AFC West: Camp goals, roster breakdown

By The Sports Xchange
Denver Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak holds the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California on February 7, 2016. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI
1 of 3 | Denver Broncos Head Coach Gary Kubiak holds the Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, California on February 7, 2016. The Broncos defeated the Carolina Panthers 24-10. Photo by Brian Kersey/UPI | License Photo

AFC West camp capsules



CAMP CALENDAR: Full squad reports July 27; first practice July 28; practices with 49ers Aug. 17-18; camp breaks Aug. 18.


--Find a starting quarterback. Gary Kubiak must choose between Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. At the close of OTAs, Kubiak said Sanchez and Siemian were neck and neck, with Lynch behind. However, Lynch's upside is the highest in the group. How he develops in training camp could determine the path this three-way battle takes; if it's close to even between the three quarterbacks, Kubiak could gamble on upside. But if the raw Lynch isn't ready, the Broncos will hope their system and pair of Pro Bowl wide receivers gets the most out of either Sanchez or Siemian.

--Stabilize the offensive line. Center Matt Paradis is the only returning starter at his position. Free-agent pickups Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson will have to get settled in at left and right tackle, respectively. Second-year veteran Ty Sambrailo, the Week 1 left tackle last year, is at right guard after recovering from a torn labrum. Last year's swing interior backup, 2015 fourth-round pick Max Garcia, is the left guard. The changes were necessary after a year in which the line struggled at times, particularly in pass protection, but it will take some time for the unit to congeal -- and for Sambrailo to adjust to his new role.



QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Mark Sanchez. Backups -- Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch.

What Gary Kubiak has called an open competition will be the focal point of Broncos camp. Lynch is undoubtedly the future, but when does that begin? The nature of his college offense -- spread, no-huddle and with the calls given directly from the sidelines via poster board to the entire offense -- makes his learning curve steep, although he has excellent touch on the deep ball and an outstanding feel for the pass rush. Sanchez delivered roughly league-average play during his starts in Philadelphia the last two years, but must cut out the costly interceptions if he is to earn the job. Siemian, a seventh-round pick last year, is the only returning quarterback and is comfortable in the system; he has improved his accuracy from his rookie season, when he was coming off a torn ACL from his 2014 campaign at Northwestern. He takes what's there, but if he's to make a push for the starting job, he needs to take advantage of open receivers downfield.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- C.J. Anderson, FB Andy Janovich. Backups -- Ronnie Hillman, Devontae Booker, FB/RB Juwan Thompson, Kapri Bibbs, Cyrus Gray.


The manner in which Anderson returned wasn't part of the Broncos' plan; their low restricted free-agent tender offer led the Miami Dolphins to offer a four-year contract that the Broncos matched. But the Broncos will need Anderson more than ever -- and will need him to contribute more in the early season than he did last year, when he struggled with a sprained ankle before getting untracked. The battle between Booker and Hillman to be the backup should be spirited. Janovich gives Kubiak the true fullback he likes to use, but Thompson, a tailback the last two years, offers versatility and could be in the mix as the only player who can handle both positions.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Virgil Green. Backups -- Jeff Heuerman, Garrett Graham, Henry Krieger-Coble, Manasseh Garner. Success at this position requires somebody stepping beyond their previous role. Can Green finally become as much of a pass-catching threat as he is as a blocker. Can Heuerman overcome the torn ACL that sidelined him for his rookie season? He missed most of the team work in OTAs because of a hamstring injury, delaying his development. Could Graham become a consistent contributor? Krieger-Coble and Garner took advantage of injuries to Green and Heuerman during OTAs and delivered some solid play, one or both could end up on the 53-man roster or practice squad.


WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders. Backups -- Jordan Norwood, Cody Latimer, Bennie Fowler, Jordan Taylor, DeVier Posey, Mose Frazier, Kalif Raymond, Durron Neal.

