

It’s hard to reconcile, “The general premise of this second round of Four Downs is a look at holes that teams have and how they go about filling those holes” with the section that you wrote for the Broncos. A four paragraph rant about your own ignorance of maturity is not identifying a hole. You could have asked someone, “Hey, who’s more mature Cutler or Marshall?” Then you’d have gotten your answer and wouldn’t have had to bother the rest of us.

Or what about your, “Needless to say, it is hard to impugn Walker’s effort, priorities, or attitude.” Au contraire, it’s easy. The guy went to the media said the solution for the offense was that he should get the ball more. He did this right before he was going in for surgery. That’s easy to impugn.

Also isn’t this the site that did it’s best to correct the idea of “clutch kicking”? Not all Broncos fans are hit hard by the loss of Elam. He wanted way too much money for too long a contract, especially since he didn’t kick-off anymore.

They brought in Koutouvides to be the run stuffing middle linebacker. They aren’t going to pick one up with one of their first two picks.

They also drafted a LT last year Ryan Harris. He’s just as unproven as any player they would draft this year. If you’ve got them picking the same position they drafted last year you’ve got to at least say why you don’t think last years guy is an answer to the question.

Don’t fall into the many people are predicting trap. There’s a lot of bad information out there that people only take seriously because a lot of people say it. If only there was a site that wanted to look beyond conventional wisdom.

12 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Where is raiderjoe? He must be hitting the sauce getting ready for an all-night rant. Do the Chargers not need a speed receiver to complement Chambers, stretch the field for Gates/LT? I understand speed and run-blocking don't go hand in hand often but it's going to be hard to beat NE or Indy without a deep threat. Also in the playoffs last year, Jamal Williams was pretty tired so I definitely agree that they will pick up a "fattie" sub.
I thought the rationalization of the Raider's deranged spending spree was great and appreciated someone defending those decisions a bit. If somehow they can develop their O-Line I think they could win games against the 20-25 QB-less teams.

13 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

"...and Shanahan has a habit of finding talented receivers with later picks." This is the exact opposite of true. Brandon Marshall is the first receiver drafted by Shanahan who hasn't been a disappointment. In any round.

Patrick Jeffers, Marcus Nash, Billy Miller, Chad Plummer, Travis McGriff, Chris Cole, Muneer Moore, Kevin Kasper, Herb Haygood, Ashley Lelie, Adrian Madise, Darius Watts, Triandos Luke, Domenik Hixon, Brandon Marshall. That's the whole list. What about that lists suggests a "habit of finding talented receivers?"

14 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The fairest take on the Raiders of all sites and/or blogs to date. My hope is that they go Defensive Line. That Line is truly a crack in the dam. Thanks for an honest critique.

15 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

As a chargers fan, I think a backup/replacement for Jamal Williams is the biggest need since he's starting to decline and come 2009 or 2010 will need replacing. AJ Smith tends to draft ahead of need, so that's what I'm hoping for....the other late round need is a quality everydown RB to backup LT. Sproles is not the answer there...

16 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Living in Denver, I've read a great deal about Marshall's accident, and about Cutler's reaction to it. This is the first time, however, that I've seen Cutler's maturity called into question since the Broncos drafted him. Of course, this is also the first place where I've read the comments without any surrounding context. No wonder Mr. Macy has such a problem with what Cutler said. He seems unaware of the pattern of immaturity that Marshall has displayed since joining the Broncos. Or maybe he's aware of the pattern of behavior and just doesn't believe that context is relevant.

If the former is true, then Ned Macy has displayed incredibly shallow analysis. If the latter is true, then I respectfully disagree: while freakish accidents can happen to anybody, persons who routinely display poor judgement seem to find themselves the victim of more than their share of freak accidents. As a local columnist here recently wrote, there are accidents, and there are accidents caused by carelessness.

17 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

As a Chargers fan, my biggest fear among division foes for the next 2-3 years is the Raiders. They're the only team other than the Bolts that will challenge to have a winning record.

18 Re: Four Downs: AFC West


I was thinking the same thing. I don't want to trash on FO too much because this is probably the most informative site out there. But it seems time and again they simply bash on Denver... I rarely find much informative stuff in that sense here which is very frustrating as you see such a good job done on other teams.

19 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 18 and others: Perhaps you just don't like the information? From the perspective of a division rival, it's undeniable that there has been a talent erosion in Denver, as Ned points out, and it's reasonable to at least ask the question about Cutler's public comments. When framed as it is in the article, the issue seems like a reasonable point of debate, not Denver-bashing.

20 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

re 19, it only seems like a reasonable point of debate because of the way it was framed, which was to leave out every bit of context. It's not a reasonable point of debate at all when context is considered. Context that is very easy to find, I might add.

21 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

20 Just because nobody else has said that the remarks were questionable, doesn't mean it's unreasonable to debate. I had exactly the same reaction when I heard that Cutler publicly called out his only viable passing game target. Those are things that are handled most effectively in house, IMO.

22 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Also, you talk about a talent erosion in Denver. Then why doesn't Macy talk more about that talent erosion and less about some overblown comments that are supposed to be evidence of problems at qb? There's a lot of low-hanging fruit to be picked if one wanted to reasonably criticize the Broncos, but he didn't go for any of that...

23 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Of course if you'd read any of the context around the quote, you'd know that handling Marshall "in-house" has been largely ineffective. This is what I'm talking about.

24 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Tracy, I'll certainly concede that picking apart Denver's roster would be to pick low hanging fruit ;)

25 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 19 Oh please, the you're a fan so you just don't like hearing it line is such a cop out.

Ned doesn't actually point out that there's been a talent erosion in Denver. Really he doesn't bash the team too much. He’s critical about Cutler’s comments and about some of the guys that they brought in.

