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AFC West Preview by Logan Lepiscopo

2022 NFL Season Preview: AFC West

By: Logan Lepiscopo

Kansas City Chiefs

How about them Chiiiiiiefs! Not seeing the Chiefs in the super bowl this past post season was shocking to many of us because of how dominant the Kansas City offense is. The 2022 offseason brought some big changes to that, most importantly the departure of Tyreek Hill. But the loss of one player does not ruin the whole dynamic of a team, in fact the Chiefs may be better without Tyreek Hill. In free agency the Chiefs brought in Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster to fill that void at the receiver position. On defense the Chiefs added Justin Reid to replace Tyrann Mathieu and brought in some other defenders for depth. The Chiefs killed the 2022 draft: Trent McDuffie the best slot corner in the draft, and George Karlaftis a top 5 edge rusher in this draft class. On top of that wide receiver Skyy Moore has been tearing it up in training camp and running back Isaih Pacheco has earned a name for himself as well. The Chiefs also brought in several players on the defensive side of the ball to build depth behind the starters.

Strengths: An offense with Patrick Mahomes at quarterback is always going to succeed, not to mention he still has the best tight end in football right now Travis Kelce. The offensive line should make Mahomes borderline of untouchable, the right tackle Andrew Wylie will be the man defenses can exploit and get to Mahomes. On defense Chris Jones and Frank Clark will continue to establish themselves as a force to be reckon with on the defensive line. Nick Bolton and Willie Gay Jr. are coming off solid 2021-2022 seasons, but the secondary is where things get shaky in Kansas City.

Weaknesses: Over the past couple of years the Chiefs have always been beat due to the lack of talent in the secondary. The Chiefs adding Justin Reid and Trent McDuffie shows commitment to improving it, but it is still not all the way there. The Chiefs secondary is not one of the worst in the league, but it is certainly below average. Justin Reid had an awful 2021-22 season finishing as the 86th graded safety by PFF. Rashad Fenton finished as the 6th highest graded cornerback last season but standing at just 5’11” it will become difficult to decide between either McDuffie (5’11”) or Fenton to be the slot cornerback. L’Jarius Sneed converted from safety finished outside the top 50 graded corners, and the current depth chart of the Chiefs has five of seven cornerbacks with a year or less of experience. On offense it is the running back room Clyde Edwards-Helaire has failed time after time again to be successful in this high-powered offense, Ronald Jones was a number two running back to Leonard Fournette during the 2021-22 season and is now on the brink of missing out on the Chiefs final roster. Lucky for the Chiefs they have pass catching back Jerick McKinnon and pre season hype running back Isiah Pacheco.

Las Vegas Raiders

Raaaaaaaaiders! Raider Nation cannot be any happier with the results of their 2021-22 season after the circus the team was, and 2022-23 is expected to be an even bigger season for Las Vegas. The Fresno State boys are back in town, Derek Carr and Davante Adams have been reunited! Speaking as a Raiders fan myself this is a dream come true, and I needed a pinch to make sure I wasn’t dream when I saw the news that Chandler Jones was joining the Raiders! The Raiders also added Bilal Nichols on the defensive line and Anthony Averett at the cornerback position. The recent release of Kenyan Drake should have been no surprise due to his injury last season and the plethora of running backs the raiders added to the team, specifically rookie running back out of Georgie Zamir White. The Raiders also added offensive guard Dylan Parham and offensive tackle Thayer Munford, two individuals that could be starters in the next year or so.

Strengths: I am tired of the disrespect, so I am going to lead off with Derek Carr now, he is the heart and soul of this offense, and he is a true strength to the team. There is something out there, I suppose you could call it a theory, that there are quarterbacks that will win you games and quarterbacks that will lose you games. Derek Carr is one of those quarterbacks that will win a team football games, obviously his career record does not show that but his fourth quarter comebacks since entering the league should speak for itself. The other weapons on offense are a strength as well; Josh Jacobs, Darren Waller, Hunter Renfrow, and none other than Davante Adams. On defense there is one of the best pass rush duos in the league now with Maxx Crosby and Chandler Jones. Cannot forget Daniel Carlson and AJ Cole the best kicker-punter duo in the NFL.