Thomas and Sanders are one of the league's best duos, but Thomas must overcome the spate of drops that defined his 2015 season. The intrigue is for the spots behind him; Norwood, the No. 3 receiver last year, returns, but Fowler, Latimer and Taylor will provide stern competition. Fowler and Latimer have extensive special-teams roles, but Taylor was a training-camp standout last year who helped Peyton Manning during his rehab period last season continued his proclivity for deep receptions in OTAs this year.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Russell Okung, LG Max Garcia, C Matt Paradis, RG Ty Sambrailo, RT Donald Stephenson. Backups -- T Michael Schofield, G Connor McGovern, G Robert Myers Jr., C James Ferentz, C/G Sam Brenner, T Kyle Roberts, C Dillon Day, G Aaron Neary, T Cameron Jefferson, T Darrion Weems, T LarsHanson, T Justin Murray.

The projected starting quintet all fit the zone-blocking scheme coach Gary Kubiak and offensive coordinator Rick Dennison favor, with Okung and Stephenson accumulating plenty of similar work in their previous stops with the Seahawks and Chiefs, respectively. But as was the case last year, it will take some time for this group to come together. The cohesion process was delayed by the recoveries of Okung and Sambrailo from surgeries, but both are good to go for training camp. Schofield, a starter at right tackle last season, should be the swing tackle; he worked on the left side in place of Okung during OTAs. The competition for backup slots is wide open, but McGovern, a fourth-round pick, could be the backup on the interior, and Ferentz is a quick, agile backup who is an ideal scheme fit.


DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- DE Derek Wolfe, NT Sylvester Williams, DE Vance Walker. Backups -- DE Jared Crick, NT Phil Taylor, DE Adam Gotsis, DE Kenny Anunike, NT Phil Taylor, NT Kyle Peko, NT David Moala, NT Calvin Heurtelou, DE Eddie Yarbrough, DE Shaneil Jenkins.

Malik Jackson's free-agent departure for Jacksonville leaves this unit in a state of flux. Wolfe is set after signing a contract extension, and Williams delivers solid play on the nose -- although not enough to compel the Broncos to pick up his fifth-year option for 2017. But to replace Jackson, look for the Broncos to rely on a combination of Walker, Crick and Gotsis, the second-round pick whose athleticism and reach should make him a good fit -- once he completes recovery from the torn ACL that ended his senior season at Georgia Tech. Taylor and Anunike are the wild cards in the group. Taylor, a former first-round pick of the Browns, could revive his career in this scheme. Anunike is an explosive pass rusher, but his first two seasons ended on injured reserve after an injury-plagued college stint at Duke that saw him granted a rare sixth year of eligibility because of the extent of his injury absences. He didn't practice during OTAs as he completed recovery from another knee injury; he faces what could be a now-or-never summer.


LINEBACKERS: Starters -- LOLB Von Miller, ROLB DeMarcus Ware, ILB Brandon Marshall, ILB Todd Davis. Backups -- OLB Shaquil Barrett, OLB Shane Ray, ILB Corey Nelson, ILB Zaire Anderson, OLB Dekoda Watson, OLB Vontarrius Dora, OLB Kyle Kragen, OLB Sadat Sulleyman, ILB Dwayne Norman, ILB Frank Shannon.

With Miller re-signed to a six-year contract and Marshall signed through the 2020 season, the Broncos should once again boast one of the most aggressive linebacking corps in the NFL. Ware's role will bear monitoring; he is likely to have his repetitions limited to try to extend his effectiveness after he missed time with a back injury last year. But Ware also missed all of OTAs because of a back problem; with Miller unsigned at the time, Barrett and Ray got the first-team work.

Ray has sharpened his game and is in tremendous shape; if his work as a run defender improves, he could beat out Barrett for the bulk of the relief work for Ware. Davis is penciled in as the replacement for free-agent departure Danny Trevathan, but will have to hold off Nelson and Anderson, among others.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- CB Chris Harris Jr., CB Aqib Talib, SS T.J. Ward, FS Darian Stewart. Backups -- CB Bradley Roby, CB Kayvon Webster, S Justin Simmons, S Shiloh Keo, CB Lorenzo Doss, CB Taurean Nixon, CB B.J. Lowery, CB John Tidwell, S Will Parks, S Brandian Ross, S Antonio Glover.


