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San Diego Chargers Still the Class of AFC West

Walker DanielsCorrespondent IJuly 5, 2010

SAN DIEGO - JANUARY 17:  Quarterback Philip Rivers #17 of the San Diego Chargers drops back to pass against the New York Jets during the AFC Divisional Playoff Game at Qualcomm Stadium on January 17, 2010 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Donald Miralle/Getty Images)
Donald Miralle/Getty Images

Despite early season struggles over the past couple of years, the San Diego Chargers have somehow managed to maintain their stranglehold on the National Football League’s AFC West, clinching the top spot in the division four years in a row.

A lot has changed in California over that time.

San Diego Chargers

The Chargers have transitioned from a tough defensive team that got by with a run-based attack, to one that now airs it out under franchise quarterback Philip Rivers and his countless options at receiver.

Gone is all-time franchise rushing leader LaDanian Tomlinson, and former Pro Bowl cornerback Antonio Cromartie. The status of one—time sack monster Shawne Merriman is up in the air after he busted his knee in 2008, only to return as an average player in 2009.

Still, the Chargers remain the undoubted favorite to win this division again in 2010.

This is now Rivers’ team, and with a receiving corps consisting of Vincent Jackson, Malcolm Floyd, and Antonio Gates. And with Darren Sproles as the featured back, this offense has the potential to be as dangerous as any in the league.

Denver Broncos

Josh McDaniels of the Denver Broncos is still trying to get his offense in order. After last season’s collapse, he has decided to add even more to his already complex playbook.

Big things were expected of McDaniels when he came to the team, especially after what he did with Tom Brady and Randy Moss in New England.

However, McDaniels got rid of franchise quarterback Jay Cutler and Pro Bowl receiver Brandon Marshall, and now will have to find a way to move the ball with Kyle Orton and Eddie Royal. The first—time head coach drafted college football star Tim Tebow in the first round, and has been impressed with his development, but it doesn’t look as though he will be ready for more than short—yardage plays until a year from now.

Oakland Raiders

While the Broncos took a chance drafting their potential future starter, the Oakland Raiders cut ties with their former first overall pick, quarterback Jamarcus Russell.

Russell failed to show marked improvement over the years, and with his inability to control his weight and his lack of discipline, it seemed appropriate that the Raiders cut their losses.

With Russell gone, Jason Campbell will be the starter in Oakland after being traded from the Washington Redskins. Campbell brings experience, calmness, and poise. A fresh start in a dumbed down run—oriented offense may be just what he needs. With key playmakers on both sides of the ball, the Raiders may actually overtake Denver for second spot in the division.

Kansas City Chiefs

That leaves the Kansas City Chiefs as the odd team out. The addition of Chris Chambers to a receiver corps that already features Dwayne Bowe will help quarterback Matt Cassell, but it may not be enough to overcome a lack of depth on both sides of the ball.

Todd Haley was an excellent coordinator, and could be a great head coach.

First, however, he needs the toolsto build a winner. As of yet, nobodied gone out to get them.

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