My problem with the Cutler comment is that it doesn't fit the purpose of the article and he doesn't really even take a stand. If you don't like the comment say that and explain why. Don't just raise a question.

We certainly didn’t set the world on fire in free agency but lumping them all together and just saying they are mediocre was a pretty weak way to handle it. If you can spend four paragraphs on Cutler’s remarks then take the time to at least have one sentence for the guys we did bring in. That is if the article actually is about evaluating the team needs.

At the same time he lists two needs that come straight from mass media and not from looking at the personnel that have been brought in. Maybe he knows something I don’t and there is a reason to think that they will get Williams when we already have Harris or get Conner when we already have Koutouvides but at least address the topic.

26 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Geez, touchy touchy!

2 retorts:

1. Who among your free agent acquisitions is better than mediocre? Koutevides may be the one with most upside, but he's far from proven, having not been able to elevate above special teams in any meaningful way.

2. Nobody is suggesting that the Broncos could have benefitted from a quick fix in free agency, thus, not setting the world on fire in free agency is not the issue. The reason the Broncos are eroding is several mediocre at best drafts in a row.

27 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

#16, 20 (Tracy)

So, this is the first time you have heard Cutler's maturity questioned? Wow, the media in Denver definitely isn't reporting what you get in California.

The Rivers/Cutler exchange on Christmas Eve last year ... The first bashing was calling Rivers immature, but there was DEFINITELY several questions about Cutler embedded ("Rivers wasn't talking to himself" - somebody on ESPN).

And I was at the game, and heard from some people about what they heard in the exchange. Cutler was saying a lot, and much of it was not clean.

Anyhow, I don't really think Rivers or Cutler should be thought of negatively for any of that -- so what if some players go at it in a game. If it was Brett Favre and John Elway -- both guys who talked when they wanted to talk in a game -- it would just be "Passion for the game".

As for the Chargers and the Draft:
yeah, they're going to take BPA, just not a WR, TE, QB, RB, Kicker. Some have them looking for a Turner replacement in round 1... but I think AJ knows he can get a competent every-down-ish(bigger) RB to offset Sproles behind LT in round 6. There's also a guy who looked decent in training camp last year but was on IR on the roster (Germaine Race, 5-10, 218).

Line depth is the biggest need. A NT would be ideal, but there isn't a larger run-stuffing NT projected for late round 1 that I'm aware of. The best DT's are early, then there's a big gap until later rounds.
Even if Clary is ok as a starter for the line, there is a tackle depth issue (only one proven one on the roster).

A good safety OR cornerback could be taken in round 1 -- but Oliver was taken last year and will probably get the shot at nickelback. Weddle can play nickel in the slot (see the playoff games -- he's a lot better than Hart and pretty good in man coverage) with another safety taking over deep responsibility.
But no more than one DB will be taken and its really just a BPA thing since there is some flexibility back there.

Any ILB drafted would force a player on the current roster to be cut to keep, I don't see this happening unless they think Waters (3rd round last year, injury recovery -- projected first rounder before his injury) is not going to project to start eventually.

A 3-4 DE for depth may be taken later in the draft, again another BPA thing. Either Igor or Luis will be injured at some point, and the backup quality and depth on the line is very important at all three spots.

Given that the Chargers have just a 1,5,6,7 -- they either trade down the 1 for a couple 2's or a 1 next year and a 2 this year, or pick something like this:

1: Line BPA (ANY), smaller chance: DB, LB(if a guy they really like drops to them).

5,6,7: minus what was taken at 1, Line depth, RB, NT, 1DB. No LB's here -- they have late round equivalents already and don't need depth of this quality or to speculate.

28 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Actually Charger Jeff I have accepted the talent erosion. What I was complaining or bringing up is simply for being such a good site and taking pride in looking deeper than at face value of the outlook that most sites or "experts" do Macey took the easy way out with Denver and offered absolutedly nothing more than I could find at SI or ESPN... and this isn't just this article but the last few I have read about Denver here.... if not they offer less lately. I am not writing as a bitter fan of my team declining. I am perfectly accepting of that. I just wish there was more in depth analysis here for Denver as there seems to be for more popular teams here such as the Pats, Colts and such (with the knowledge also that the analysis is done by the fans of the teams such as Aaron doing the Pats) I guess it is too much to wish a Bronco fan will ever been a Football Outsider haha.

29 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

JoRo, if you think being a Denver fan leaves you devoid of coverage, try being a Bolt head! ;)

It's all good man, I get where you're coming from, I just didn't really even have a quibble with what the article said about the team needs.

We need an Irrational Rivers vs Cutler Thread!!

30 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 26 to your two retorts.

1. Boss Bailey isn't mediocre he should improve on what Webster did at the strong side.

Weigmann is a good experienced depth pick up. If you look at the ALY up the middle last year you'll see that Meyers wasn't the answer. Casey gives us versitle depth while we draft someone to come in and learn the system.

The two safeties are mediocre starters but good experienced depth if Hamza and Lynch have problems. Still I would hope that we draft some to replace them, but looking at the safties in this draft there isn't anyone they could have brought in that would have been better.

Koutevides never did surpass Lofa but that still gives him a very high ceiling.

2. Again you're the only one suggesting the talent is eroding and since you're a chargers fan I'm not taking that too seriously. Of course our drafts would certainly go better if we were drafting higher like the chargers have.

31 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

30. Well let's just say that I'm sure glad that the Bolts don't have to rely on those acquisitions to plug roster holes. Oh that's right, we don't have any.

As for draft order, that's a direct function of won-loss record, and oh yeah, we've got 46 regular season wins to your 39 over the last 4 years. Get used to the divisional dominace, it's gonna be here a while.