The starting "No Fly Zone" returns intact, but questions linger about Talib's recovery from a gunshot wound last month that sidelined him for the end of OTAs and prevented him from visiting the White House. If he isn't ready to go, Roby, the nickel back the last two years, will step into the first-team role; the 2014 first-round pick is good enough to start for most teams.

Webster, Doss and Nixon will fight for the No. 4 cornerback spot; Doss and Nixon were draft picks last year, while Webster, a special-teams standout, is in the final year of his contract. Ward and Stewart are set as the starting safeties, but the Broncos need at least one of their rookies to develop into the No. 3 option and fill David Bruton Jr.'s vacated role in the three-safety dime sub package. Simmons is the best candidate; he has excellent range and smarts. Parks, a sixth-round pick, also earned praise for his ball-hawking skills and intelligence during offseason work.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Brandon McManus, P Britton Colquitt, LS Casey Kreiter, KOR Kalif Raymond, PR Jordan Norwood, P Riley Dixon, LS Nathan Theus, KOR/PR Bralon Addison, KOR/PR Mose Frazier.

McManus is the only certainty in a group that absorbed massive turnover with the release of long snapper Aaron Brewer and the free-agent departures of Omar Bolden and Andre Caldwell. Colquitt will have to fight off Dixon, a seventh-round pick who was one of the best precision punters in college football last year. The battle for the returner slots is wide open, and could be determined by which potential returner has the biggest role on offense or defense. That could end up being Norwood, the No. 3 receiver last year who ripped off a 61-yard punt return in Super Bowl 50. Kreiter, who spent the last two summers in Cowboys camp, will have to fight off Theus, a rookie pickup.



CAMP CALENDAR: Rookies and quarterbacks report July 26; veterans check in July 29; first practice is July 30 at Missouri Western State University in St. Joseph. Camp ends on August 18, before the Chiefs play the Rams in Los Angeles for preseason game No. 2.


--Settle on a starting offensive line: If the Chiefs are going to step forward on offense with their three running backs and improved talent at wide receiver, the blocking unit must be ready to perform at a winning level right off the bat. Both tackles are solid, but the inside three will be the area where improvement must be shown quickly and consistently during the preseason work.

--Find a consistent pass rush while they wait for leading sacker Justin Houston to return from injury. Both head coach Andy Reid and general manager John Dorsey have expressed confidence that Houston will be on the field in the 2016 season. The question mark is the timing of his return. Dee Ford, along with the defensive line, will need to step up their production on the pass rush.



QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Alex Smith. Backups - Tyler Bray, Kevin Hogan, Aaron Murray.

Smith is coming off one of the best seasons of his career, throwing 20 touchdown passes against seven interceptions, completing 65.3 percent of his throws and surviving often porous pass protection; he was sacked 45 times. Reid and his offensive staff lost their security blanket in the offseason with backup Chase Daniel following Doug Pederson to the Eagles. Right now, the depth chart does not include a quarterback that's taken a snap in a regular-season NFL game. If Bray, Hogan or Murray falter, the Chiefs will likely reach for a seasoned backup.

RUNNING BACKS: Starters - Jamaal Charles, FB Anthony Sherman. Backups - Knile Davis, FB Trey Millard, Darrin Reaves, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West.

When Charles went down in the season's fifth game with a torn ACL, the Chiefs' offensive future appeared dim. But Ware and West came off the bench and made something happen with their opportunities, producing 1,256 yards and 11 touchdowns as runners and receivers. Ware and West blew past Davis on the depth chart, and he didn't have many touches in the offense until the second-round game in the playoffs against New England, where he had a momentum-killing fumble.


TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Travis Kelce. Backups - Demetrius Harris, James O'Shaughnessy, Brian Parker, Ross Travis.

Kelce came through with his most productive season, catching 72 passes for 875 yards, five touchdowns and a trip to the Pro Bowl. He's far from a finished product however, and needs to play with more consistency, with fewer penalties and fewer dropped passes. The backups are largely untested as Harris and Travis are former college basketball players. O'Shaughnessy displayed good hands in limited snaps as a rookie last year before he was shelved by a foot injury and Parker proved to be an effective blocker.

WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Jeremy Maclin, Albert Wilson. Backups - Da'Ron Brown, Chris Conley, Frankie Hammond, Tyreek Hill, Seantavius Jones, Mitch Matthews, Kashif Moore, Demarcus Robinson, Rod Streater, De'Anthony Thomas, Mike Williams.

Maclin and Wilson led all the wide receivers last year with a combined 122 catches and 10 touchdown catches. As a rookie, Conley showed flashes of the ability the Chiefs saw when they picked him in the third round of the 2015 draft. Former Raiders receiver Streater was signed and they drafted Robinson and Hill, who both bring from their college careers speed on the field and baggage off the gridiron. Speaking of the past, Williams was signed after sitting out the 2015 season, which included a four-game NFL suspension. Thomas has returned after his year ended early because of a concussion. Matthews is a big (6-foot-5) target and showed consistency catching during the offseason workouts.


OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Eric Fisher, LG Parker Ehinger, C Mitch Morse, RG Laurent Duvernay-Tardif, RT Mitchell Schwartz. Backups - G Jordan Devey, T Curtis Feigt, G/T Reid Fragel, C/G Zach Fulton, G Garrick Mayweather, C Daniel Munyer, G Drew Nowak, G/T Jarrod Pughsley, T/G Jah Reid, RT Zach Sterup.

It was halfway through the 2015 season before the offensive line stabilized and provided better protection for Smith. The problems showed themselves in training camp and the preseason, but there were not a lot of options for Reid at that time. Those options appear much better this summer. The addition of Schwartz at right tackle shored up the weakest spot in the group. There is a question mark at left guard, where the rookie Ehinger ran with the first unit in most of the offseason practices. Fulton, Devey, Nowak and Reid will also compete for that spot. That's a lot of NFL experience on the bench, something the Chiefs did not have last year.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LDE Jaye Howard, NT Dontari Poe, RDE Allen Bailey. Backups - DE Niko Davis, DE Chris Jones, DT David King, DT Rakeem Nunez-Roche, DT Jimmy Staten, DT Alameda Ta'amu, DE Nick Williams.


Former starter Mike DeVito retired after suffering a pair of concussions last year. The Chiefs were able to keep Howard with a new contract and they used their top choice in the draft grabbing Jones early in the second round. Depth at the position is not sterling, with little regular-season experience; the six backups have a combined 52 games played and three starts. Poe is in the final year of his contract and needs a good season to collect in 2017 free agency, whether with the Chiefs or another team.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - WOLB Tamba Hali, WILB Derrick Johnson, SILB Josh Mauga, SOLB Justin Houston. Backups - ILB Tyrell Adams, ILB D.J. Alexander, OLB Dee Ford, ILB Justin March, OLB Jonathan Massaquoi, OLB Dezman Moses, OLB Andy Mulumba, OLB Dadi Nicolas, ILB Terrance Smith, ILB Ramik Wilson, OLB Frank Zombo.

The second level of the defense is the strongest group on the roster, even with Johnson (33) and Hali (32) rolling on the downside of productive careers. There's also a question about Houston, who had late ACL surgery and may not be ready until midseason. It's a chance for Ford to justify the first-round position he holds from the 2014 draft. March sat out last season with a knee injury after showing some talent to contribute despite his size on the inside (6-foot, 222). Zombo, Wilson, Mulumba, Moses, Massaquoi and Alexander will make their contributions in the kicking game.


DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Marcus Peters, RCB Phillip Gaines, FS Eric Berry, SS Ron Parker. Backups - S Stevie Brown, CB Deveron Carr, S Marcus Cooper, S Akeem Davis, CB Shannon Edwards, S Jamell Fleming, CB Vernon Harris, CB Tre Jones, CB Eric Murray, CB Steven Nelson, S Shak Randolph, CB KeiVarae Russell, S Daniel Sorensen, CB D.J. White.

