How I See It: AFC West Stock Watch

Posted by ESPN.com’s Bill Williamson

» NFC Stock Watch: East | West | North | South » AFC: East | West | North | South


Kansas City’s defense: The Chiefs' defense was a bright spot in the preseason. The Chiefs had a lot of energy and looked to be taking to the 3-4 defense well. It didn’t work so well in a season-opening loss when the Ravens exploded for 38 points. There was no pass rush and the Ravens passed at will.


Larry Johnson, Chiefs RB: Kansas City coach Todd Haley wants Johnson to be a workhorse as he was in his prime. Against the Ravens, Johnson was unable to get much going. He had only 20 yards on 11 carries.

If Johnson can‘t rebound against Oakland’s defense Sunday, the Chiefs may have to reconsider if Johnson still has much left in the tank.

San Diego’s health: The Chargers lost 40 percent of their offensive line Monday night.Center Nick Hardwick and guard Louis Vasquez both left the game early in the third quarter. Hardwick has an ankle injury and Vasquez has a knee injury. The Chargers hope both players will not be out for the long term.

Hardwick was on crutches after the game, but he appeared to be in good spirits. The Chargers gutted out the win without these two players, but with Baltimore’s tough defense coming to town Sunday, San Diego needs to regroup.


Denver’s defense: The Broncos' defense looked much improved against the Bengals. Cincinnati's offense didn’t score until the final minute of the game before Denver’s miracle victory. Denver defensive coordinator Mike Nolan is doing a fine job.

The unit was strong against the run and the pass. Denver’s defense was one of the NFL’s worst last season. It allowed 112 points in the final three games of the season and had a historic collapse. If the defensive resurgence continues, Denver could stick around a while this season.


Louis Murphy, Raiders WR: The fourth-round pick looks like a steal for the Raiders. The Florida product appeared to have won the game against San Diego on Monday night with a 57-yard touchdown catch with just over two minutes to go, but the Oakland defense couldn’t hold on.

Murphy made some good plays against San Diego and he looks polished. He will make a good team with Chaz Schilens when Schillens returns from a broken foot. Murphy looks to be light years ahead of fellow Oakland rookie receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey, who was the team’s top draft pick.

Kansas City’s offense: The Chiefs’ offense was horrible in the preseason. It was so bad that Haley fired coordinator Chan Gailey and made himself the coordinator.

Sunday at Baltimore, the Chiefs had a spark on offense and that was without starting quarterback Matt Cassel. The improvement should continue when he returns, which probably will be Sunday at home against Oakland.