33 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

And one last thing, since I'm feeling better after getting over a cold:

I'm pretty sure that AJ Smith has a lot more late round draft hits than misses, and certainly has more than Shanahan does over the last 5 years. So saying that our good drafts are solely a function of high draft picks is incorrect on a couple of levels.

34 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

As a Lions fan...Boss Bailey is pretty darn mediocre.

35 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

There are some nice nose tackle prospects in this draft - Red Bryant of Texas A&M is probably the best, but Iowa State's Ahtyba Rubin and, if he can be motivated, Texas's Frank Okam, could also be good pros - but none of them are expected to go in the first two rounds, and all might even be considered slight reaches in the third. Judging by FO's mock, Sean McCormick clearly thinks Rubin's better than that, and he may be right. I don't expect the Chargers to use their first round pick on one of these guys, but if they do, remember this: when you do it in your mock, it's a reach; when AJ Smith does it, the draftniks were just wrong.

36 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Poster sounds insance. No way are Chargers going to dominate divisons. Lets see Raiders draft J Russell, rushing attackck 6th best in league last year, but line is better now. WRs core is better now..
L Kiffin in 2nd year of coaching. Any problems of learning the job are over.
defense is spectaculr.Whatmore do you want ?
Chargers are coached by moron named Norv Turner. My 98 year old grandma can coach better than N Turner.

Keep dreamign about Chargers cuase it sure as not going to happen in real life.

37 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

On the subject of the chargers not being players in Free Agency and releasing borderline good players. I think AJ Smith my have dabbled in a bit too much Madden. He's focused on having a team of young players in their prime, trying to have young guys from the draft ready to go at every position. While that sounds great in theory (and works well in Madden), I don't know how well it holds up in the NFL.

I don't know how well this holds up as a trend, but most really good units on either side of the ball seem to tend to have a good mix of older veterans and younger players. It seems that a team needs those older veterans to set a good example and not make the mental mistakes that younger players do. I also think it gives the team a greater sense of urgency. I feel like the Chargers have a bit of a "We'll get em next year" thing going over the past few years because they are young team overall and everyone thinks they will be set for years. Contrast that to the Giants this year (GO BIG BLUE!) who had some older guys like Strahan and Madison and Toomer that had been around for a long time without winning and who played that extra bit harder because they knew the had little time left. And who also likely inspired the young guys around them to play harder because it might be the last year for the veterans they respect.

The Chargers probably got another few years of growing up to do.

38 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The Raiders have become a bit of a punch line after a free agent shopping spree that would shame Daniel Snyder.

I believe you Mr. Snyder an apology, as he has, in fact, no shame.

39 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

re17 You got that right.
Chiefs and Broncos are crap.

40 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Am I worried about the Broncos' prospects this year?


Does that mean that they will not challenge for a playoff berth and the division crown?

Absolutely not.

The Broncos have the best young QB in the league (yeah, I said it) and the best young WR. Their offense had a down year last year, but with the offensive talent they have they're going to put up some serious points.

Does the defense worry the hell out of me?

You betcha.

Outside of Champ, Dre, DJ, and Elvis, I don't much like our defense at all. That's where we should focus our draft, like last year.

Denver led the league in DVOA variance last year, and I think a return towards the mean in that area will lead to an offensive improvement.

My predictions for the AFC West?

SD 11-5
DEN 10-6 WC
OAK 7-9
KC 4-12

41 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

40: wrong

Raiders 20-0
Den 0-16
KC 0-16
SD 0-18

dont tell me what isnt impossible. raiders will beat some teams so badly that the other teams will be given two losses, and the raiders will be given 2 wins. Also, whenever denver/KC/SD play each other, they will be so humiliated from their prior oakland game that they will double forfeit.

42 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I don't see how the Raiders could not take Howie Long's kid if he is available.

43 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I am a huge Bronco fan and have been since the mid 70s. I don't know if talent erosion is the proper term, but Denver has had a difficult time replacing the guys who made them the winningest franchise since Shanahan's arrival. In the last few years alone Denver has either lost or seen serious decline in the abilities of some key players, among them: Al WIlson, Trevor Pryce, Rod SMith, Lepsis, Nalen, Mike Anderson, Ian Gold.

The bible says, "you reap what you sow". I think it is fair to say that for the first part of the decade Denver made some poor drafting and free agency decisions. Those decisions are catching up with Denver now.

44 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 33 Really who exactly would you say is a late round success for AJ? You've got Turner and Olivea from the looks of it. That's hardly something to rest your hopes on.

45 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

#44 - Jeromey Clary (starting RT, picked in the 6th round in 2006)

Darren Sproles (change-up RB and return man, picked in the 4th round in 2005)

Shaun Phillips (starting SOLB, picked in the 4th round in 2004)

Matt Wilhelm (starting ILB, picked in the 4th round in 2003)

Mike Scifres (pro-bowl punter, picked in the 5th round in 2003)

And I'm not even a Chargers fan, so there's probably several other useful young back-ups and so on that I don't know about. Smith's record on day 2 isn't quite as awesome as his record on day 1, but it's still very good.

46 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

To build on that topic, how bout all the undrafted free agents that have had great success? Nobody mines that pool of talent like AJ, even if I exclude the league's best TE, Antonio Gates. How bout Eric Parker, Marques Harris, Jyles Tucker, Stephen Cooper, Jacques Cesaire, Kris Dielman, Cletis Gordon, Kassim Osgood, Malcolm Floyd, et al? The majority of those guys are starters on at least half the teams in the league. Throw in starters Andrew Pinnock, FB, 5th round; Jeromey Clary, OT, 6th round; Nick Hardwick, C, 4th(?); Matt Wilhelm, ILB, 5th; Shawn Phillips, OLB, 4th; Brandon Siler, special teams ace, 7th; etc etc etc ... ALL of those guys with the exception of Siler are AT MINIMUM replacement level and ALL have made large contributions to the success of the team.