Losing starting right cornerback Sean Smith (UFA signed with Oakland) and safety depth in Husain Abdullah (retired) and Tyvon Branch (UFA signed with Houston) put a dent in the secondary depth chart. The first chance to replace Smith will go to Gaines, who is coming off an ACL injury/surgery last fall. As a rookie in 2015, opposing offenses challenged Peters every week, but he handled it well enough to be named the league's Defensive Rookie of the Year. The Chiefs invested heavily at cornerback with three selections in the draft, including Russell who saw some offseason work with the No. 1 unit. Berry returned from his bout with cancer and earned another trip to the Pro Bowl. Parker is the jack of all trades for coordinator Bob Sutton, playing both safety spots, cornerback and nickel back in the slot. Backup corners Cooper and Fleming have been moved to safety.


SPECIAL TEAMS: K Cairo Santos, P Dustin Colquitt, LS James Winchester, KR Knile Davis, PR Tyreek Hill.

In his second season, Santos showed improved leg strength on kickoffs and better accuracy on field goals last year. Colquitt continued his long career of consistent punting and is coming off minor knee surgery without any problems. The explosive Hill will be worth watching, as he brings a speed and quickness that's comparable to former Chiefs returner Dante Hall. If Davis makes the roster, special teams coordinator Dave Toub will have several options in the return game. The top nine coverage performers from last season will go to camp in St. Joseph.


CAMP CALENDAR: All players report July 28. Camp breaks Aug. 16.


--Integrate new faces into revamped secondary. Three news starters were added -- cornerback Sean Smith and free safety Reggie Nelson in free agency, and safety Karl Joseph, a first-round pick, in the draft. The expectation is that these three players, who join starting cornerback David Amerson, immediately take an area that was a major problem and develop it into a strength. One problem -- neither Nelson nor Joseph, the back end of the defense, was involved in any of the on-field portion of the off-season in OTAs or minicamps. Both were rehabbing injuries. Keeping both on the practice field throughout camp and the preseason will be crucial for development and continuity.


--Develop a previously anemic running game. Coach Jack Del Rio and general manager Reggie McKenzie are big on being a physical running team to go along with a strong defense. Inroads were made in the latter area, but the running game was poor, particularly in the second half of the season. The Raiders finished 28th on the ground and there were no major shakeups among the running backs, with Latavius Murray still the lead runner with a respectable 1,066 yards.

The big addition is Kalechi Osemele to the offensive line at left guard, which is expected to add a mean streak, physicality and ostensibly an average yards per carry of better than the 3.9 the Raiders finished at in 2015.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter -- Derek Carr. Backups -- Matt McGloin and Connor Cook.

The Raiders have hitched their hopes to Carr, who was a revelation in the first half of the 2015 season and a disappointment in the second when pass protection broke down and he began getting hit with regularity. He is the unquestioned leader and as he goes, so will go the Raiders offense. McGloin was given a second-round tender to make sure there was a reliable backup with starting experience, and the Raiders pounced when Cook was available in the fourth round. Cook will push McGloin for the backup job.


RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- RB Latavius Murray, FB Jamize Olawale. Backups -- George Atkinson III, Roy Helu Jr., Taiwan Jones, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, FB Marcel Reece.

Murray led the Raiders with 1,066 yards, 49 first downs and nine rushes of 20 or more yards. He wore down as the season went on due to lack of complementary runner. The best candidate to become that back is Washington, a fifth-round pick out of Texas Tech whose build probably reminds Del Rio of Maurice Jones-Drew, his lead back while coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars. Helu had post-season surgery on both hips last season and the hope is he can contribute, while Jones is primarly a special teams player. Reece, who basically split time with Olawale as the fullback a year ago, is suspended for the first three games of the season for being in violation of the policy for performance enhancing drugs.

TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Clive Walford. Backups -- Gabe Holmes, Ryan O'Malley, Mychal Rivera, Lee Smith and Colton Underwood.

Walford caught 28 passes for 329 yards and three touchdowns as a rookie and is being counted on as a threat down the middle of the field for Carr. He is expected to be fully recovered from a knee laceration sustained in an off-season ATV accident. Smith's primary role is as an in-line blocker in two-tight end sets or running downs. Rivera has been used as a chess piece, lining up in the backfield, flexed outside or even put in motion. His receiving skills (128 career receptions, 1,221 yards, nine touchdowns) keep him around.


WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Amari Cooper, Michael Crabtree. Backups -- K.L. Brent, Marvin Hall, Joe Hansley, Andre Holmes, Jimmy Holton, Max McCaffrey, Jaydon Mickens, Nathan Palmer and Seth Roberts.

Cooper caught 72 passes for 1,070 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that were probably a bit of a disappointment considering he got off to a great start and then faded -- in part because of a foot injury but also because of too many drops. Crabtree (85 receptions, 922 yards, nine touchdowns) was durable, reliable and a position group leader in a way he never was with the 49ers.

Roberts was a pleasant surprise as a slot receiver (32 receptions, 480 yards, five touchdowns) and Andre Holmes caught four touchdown passes in a limited role. While the top four are solid, competition for the remaining spot is wide open, with undrafted free agent Max McCaffrey (son of Ed McCaffrey, brother of Christian McCaffrey) having the most interesting pedigree.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Donald Penn, LG Kelechi Osemele, C Rodney Hudson, RG Gabe Jackson, RT Menelik Watson. Backups -- G-T Vadal Alexander, G Mitch Bell, C Ross Burbank, G Jon Feliciano, T Austin Howard, G Denver Kirkland, G Oni Omoile, G Terran Vaughn, G-T Matt McCants and T Torian White.


Bringing Penn back during unrestricted free agency enabled the Raiders to keep continuity at left tackle while putting Osemele, their prize free agent acquisition, at left guard. Osemele may eventually be the left tackle, but for now he gives an inside punch along with Hudson and Jackson (who moves to right guard) that line coach Mike Tice believes will make the Raiders difficult to deal with for opposing defenses.

Watson has the inside track over Howard, but both have had injury issues and the healthier player could end up with the job. Feliciano has some experience and can play at center, McCants is a swing player both inside and outside and Alexander's size, if not quickness, gives him a chance to stick.

DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Khalil Mack, DT Justin Ellis, NT Dan Williams, RE Mario Edwards Jr. Backups -- DE Denico Autry, DT Darius Latham, DT Stacy McGee, DT Leon Orr, DE-DT Drew Eddings, DE Branden Jackson, DE Damontre Moore, DE Greg Townsend and DE Jihad Ward.

Mack is a force vs. both run and pass that makes dealing with the rest of the line all that much more difficult. He'll be placed in situations to excel in both areas. Ellis and Williams give coach Jack Del Rio the kind of bulk he likes in the middle, while Edwards appears to have recovered from a neck injury after a promising rookie season. He can slide inside on passing downs for additional explosion in the pass rush. Autry was a find as a base end who can collapse the pocket and defend the run. Some considered Ward a reach as a second-round pick at tackle, but the Raiders see him much as they saw Edwards -- a raw but talented enough to contribute on some level right away on a rotational basis.


LINEBACKERS: Starters -- SLB Bruce Irvin, MLB Ben Heeney, WLB Malcolm Smith. Backups -- Neiron Ball, Daren Bates, Shilique Calhoun, Jimmy Hall, Cory James, John Lotulelei, Korey Toomer, Kyrie Wilson, James Cowser and Aldon Smith.

Irvin gives the Raiders a pass rushing bookend who in tandem with Mack could give opponents lots of trouble, and he has a background with Norton, the defensive coordinator. Smith played more snaps than anyone on the Raiders defense and could have a similar role this season as the defensive signal caller, with the wide-ranging and active Heeney manning the middle when the Raiders go into a traditional 4-3 defense.

Ball ascended to a starting role early in his rookie season until sidelined with a knee injury, while Calhoun gives the Raiders still another pass rush threat from the outside. Bates is primarily a core special teams player, while Smith will miss at least nine games for violating the NFL policy on substances of abuse. Anything they get from him will be a bonus.

DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB David Amerson, RCB Sean Smith, SS Karl Joseph, FS Reggie Nelson, Backups -- S Nate Allen, CB-S TJ Carrie, CB Kenneth Durden, CB Antonio Hamilton, S Chris Hackett, CB DJ Hayden, CB Dexter McDonald, S Keith McGill, CB Neiko Thorpe, S Chris Edwards, S SaQwan Edwards, S Dewey McDonald and S Braynden Trawick


Amerson was locked up to a lucrative contract extension that will make him nearly as much as Smith, plucked away from the Chiefs in free agency. It should give the Raiders their best cornerback play in years, with two long players capable of singling up and playing press coverage. Joseph's physicality was always in evidence in college, but his playmaking skills were impressive before a knee injury ended his senior year.

Nelson is coming off a season with a career-high eight interceptions and both men will be counted on to shore up the back end. Carrie, who can play corner or safety, has the best shot at being the primary nickel back, but Thorpe was given a second-round tender to keep him around and the Raiders are hoping Hayden, in a contract year, can make a run at being the kind of player they thought he was as a first-round pick in 2013. Trawick was brought in to be a core special teams player.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Sebastian Janikowski, P Marquette King, LS Jon Condo, KOR Taiwan Jones, PR TJ Carrie.

Janikowski led the Raiders with 101 points but his kickoffs have been losing steam in recent years and in some games he didn't appear to have the complete confidence of coach Jack Del Rio. King was signed to an extension and has made great strides as a touch punter since replacing Shane Lechler. Condo will be given every opportunity to regain his job as the long-snapper after being lost late in the season to a shoulder dislocation. Both return spots are wide open, with room for an undrafted free agent or a player perhaps not even on the roster to seize the moment and win a job in a problem area for the Raiders.



CAMP CALENDAR: Full squad reports July 29; first practice July 30; practice with the Cardinals, Aug. 16 at Qualcomm Stadium; camp breaks Aug. 20.


--Develop a running game: The Chargers are eager to prove they were keen in trading up to draft running back Melvin Gordon last year, even if that bet has yet to pay off. With a healthier offensive line, the Chargers' task of getting Gordon untracked is improved.

--Solidify the secondary: Newcomer Dwight Lowery has to replace All-Pro Eric Weddle at free safety and can the Chargers nurse another year out of Brandon Flowers at cornerback? Casey Hayward will push Flowers and Jason Verrett, the other corner, has to live up to his top-shelf status.


QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Philip Rivers. Backups - Kellen Clemens, Zach Mettenberger, Mike Bercovici.

Rivers remains among the game's elite quarterbacks, a distinction he holds with the Chargers yet to establish a running game to support him. Mark in 4,000 passing yards and some 30 touchdown passes for Rivers, as he should once again shine playing for coordinator Ken Whisenhunt. Clemens, in his 11th year, has to hold off Mettenberger. The former LSU star was brought in to challenge Clemens and he has a connection with Whisenhunt after starting for him in Tennessee.


RUNNING BACKS: Starter - Melvin Gordon. Backups - Danny Woodhead, Branden Oliver, FB Derek Watt, FB Chris Swain, Kenneth Farrow, Dreamius Smith.

Gordon's next rushing touchdown will be his first and the Chargers want him to get that and much more this season after a disappointing rookie campaign. The Chargers drafted a fullback in Derek Watt and promise not to make Gordon run out of the shotgun as often. Woodhead remains a dynamite option on third down as pound-for-pound, he's the Chargers' top player. Oliver is easy to overlook, but he gives a nice change of pace to Gordon. The key is Gordon and the Chargers staying committed to the run, which isn't always easy to do with Rivers at quarterback.

TIGHT ENDS: Starters -- Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry. Backups - Asante Cleveland, Jeff Cumberland, Sean McGrath, Tim Semisch, Matt Weiser.

Gates returns for his 14th season and, of course, he's not nearly the player he once was. But he can still secure catches on third down and his presence opens up the rest of the field for his teammates. Henry was drafted as Gates' heir apparent and he'll be given every chance to become the main target at this position. Henry has no better teacher than Gates.


WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters - Keenan Allen, Travis Benjamin. Backups - Stevie Johnson, Dontrelle Inman, Javontee Herndon, Torrence Allen, Tyrell Williams, Don Williams, DeAndre Reaves, Jamaal James, Isaiah Burse.