Weaknesses: Despite the big moves for Davante Adams and Chandler Jones there are still some gaping holes on the Raiders roster. On offense outside of Adams and Renfrow there is a significant drop off in talent, the number three wide receiver for the Raiders currently being Keelan Cole. The offensive line is still a huge problem, outside of Kolton Miller and Andre James I cannot say that Carr will be well protected this year. Defensively I still see cornerback as a weak point of the team, Nate Hobbs will continue to standout in the slot cornerback role but will Rock Ya-Sin and Anthony Averett be able to step things up in Las Vegas is the real question. The Raiders made a trip into the NFL postseason last season, it should be very doable this season with an upgraded roster.

Los Angeles Chargers

Bolt up Chargers fans 2022 is looking like it is going to be a season for the Chargers franchise record books. You thought this Chargers team was good in 2021, how about adding J.C. Jackson, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Khalil Mack being added to the defense? Offensively, not as exciting but the Chargers brought in Gerald Everett to start at tight end and drafted a new starting right guard Zion Johnson. The Chargers also drafted Isaiah Spiller in the fourth round, he has been dealing with a lot of preseason injury issues and has been bumped down the depth chart but could be back come week one or two of the season. The rest of the Chargers free agent additions and draft picks should just serve as overall depth for the team.

Strengths: Is the entire team an option? From offense, to defense, to special teams the Chargers roster is outstanding. I could go on and on about how great this Chargers roster is and how they are very much deserving of a serious talk at a super bowl run, but I will keep it short and sweet. An offense led by Justin Herbert let alone will be successful, but then add Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen, and Mike Williams to the equation and you are looking at one of the best quartets in the NFL. On defense you have Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack rushing the passer, J.C. Jackson, Asante Samuel Jr., Michael Davis, and Bryce Callahan locking down opposing wide receivers. Also not to mention Derwin James and Nasir Adderley roaming around as the team’s safeties.

Weaknesses: Tight end, and even at that Gerald Everett is still a fine option just not a real strength on this stellar roster. There is nothing else on the Chargers roster I can honestly say is a weak point of the team, this is the season for the Chargers to make a run for the Lombardi trophy.

Denver Broncos

Broncos country let’s ride! The Denver Broncos finished last in the AFC West for the second straight season with a 7-10 record, and the team made a big move this offseason getting Russell Wilson to be the new man under center. The Broncos also brought in a big-time player on the opposite side of the ball, former Dallas Cowboy defensive end Randy Gregory. In the 2022 NFL Draft the Denver Broncos did not draft a single pick that is currently slated to start the season for the Broncos. It is still early August, and this is not a bad thing at all it just goes to prove that the team starters are strong, and these rookies can have time to truly develop and learn the system.

Strengths: Russell Wilson at quarterback has taken the Broncos from being a bottom five team in the AFC to contenders for a division title. The running back position is another strength for the Denver Broncos, Javonte Williams and Melvin Gordon were exceptional last season and despite Wilson being there I can easily see a run-heavy offense forming in Denver. The safety position is another strong suit for the Broncos, Justin Simmons is one of the best safeties in the league and veteran Kareem Jackson will continue to do what he does at strong safety.

Weaknesses: Tight end position, like the Chargers the Denver Broncos have a lack of talent at the tight end position. The Broncos talent at the tight end position however I would say is still significantly lower than the Chargers. It should not be detrimental to the Broncos offense, but it is something worth noting as a weak part of the team. The linebacker group is another weak point of the Broncos, Randy Gregory and Bradley Chubb are listed as linebackers on the depth chart but will primarily serve as the team’s two edge rushers.

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