Yeah, Shanahan has topped that over the last 5 years.

47 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

re 45

Jeromey Clary
Perhaps Pro-football Reference has a mistake here but he’s not listed as the starter.
Darren Sproles (change-up RB and return man, picked in the 4th round in 2005)
This isn’t much of a success because Back up RB always go in later rounds
Shaun Phillips (starting SOLB, picked in the 4th round in 2004)
I missed this one still the 4th round isn’t very late
Matt Wilhelm (starting ILB, picked in the 4th round in 2003)
A guy drafted in 2003 has one year as the starter isn’t much of a success
Mike Scifres
Again punters always go late so it isn’t much of a success.

That really isn’t the kind of late round success that you want to hang your hat on. Also there aren’t more even if you aren’t a Chargers fan.

48 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

re 46 If you're going to make the statement that no one mines the UDFA like him you might at least try comparing him to some of the other successful teams out there. That and you just repeat a lot of the guys already brought up.

I'm so sick of talking about the draft I can't wait for it to come.

49 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

You're right, Exile, I should have compared him to a successful franchise, not the Broncos. My bad.

50 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re: Denver

I have to kind of agree with the lack of deep insight in this article. As many have mentioned, the big piece of context for Cutler's comments that weren't mentioned at all, is all the PREVIOUS incidents Marshall has been involved in the past few years... If this incident was the only one, I would completely agree with the skepticism about Cutler's comments, buth that is simply not the case.

Re: Denver's talent erosion.
To some extent, this is undoubtedly true. But there is also a lot of young guys, that while questionable now, could turn out to be solid pieces and writing off Denver is WAY pre-mature. Some examples: Harris, Pears, Scheffler, Crowder, Moss, Thomas, S.Young, Abdullah, etc...

Will all of them pan out... likely not. But if Nalen & Hamilton (which in my opinion is the key to the season)can stay healthy, and half these guys perform decent(or one or 2 end up being great), this team will definitely be in the playoff hunt.

The FA's we got are average players that provide solid depth, and won't totally kill us if starting (unlike last years LBs, etc.). The impact players are Cutler, Marshall, Bailey, Bly, Dumervill, DJ Williams (back at his comfortable position) and hopefully some of these young guys (and draft picks).

Comparitively, the chargers have the following "impact" players: LT, Merriman, Cromartie, Gates, Castillo, McNeil (if he returns to rookie form), Dielman... and a bunch of solid, if unspectacular guys. Not really that diferent than Denver on the top end, just more sure in the middle tier and along the O/D-lines (where Denver has some big question marks and needs the young guys to stand up).

If Nalen/Hamilton are hurt again, Denver will struggle with another 6-7 win season. If healthy, 9-11 wins is not out of the question.

My best guess is somewhere in the middle... probably 7, 8 or 9 wins. complete mediocrity, but far from a laughing stock or a team with no potential (aka the Chiefs).

As sad as it is to say, probably somewhat similar to the Raiders... (although Denver has a QB, which means we are WAY ahead overall in terms of moving beyond mediocrity anytime in the near future... lets just say I'm unsold that Russell will pan out (although if he does, the Raiders will be tough).)

51 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

re 49, You should have compared him to anyone that would have helped your point. As far as successful franchises go when your team hasn't got a super bowl win you shouldn't get too cocky. At the same time since AJ Smith came in 2003 you've made it to the conference championship once which is the exact same number as the Broncos.

52 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

re: 10
Good to know I wasn't the only one who got that Cliff reference

53 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Exile, let's just boil this down to relevant points. Would you rather have today's Denver roster or today's San Diego Roster? If you choose Denver, than you're more myopic than raiderjoe.

54 Re: Four Downs: AFC West


That is a dumb question... I don't think any Denver fan here has implied that San Diego does not have the best line-up in the division... for the past 2-3 years, SD has consistently had one of, if not the most, talented teams in the NFL.

I think the Denver fans complaints are that many seem to be totally writing Denver off, when there are MANY reasons to think that is likely a bit pre-mature. Could Denver flop... if Cutler gets injured most definitely. Does Denver have more holes than SD... yes.

But I think the likelihood of mediocrity is far greater than the likelihood of complete suckiness. And given some of the potential in Denver, (and the Norv T effect), its far too early to simply hand the division crown to SD, even if that is the most likely outcome.

55 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Jeff don't get me wrong there are a few Charger players that I wouldn't mind having. But I wouldn't trade Cutler, Marshall, DJ, Nalen, Hamilton, Kuper, Graham, Scheffler, Champ, Lynch for anyone on your team. Your teams window is open right now, you'd better enjoy because ours is opening soon.

56 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 54 now that's a sober analysis, much appreciated and respected;
Re 55 not so much - you'd seriously take Graham/Sheffler over Gates?

57 Re: Four Downs: AFC West


That list is a little ridiculous, and I'm saying that as a Broncos fan.

I'd take a number of SD starters over our players. The positions the Broncos have better players at:

QB (Cutler), WR1 (Marshall), TE2/WR3 (Scheffler), LG (Hamilton), WLB (DJ Williams vs. Phillips), CB1 (Bailey), and CB2 (Bly).

Not a lot of positions, mind you, but some.

58 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Hmmm you'd take Hamilton over Dielman? Perhaps he fits the scheme better, but overall I'm a big fan of KD ... Not sure DJ is all that much better than Phillips, I think they're pretty equal ... no way Bly is better than Cro at this point.

