One reason to be excited for your team: AFC West Edition

Patrick Surtain II
Patrick Surtain II bolsters an already stacked Denver defense. Photo from NFL Mocks.

Looking ahead to the AFC West in 2021, here’s a reason to be positive for each team.

Chiefs

The dramatically improved offensive line is the biggest reason for Kansas City fans to be excited this season. Even before a competitive snap has been played, PFF ranked the Chiefs offensive line as the seventh-best in the NFL. There is a lot of hype surrounding this unit and rightly so.

Following the loss in Super Bowl LV, the Chiefs traded for tackle Orlando Brown Jr., parting ways with a first-round pick in the process. Brown is a quality tackle, stepping in and performing admirably in Ronnie Stanley‘s absence last year in Baltimore. Left guard Joe Thuney was signed to a huge deal in free agency, but his paycheck is sure to justify itself as Thuney has ranked among PFF’s top ten guards of the last three years.

The Chiefs also have a gluttony of options at centre after signing veteran Austin Blythe from the Rams and drafting former Oklahoma centre Creed Humphrey in the second round. The depth continues at right guard as Laurent Duvernay-Tardif returns from his one-year sabbatical to compete for the RG1 spot with veteran Kevin Long.

If Mahomes is kept clean, things are gonna get real messy for the rest of the NFL this upcoming season.

Chargers

The obvious pick here would be the 2020 ROTY Justin Herbert. However, the decision to hire defensive wizard Brandon Staley could prove to be one of the most exciting, and positive, things the franchise has done.

Per Pro Football Reference in 2020, the Staley led L.A. Rams defence ranked best in the NFL at points allowed, yards allowed, first downs allowed and passing touchdowns and yards allowed. To put it bluntly, they were one of the best defences in the entire league. Staley’s Rams put on a show in the Wild Card Round of the play-offs where they throttled MVP candidate and perennial all-pro Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offence.

If Staley brings a similar level of tenacity, brawn and scheming to this talented Chargers defence, then the Chargers have a legitimate shot of staking their claim as a contender in the AFC.


Broncos

A few eyebrows were raised when the Denver Broncos front office selected cornerback Patrick Surtain II 9th overall over Justin Fields, especially with quarterback being a question mark in this Broncos offence.

However, Vic Fangio is still one of the premier defensive coaches in the NFL and with Patrick Surtain II, the Broncos have cemented their identity as a team that will win games (or attempt to) on the strength of their defence.

Early reports out of camp indicate that Surtain II is excelling. Fangio has raved about the young corner, commenting on Surtain’s rare talent and measured demeanour. Surtain II is a fine addition to a Broncos defence that features Bradley Chubb and Von Miller upfront, Justin Simmons at safety and Kyle Fuller at cornerback. Echoes of that championship-winning defence in 2016 are reverberating around the mountains of Colorado.

Raiders

The Derek CarrHenry Ruggs connection is currently the most exciting thing surrounding the Las Vegas Raiders.

Ruggs had an up and down rookie year, emulating Tyreek Hill one week and Nelson Agholor another. Ruggs was the first receiver off the board in the 2020 NFL Draft but ultimately failed to hit expectations, finishing the season with 26 receptions, 452 yards receiving and 2 touchdowns. However, offseason reports indicate that Carr and Ruggs have improved their rapport.

Carr recently commented on how Ruggs has bounced back following a sour rookie season.

“He’s been impressive. The way he’s running routes. He’s being violent in his cuts. I think something clicked in his head. Just like with everybody, you play a season in the NFL, you go back and watch the tape and you’re like ‘Wow, I know what it takes now'”.

Ruggs certainly has the talent to succeed in the NFL but is yet to prove it. And for Carr, a quarterback who has been accused of being gun-shy in the past, Ruggs could be a huge asset this season in stretching the field. This partnership must be born out of necessity and the results can benefit Carr, Ruggs and the Raiders massively.

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About Matthew Bowen 150 Articles
Matthew is an MA history student at Swansea University. He is an avid supporter of the San Francisco 49ers and Liverpool FC. Twitter: @MatthewJBowen7

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