We had a tight race this week in our “you pick it’ feature. The winner, by a nose, was San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman ending his holdout.
It narrowly beat the story out of Oakland in which Raiders owner Al Davis compared new quarterback Jason Campbell to former quarterback Jim Plunkett, who led the Raiders to two Super Bowl victories. The other candidate, former Oakland running back Justin Fargas, signing with Denver, also got some support.
I think the readers got this one right. The losing stories were both solid, but Merriman’s return can have a big impact on the division. Davis’ words are interesting, but what do they really mean right now? Fargas will have to prove he can help Denver. The Merriman factor is big in San Diego. So, nice job, readers.
Below are some of your responses. Thanks to everyone who participated.
Mike from Sacramento: The only real story is Merriman returning. That’s the news.
Tony from San Diego: Merriman is back and the Chargers are the class of the division. That’s the story of the week.
Al Clark from Bakersfield, Calif.: Well nothing jumped out at me this week as being real big news, the Broncos signing Fargas, good for him I liked him as a Raider, but as a short yardage back with probably a little left in the tank he won't likely be very impactful. And as a Raiders fan who actually likes Al davis, he was effusive in praise to Russel, deemed him telestrater worthy even, so we will see if that is true, it would be huge for the Raiders. So almost by default I say it's Merriman but not because he showed up to camp, but because it might just give you a peek into the mindset of S.D.'s front office and what is (or is not ) in store for Jackson and Mcniel, Presuming Merrimans agent did all he could to work something out longer term and was unsuccessful. We all knew Merriman had to report, and the other two have more leverage so for my money this remains the biggest story in the AFC west, I all deference to Tebow Palooza.
Manuelito from MexicaIi, Mexico.: I think fargas joining the broncos is news, I can only imagine him making the team and running over the raiders, what a nightmare. Campbell will have a good season with the raiders but he needs more time to adapt to the raiders and there young young receiving core, the running game needs to take the load, this need to be addressed for the raiders to have a chance to seek the playoffs..go raiders!!
Joe from San Francisco: I have to go with Al Davis saying that Jason Campbell reminding him of Jim Plunkett. I like Campbell alot but Plunkett was very special. There may be some things that are alike with the two but Plunkett had the ability to find a way to win. If Campbell can develop that trait, then the Raiders may return to glory and soon.
Jack N. from Chicago: Merriman's return is definitely the story of the week. The Chargers' pass rush looked ferocious against the Bears, racking up six sacks without arguably their two best pass rushers in Merriman and English. Add a healthy Merriman and an improved English to that mix and this team could be racking up the sacks this season. Barring major injuries, the return of the Chargers best defensive player should pretty much ensure they cruise to another AFC West title while the rest of the division rebuilds.
Josh from Mission Viejo, Calif.: I'm going to have to say that Merriman's return is the real story here. Al Davis does that sort of thing all the time. As you pointed out in your column, Davis once compared JaMarcus Russell to John Elway. Davis' antics haven't been news since the 1980s. Denver signing Justin Fargas also doesn't matter a whole lot. I don't see him producing that much. He didn't do it in Oakland, and as soon as anyone, even Buckhalter, is healthy, he won't be getting many carries. Merriman's return is not so important now as it will be later. If Merriman can really produce again, then that will have a drastic impact on the Chargers defense. Otherwise, they put in Larry English and send Merriman packing.
Thomas from San Diego: Merriman returns to Chargers. He may not be the same player he was in 06-07, but the Chargers are clearly a better team with 56 on the field. The knee should be healed and I look for Merriman to return to form in 2010 and get the long-term contract he desires in 2011, but not in San Diego. Merriman is back to work and now it's time to get Marcus McNeill back on the field as well.
Devon Self from Springfield, Mo.: Story of the week has to be Jason Campbell being compared to Jim Plunkett... As a Kansas City Chiefs fan, it made me sit back and think of the type of quarterback and leader the Raiders could have on their hands. And their possibility to be a sleeper in the AFC West. THEN, I watched the preseason game (I know, it's just preseason) and Campbell looked horrible. Plunkett won the heisman trophy in college, then led the Raiders to TWO super bowl victories in the NFL. I'm sorry, but I don't see Jason Campbell making any pro bowls, playoffs, or coming anywhere close to being considered in the Hall of Fame.
Raider Ed from Oswego, N.Y.: The story has to be Big Al's Campbell-Plunkett comparison. Merriman? Who cares? Fargas? Old news. Mr. Davis obviously wants to show support for Campbell and the similarities between Campbell and Plunkett are there. In truth it's probably wishful thinking for a similar story line. Campbell is, however, a HUGE upgrade over the previous several deadbeats who have masqueraded as NFL caliber QB's for Oakland since Rich Gannon retired. Campbell actually makes Oakland competitive, which as a Raiders fan, I'll settle for at this point. The AFC West is wide open. The Chargers have slipped. The Chefs are still rebuilding. Denver is a mess. The Raiders will compete because of Campbell, whereas last year they only competed in spite of Russell.
Marcos from Ft. Worth: With Knowshon and Buckhalter sidelined, the Fargas pickup was a shrewd move on the part of McDaniels for two reasons. One, obviously to be a veteran tailback who possesses the intelligence and attitude to contribute to an underrated offense. And two, to divulge Raider gameplans and information for Denver to continue its dominance over it's longtime rival. Don't think they haven't grilled him on what he knows. Mike and Mike said both predicted a 6-10 season for this club which proves how little they know about this team. Look for the Broncos to have more confidence and stability this season and to quietly win the division with a 10-6 record.Keep up the good work Bill!
Travis Gear from Wichita, Kan.: The storyline of the week is Shawne Merriman's return to the Chargers. It is significant because San Diego's defense needs Merriman, and with him in the fold they are a more talented, complete unit. However, it is also important because it sends a potential signal to Vincent Jackson and Marcus McNeill that it is time to get into camp and start working with the team.
Will from Harrisburg, Pa.: Bill, I think Al Davis likening Campbell to Plunkett could either be a really good thing, or a major negative depending on how JC took it. Obviously, Al is hoping for the same type of huge turnaround the Raiders had in the 1980 season (apparently the Raiders were generally picked to finish last in the division that year) in which they beat the Eagles in the SuperBowl. I just hope Campbell isn't feeling too much pressure from Davis's statements. That type of talk can make or break a person. This is the biggest story of this week. We knew Merriman would be back, and Denver has far more problems than at RB (although i do believe Fargus will shine there for them, as long as he stays healthy).