59 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Denver has the best young quarterback in the league. Some years, that's enough to overcome everything else and roll into the playoffs on offense alone. I know this because that's what my team started doing in 1999.

60 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 57

Ridiculous? Your list is almost the same as mine. Except I won't give up Nalen and Lynch. Certainly not after what they've already done for the team and the leadership they bring that would be stupid. No one on the Chargers is going to be able to come in and replace them. Do you really think they've got someone who could come in to be a better center? Or who would line up the defense better than Lynch? I may change my mind on that as the season goes on but right now I would hate to lose those two guys.

As far as the TE goes we need Graham for his blocking whoever we have at Tackle is going to need that help and Graham is a better blocker than Gates. Scheffler is younger and has made some amazing catches so I would rather see what he developes into than get some years out of Gates.

I also think a lot of the reason that Gates gets so much hype is that the WR's for San Diego have been so bad for the last couple of years that he has been the focus of the passing offense.

61 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

By that logic, Shannon Sharpe was overrated too.

62 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 61

Leave it to a charger fan to not understand the greatness of Rod and Ed.

63 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I knew that was coming. So you had 2 100-catch WRs freeing up coverages so that your TE could put up big numbers, whereas the Chargers supposedly have inferior talent on the outside. Wouldn't you have to then believe that Gates is working against heavier coverage, being the primary target? If he's putting up better numbers than Sharpe ever did against tighter coverage, how could he possibly be overrated? After all, as we all know, Sharpe is a HOFer. How could you possibly conclude that Gates is overrated?

64 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

58, 60, 61:

Certainly DJ is better than Phillips. Line them up behind equal D-Lines and DJ would certainly prove his worth.

Bly is better than Jammer, your second best corner. I was counting Cromartie as your top CB.

As you asserted, Hamilton is the quintessential Broncos lineman and fits perfectly into the scheme...but Nalen is not preferred simply because he is aging.

Similarly, Lynch is old and slow otherwise he'd beat out Weddle (he still might) in my mind.

Fan in Exile, my objection to your list was Gates over our TEs, as well as Nalen and Lynch. Gates is fantastic even though his numbers are inflated by crappy WRs.

And finally, Shannon Sharpe had Eddie Mac and Rod Smith in his best years...certainly an upgrade over Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson.

Sharpe is a certifiable badass.

65 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Only a Charger fan COULD truly understand the greatness of Rod and Ed. I threw a party when I heard Ed McCaffrey retired. He's still the only injury I ever cheered when I saw him break his leg on national television. That's so wrong, but I think you get the point. I'm glad we live in an age where Rod and Ed can't hurt us anymore.

66 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Dude, even I think that's wrong. I got nothin but love for Easy Ed, TD, Sharpe and Rod.

Of course, that was 10 years ago ;)

67 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re: 60

Perhaps you worded your #57 post poorly... maybe you're saying that you wouldn't trade those players for their positional counterpart in SD?

For what its worth, there is no one SD has that I would trade Cutler or Bailey for...

However, LT is better than any player but Bailey/Cutler... Gates is a better TE than Scheffler or Graham (although Graham has a different skill set that Denver values more). Cromartie is a stud... not Bailey yet, but better than Bly... Hamilton/Dielman are probably a push, but given Hamilton's injury I think you have to give SD the edge (though not sure how KD would do in Den's scheme). Merriman is a better pass rusher than any Denver DL/LB (but may not fit the DEN scheme)... but I think DJ (at OLB... not ILB) is better than Phillips. Dumervill and Castillo have different skill sets, but are probably roughly equivelent overall. The O-Line & Defensive front 7 schemes are different so its tough to simply swap between the teams.

Lynch/Nalen provide valuable leadership and experience to a lot of DEN youngsters, and thus probably have more value in DEN than they would in SD... but both are nearing the end of their usefulness and are probably solid, but no longer outstanding. Lynch in particular is basically a LB these days, but his experience and leadership are valuable.

If Marshall wasn't such a dumb-a$$ I'd appreciate him much more, but he's still better than any of the SD WRs... however Chambers, Jackson & Parker are all likely better than Colbert. WR3 is probably DEN's with Stokeley who is roughly eqivelent to the SD guys but specializes in the slot. We'll see how SD's Davis plays out this year for WR depth.

And from there it goes to DEN having a bunch of young question marks, vs. SD having a team of solid, but unspectacular players across the board. Take your pick about which you prefer (potential vs. known ability). If you're a betting man, I'd probably take the known quantity, but it far from decided.

68 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Wow, Denver fans are really invested in Jay Cutler. And I'm not saying they're wrong just that I'm surprsied they are this convinced based on how little the guy has played, and their record when he has.

69 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

It seems to me that where the Raiders sit, both Longs and Dorsey will be gone when they pick, and this is where choice will start to get restricted on what people consider the top-tier of players. Therefore, a lower team might start to trade on the basis of what the Raiders might take.

The two players capable of putting highlight-reel stuff up on a routine basis may well be the next two to come off the board: McFadden and Gholston. I would think that some teams would be willing to trade up some to get one of those two for sure.

Everyone knows that McFadden and Gholston are players that Al Davis is likely to take if left with his pick. Actually, Al is really good at picking LB, so Al will probably figure out whether Gholston is worth the pick or not more than just about anyone else.

It seems to me that picks 4-5 are a place where somebody might trade up because the Chiefs do not have an obvious use for the pick, and the Raiders could really use more picks.

I doubt the Patriots would trade up to get Gholston, because he is OLB, not ILB, and because of salary concerns. The Jets might move to get Gholston, but would probably figure they are better off waiting for him to drop. The Saints, however, have no chance at Gholston without a trade, and might want to do it.