Allen was en route to setting franchise receiving marks before a kidney injury in November derailed his season. He's back and is primed for a big season as the team's unquestionable No. 1 receiver. Benjamin is a burner, something Rivers has seldom had to stretch the defense. Johnson and Rivers clicked early last year and the two should build on that foundation. Inman and Herndon got some significant experience last year because of the injuries and will be ready to contribute if called upon.

OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT King Dunlap, LG Orlando Franklin, C Matt Slauson, RG D.J. Fluker, RT Joe Barksdale. Backups -- T Chris Hairston, T Brett Boyko, T Tyreek Burwell, T Tyler Johnstone, T Mike McQueen, G/T Kenny Wiggins, G Vi Teofilo, C Trevor Robinson, C Chris Watt, C Max Tuerk, C Spencer Pulley, G Donavon Clark.

The Chargers are certain last year's debacle along the line won't repeat itself as the team was forced to use 24 different offensive linemen because of injuries. The Chargers are banking on just that as they've kept the unit intact other than bringing in Slauson, a free agent from the Bears. Slauson has plenty of nasty in him, which the line can use -- as well as a clean bill of health.


DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - DLE Corey Liuget, NT Brandon Mebane, DRE Joey Bosa. Backups -- NT Sean Lissemore, NT Ryan Carrethers, DT Tenny Palepoi, DT Carlos Wray, DT Damion Square, DE Darius Philon, DL Chuke Ndulue.

Mebane's addition was among the more critical moves of the offseason. He provides a long sought-after anchor to the defensive front that will help Liuget blossom and give aid to the inside linebackers as the unit attempts to shore up the woeful run defense. Liuget could have a Pro-Bowl season with offensive lines worried about Bosa, the team's top pick out of Ohio State. With Mebane and Bosa added to the line, this could become a team strength.

LINEBACKERS: Starters - LOLB Jerry Attaochu, ILB Manti Te'o, ILB Denzel Perryman, ROLB Melvin Ingram. Backups -- OLB Kyle Emmanuel, OLB Tourek Williams, OLB Jatavis Brown, OLB Ben Gardner, OLB Chris Landrum, OLB Tyler Marcordes, OLB Shaq Petteway, ILB Joshua Perry, ILB Nick Dzubnar, LB James Ross.

Te'o and Perryman continue to grow and their play and youth is among the reasons the Chargers think they can get the run defense back on track. Ingram produced a double-digit sack season last year and the Chargers are hoping that's just the beginning of Ingram proving himself as a plus-pass rusher. Attaochu continues to grow, but it will be interesting to see if Bosa is put at an outside position on passing downs instead of lining up along the line. If so, that could cut into Attaochu's playing time. But this unit is solid, with a chance to be excellent.


DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Brandon Flowers, RCB Jason Verrett, FS Dwight Lowery, SS Jahleel Addae. Backups - CB Casey Hayward, CB Steve Williams, CB Greg Ducre, CB Terrell Chestnut, CB Craig Mager, CB Larry Scott, S Dexter McColl, S Adrian McDonald, S Adrian Phillips.

Verrett is close to gaining shutdown-corner status and looks to build on last year's Pro-Bowl season. Flowers was torched with regularity in 2015 and has to show he can still track receivers. Don't be surprised if he's beat out by Hayward and slides inside on passing downs. Addae and Lowery have to direct a secondary that is missing Eric Weddle, the equivalent of an on-field coach. An improved pass rush -- hello Bosa -- could show up back here as well.

SPECIAL TEAMS: K Josh Lambo P Drew Kaser, P Kasey Redfern, LS Mike Windt, KOR Travis Benjamin, PR Travis Benjamin.

The Chargers completed their youth movement with their legs, moving in rookie Drew Kaser to replace Mike Scifres, one year after Lambo replaced Nick Novak. Lambo proved he had the leg strength and accuracy that the team didn't miss the veteran Novak. Kaser will be given that same opportunity. The Chargers were dreadful in the return game last year with free agent Jacoby Jones being a bust. They hope they've hit on Benjamin and that his legs are much fresher than Jones.


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