The Bengals might be afraid that the Raiders would use the pick for Sedrick Ellis, who is the player I think the Bengals are really hoping for.

My expectation is that if any of the top 6 picks moves, it will be the Chiefs' pick. The Chiefs are the ones looking around for something to do with a top 5 pick, that really have nothing to use a top 5 pick on. I don't think Matt Ryan is a top 5. Therefore, they will not be asking the world for the pick.

I think this is going to be a very interesting draft, where Ryan falls like Leinart did. I expect a fair number of trades in the range of picks 10-20.

70 Re: Four Downs: AFC West


Denver fans are invested in Cutler so much because, quite frankly, he is that good.

He certainly passes the eye test, and has made some phenomenal plays thus far in his career.

I've said this before in another thread, but Cutler will be the unquestioned best non-Manning/Brady quarterback in the NFL within two years. He is that good.

That's the primary reason why I see the Broncos achieving ten wins this year.

71 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re: 70

It's clear many Bronco's fans believe Cutler is that good. And I'm not saying they're wrong but I would say it's an extremely subjective point of view. I doubt many Bengal fans would trade Palmer for him. Ditto Steelers and Roethlisberger. And without going through the rest of the league I think there are probably another 8-10 (including Rivers) that would vie for the top of the non-Brady-Manning category.

72 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

sorryt I cant bother to read and respond to all the denver and SD comments.

73 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Any Denver fans think the franchise should jettison Shanahan? I only ask because most time it's mentioned they all rear up in horror and say "No, no, no, he's won two Super Bowl titles and the almost complete lack of success since Elway's retirement is complete coincidence".

Yet the Ravens eventually succumbed to removing Billick despite him taking the franchise to its only Super Bowl victory. Even Jonathan Ogden is quoted as saying that it had all become stale.

Or take a look at the final years of Chuck Noll's reign at the Steelers - 7 years without a division title and just one appearance in the playoffs. The introduction of Bill Cowher revitalised the team and they won 5 divisional titles in the next 6 years making the playoffs in all of them. I doubt anyone would dare have said Noll was a poor coach.

74 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

70: I'm with you completely on Cutler. I'm going to give him a reasonable chance of being a Hall of Famer at this point.

75 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

re74, 70
Cutler is just a mediocre Qb. What do you guys see in him? He's just not good. Next Elvis Grabc.

76 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

We're not taking the Marshall explanation at face value, are we? "Accidentally" putting an arm through a TV? While "wrestling"?

For the reading-between-the-lines impaired, Marshall got into a fight which ended up with him getting injured. He cannot admit this publicly, but we don't have to buy his BS story. It seems Cutler knows what really happened - ripping Cutler here seems inappropriate.

77 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

76: two wrongs dont make a right, and making the bad worse and ripping into someone in the media is just stupid. Everyone above room temperature IQ (im looking at you TO...Chad Johnson...) knows to keep the media out of personal conflicts.

78 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

I don't see why Cutler is thought of as having so much more upside than Rivers at this point.

All the comments in #70 could be applied to Rivers just the same. They are both promising young QBs.

The Raiders have Russel, but I don't think he'll be as good as either of Rivers or Cutler. If he gets a good O-line that keeps him on his feet instead of his back, he has a chance to develop -- but he has a LONG way to go and doesn't have 1.5 to 2 seasons starting under his belt to look at like the other young QB's in the AFCW.

79 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Subjectively, I think Cutler is better than Rivers - he has better pocket awareness and a quicker release. Probably a better arm, too. I actually think both may well up in Canton, but in Cutler's case it will be because he was that good, whereas in Rivers' it will be because he will have been a good quarterback on a team that won multiple Superbowls on the strength of its all around talent, a la Bradshaw.

Comparing Dumervil and Castillo, or Philips and Williams, is a bit fatuous. Philips to Dumervil might be a fair comparison (they're both primarily pass-rushers) and I'd call it a rough wash.

I wouldn't trade Cutler for any Charger, but given Bailey's age I would rather have Merriman by far. Possibly Cromartie too. Marshall is the Broncos' second most valuable player, once age is factored in, and I'd call him a rough wash with Gates. The point, however, is not that Denver's best players aren't roughly on a par with San Diego's; it's that San Diego has a wealth of good-but-not-pro-bowl starters and Denver doesn't have that many. In particular, the Chargers are vastly superior in the trenches. That Jamal Williams isn't listed as one of their impact players above is a serious oversight.

80 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

78: Cutler substantially outperformed Rivers last year (about 1 DPAR/game) even though Rivers probably had the better overall supporting cast on offense and he's got two fewer years of experience. Cutler is the superior quarterback.

81 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Phillips primarily a pass rusher? Don't make me laugh. Wait, you did already.

Phillips is arguably better than Merriman according to some. He is rather good in ALL phases.

Or do people not read this site?

82 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

#80, going to just ignore 2006 are ya?

Sophomore slump. Small sample size -- that sort of conclusion isn't warranted yet.

Plus, Norv really did brain-dead play calling on first down last year and made it a lot more difficult for Rivers early on.

And as for the supporting cast, people are not being very consistent -- one one hand its claimed that Denver has much better receivers (especially last year before Chambers arrived) and Gates has inflated stats because the chargers WR's aren't very good, and on the other Rivers has a better supporting cast.

And as far as LT goes -- RB running plays dont add to QB DPAR and DPAR adjusts for down/distance on throws -- so its only his edge as a receiver over the denver runners that matters.

And then ther's the "we need Graham for his blocking" justification over Gates...
Um ... I'd rather have Branden Manumaluena blocking anyway since he's better than everyone else listed at that (6-2, 288 BTW). So then what, Sheffler better than Gates or Scott Chandler eh, maybe the second but is the 3rd TE that important?

And how about this -- the Chargers backups aren't all just proven items. They also have a lot of young talent brewing. Legedu Naanee is a name you'll hear again for example.

As for Clary starting Fan In Exile -- he started the second half of 2007, when the Offense got back on track. And Pro Football Reference does in fact list him as starting 6 games.

83 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Crap, one more major point I forgot to complete:

Ok, simple proof that Denver has not done nearly as good at finding late round (or early round) draft picks to fill its roster.

Step one: Assume that the Chargers talent is equal to or greater than the Bronco's. Most think its better.

Step 2: Count how many players on the rosters are home grown from the draft.
Many more Chargers are. And if you weight this towards the 45 or so players that actually play on a given day (say, 3 points for a starter, 2 points for a guy who is in the 45 man game day uniform, and 1 for others) its even larger.

Step 3: Agree that a team (at least Denver and SD) would keep their own player rather than go to FA if their player and the FA were equal in quality.

With those concepts, you don't have to look at players one-on-one. Its clear the overall roster is equal or better, that many more of the players came from the draft, early rounds and late ones than FA.
Conclusion, the Chargers have done a lot better job finding quality NFL players in the draft of late.

84 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Of course, one more minor self-nitpick: in the above its Draft + UDFA findings -- basically home grown successful players versus Free Agency aquisition.

85 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 84 - the UDFA route could reasonably be considered an extension of the draft. Kevin Acee on the U-T Chargers Blog (link in my name) even states that the Chargers have the express intention of visiting with potential draftees as well as guys they project not to be drafted, with the intention of "recruiting" them to sign with the Bolts after the draft. That's how AJ got Gates, Dielman, Harris, Tucker, etc.

86 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

83 Conclusion, the Chargers have done a lot better job finding quality NFL players in the draft of late.
Umm, yeah. I'd say that's been pretty clear. And I'm saying that as a Broncos fan. The Broncos have had what look like two pretty good drafts (2005 and 2007) and what looks like one very good draft (2006) over the past 3 years. The... 8? Drafts before 2005 were awful, awful, awful. I'm sorry, but anyone who argues that the Chargers aren't a clearly more talented and well-constructed team than the Broncos is just missing something. And anyone who argues that the Broncos' talent level hasn't eroded over the past 5 or so years is simply not watching. It's just what happens when you whiff on draft after draft, screw up drastically in free agency over and over, all while allowing your once very good team to get older and older.

87 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

85: in fact, the only reason *not* to consider UFAA in the same light as the draft is to reward teams who suck at finding guys who weren't drafted. A big difference in the fortunes of SD and Den is that SD is signing Gates as an undrafted free agent while Denver's blowing a 3rd on Maurice Clarett.

88 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

what is the exact criteria when making the statement that Jay Cutler is the 'Best Young QB in the League'? Is it age? Games started? He's being compared to Phillip Rivers who was drafted in the same year as Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger, both of whom have already won their first championships. Cutler hasn't even won a playoff game. Kevin Kolb and Brady Quinn may be better than Cutler, but they haven't had the opportunities to play yet. Every team with a QB under the age of 30 thinks that their guy could be the next great one. Until he has the stats, wins or championships to prove otherwise any statement about Cutler's greatness is pure speculation/wishfull thinking.

89 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 88 - I know who has more wins than Cutler at this point, by a wide margin, both in the regular season and in the post season. Of course we all know that Rivers can't hold Cutler's jock, right?

90 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Ew. Why would he want to?

What are you saying?

91 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re:83 My guess is this would be true even if you excluded the Chargers first rounders from the last 5 years and let the Broncos count theirs. The Chargers have been on an incredible run of talent acquisition in this decade, probably better than any other team. Yes the average age is still young, but they will mature together and hopefully continue adding talent at the same rate.

92 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Re 88:

Not quite, I have no illusions about either Grossman or Orton becoming great quarterbacks.

93 Re: Four Downs: AFC West


yes, as a Charger fan, I've gone from hoping that maybe 1 or 2 players in the draft pan out (1995 - 2001 or so) to expecting half to become starters for somebody eventually and the next 30% to be replacement level or better.

I suppose it is not sustainable, but then again every time someone has second-guessed A. J. Smith in the last several years they've been wrong.
And for most of his picks, its the second year in the NFL that they take a big step.
Craig Davis, Anthony Waters, I'm looking at you.

A tip for those trying to predict AJ's next move. If the player doesn't have character intangibles, they aren't going to be picked. Also, ask not who they need this year but who they will need the year after that.

Cromartie left school early when told that staying might help him get more $$ the next year because his mother was sick and he "needed to be the man of the family". AJ took him early as a "reach". He reached for character combined with talent. His first task? Buying his mother a house.

Here is a snippet of the Waters bio:
"While he was sidelined during his senior season, Waters was still considered one of the team’s leaders. The coaching staff allowed him to travel with the team and his teammates voted him a team captain. The coaching staff also allowed him to dress out for the team’s final home game of the season against in-state rival South Carolina so that Waters could touch Howard’s Rock one last time and then make a final walk down “The Hill” and into Clemson’s Memorial Stadium with his teammates.

Waters now shares his success story with others. He spends time counseling local youth and helping them work to achieve the same goals that he set for himself."

So look for guys who are undervalued on the market for some reason (because they are from a small school or were injured? failed a steroid test but otherwise spotless?), but have a good character story of some sort. Thats who AJ takes.

94 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Charger Jeff,

Comparing wins and losses in the Cutler - Rivers debate is ridiculous. The win/loss difference btwn them has more to do with SD having the best front 7 in the NFL and Denver having the worst.

95 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

broncojack, I was responding to #88 which points out that Cutler is widely referred to as "the best young QB in the game". I think this is a debatable statement, and #88 points out that this a completely subjective thing to say because there are many criteria by which to judge a QB. As a Chargers fan, I'm thrilled that we've owned the division for several years and will continue to do so for the forseeable future. So really the whole Cutler/Rivers debate is ridiculous, by win-loss record or any other criteria.

I will point out, however, that I find it amusing that Broncos fans posting in this thread generally share the same arguments, that Cutler is great and Rivers sucks, and win-loss criteria are irrelevant to the debate. I wonder, Broncos fans, what's more important in football than winning?

96 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

Let me frame it another way - I am here to say that I would rather have Rivers than Cutler with the Chargers as they are currently constructed. I believe he has a better chance to lead this team to a championship than Cutler would have on the same team.

97 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

"I will point out, however, that I find it amusing that Broncos fans posting in this thread generally share the same arguments, that Cutler is great and Rivers sucks, and win-loss criteria are irrelevant to the debate. I wonder, Broncos fans, what’s more important in football than winning?"

Well, nothing. On the other hand, if all we did was post the last few years' W-L records over and over these threads (and this site) would perhaps make for less interesting reading.

Anyway, if "the debate" you're referring to is strictly QB-related, then I honestly do think that W-L record over the last two years, given these teams' respective strengths and weaknesses, is neither here nor there. W-L record certainly does point to the Chargers being the better - and better-constructed - team. That's the consensus in this thread among fans of all franchises, as far as I can tell.

98 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

97 Fair enough. In 2007 Cutler finished 10th in DPAR and 10th in DVOA, while Rivers finished 13th and 16th respectively. Not a huge margin between them, but I also believe both will be top 10 guys this year (assuming Rivers' knee comes along). Hypothetically speaking, if Cutler finishes 5th and Rivers finishes 10th, I'd still take Rivers.

99 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

"Umm, yeah. I’d say that’s been pretty clear. And I’m saying that as a Broncos fan. The Broncos have had what look like two pretty good drafts (2005 and 2007) and what looks like one very good draft (2006) over the past 3 years. The… 8? Drafts before 2005 were awful, awful, awful."

The 2000 class doesn't look too bad to me (Deltha O'Neil, Ian Gold, Kenoy Kennedy, Cooper Carlisle, Mike Anderson). No superstar, but several useful pieces. Other than that, yes, that's a whole lot of sucky drafting. But the 2006 class . . . that is impressive. I hadn't really registered just how well Denver had done there. It might even be better than the Texans class of the same year (Williams, Ryans, Winston, Daniels, sample size theatre DVOA superstar David Anderson).

100 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

If Denver's d-line develops into a mediocre unit, they have a chance to be a wild card or a division winner should SD fall.

In regard to Rivers and Cutler, they each remind me of two HOF QBs becuase they both play like these guys and have similar circumstances. Rivers reminds me of Troy Aikman, in that he is a very good QB on a great team. Cutler is more like Favre, in that Denver's success is dependant on him having a great game every week.

101 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

broncojack, I think that's a pretty accurate parallel, if Cutler lives up to his potential.

102 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

The Chargers will fulfill the promise of the 2007 Patriots and run the table. 19-0. You heard it here first.

103 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

can anyone tell me why, with the problems that have plagued their o-line, why no one is projecting oakland to take jake long at #4 if he's there? neglecting the o-line to take mcfadden - the most oft cited selection at #4 for oakland in mock drafts - will only lead to him being stuffed for -1 after russell gets sacked for -5. start in the trenches al! RB's abound in this draft, please take jake long if he's there

104 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

lol Because Al Davis is calling the shots? People are expecting him to flunk it, and McFadden is the guy a lot of experts don't think is worth a top 5 pick, along with Ryan, but even Al couldn't possibly draft Ryan.

Then again, the draft is an inexact science, so it's possible the Raiders will get it right nontheless.

105 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

the chargers will be elite (along w/ the pats, indy), but no way do they go undefeated. As bad as the afc west is, it is still much better than the afc east. the weakness of their division was a major variable in the pats going unbeaten.

106 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

"afc west is, it is still much better than the afc east. the weakness of their division was a major variable in the pats going unbeaten."

For real?

DVOA ratings:
AFC East AFC West
1 6
19 18
25 26
29 30

Yes, the AFC west is clearly stronger than the AFC East.

107 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

It's clear that Ned Macey just wanted to stir things up when he questioned Cutler's maturity. He obviously doesn't follow Cutler, Marshall, or the Broncos, or he'd know that Cutler's shown maturity in his career, like preparing diligently in the offseason and even being involved in charitable causes, while Marshall has had quite a few outside "distractions" that even Champ acknowledges has to stop. That's just plain ignorance of reported news.

He also tries to imply that without Marshall, Cutler wouldn't have been as successful. If he watched the Broncos games, he'd see that with the lack of protection from his line, it's to Cutler's credit that he could even avoid sacks and deliver the football to his #1s (first Javon, then Marshall) as well as Stokley, Scheffler, etc. Considering the circumstances, his decision making under extreme pressure is pretty good. At least half the starting QBs in the league wouldn't have been able to get Marshall 100 receptions with the conditions of the line Denver had. So they benefitted each other, don't imply anything else.

108 Re: Four Downs: AFC West

One hears a lot of talk about Charger "talent." Although I don't deny that considerable talent exists, I suspect that Schottenheimer is the factor most responsible for bringing the talent into view. I recall thinking the Browns had strong personnel around '86-'87.

Norv did okay last season, but he's no Schottenheimer. I look for the Chargers to fall back considerably this season, just as the Browns did two seasons after Schottenheimer's exit.