Most Intriguing Players in the AFC West for 2019
By Julie Voigt and Russell S. Baxter (VIBE)
Special to Pro Football Guru
And down the stretch we come…
Welcome back to the latest work by the team of “Voigt Julie” and “Yours Truly.” With the 2019 NFL regular season roughly two and half months away, it’s a division-by-division look at each club’s most intriguing player. It started with the AFC East, where the reigning Super Bowl champion New England Patriots have won a league-record 10 straight division titles. Then onto the NFC East, where the Dallas Cowboys are coming off capturing their third division title since 2014.
A year ago, the Baltimore Ravens won six of their final seven games to overcome a 4-5 start and win the AFC North for the first time since 2012. This past season, the Chicago Bears won the NFC North for the first time since 2010 as new head coach Matt Nagy’s club finished 12-4. As for the AFC South, the Houston Texans opened 0-3 and the Indianapolis Colts started 1-5 this past season and both reached the playoffs. Then there’s the NFC South? In 2017, the division sent three teams to the playoffs. A year ago, only the New Orleans Saints boasted a winning record as Sean Payton’s club finished as the top seed in the NFC.
Speaking of the number one team in the conference, it was the AFC West champion Kansas City Chiefs that would host the AFC title game this past season. Andy Reid’s team finished with a 12-4, as did the playoff-bound Los Angeles Chargers. Both figure to be in the playoff mix again. But can the Denver Broncos and Oakland Raiders bounce back from disappointing seasons?
Here’s Part 7 of the series (teams are in order of 2018 finish):
Kansas City Chiefs
DT Chris Jones
VI: Andy Reid’s team tied for the NFL lead with 52 sacks in 2018. Jones finished third in the league with 15.5 quarterback traps. But the talented defender wasn’t around for OTAs or the Chiefs’ mandatory minicamp this offseason. Of course, training camp is within sight (veterans report on July 26). But will Jones – in the final year of his rookie contract – be a sight there as well?
Los Angeles Chargers
OLB Thomas Davis
BE: Save for the recent Melvin Gordon news, it’s been a pretty quiet offseason for a very talented team capable of making a Super Bowl run. The Chargers drafted seven players in April with all of their original picks and were pretty quiet during free agency. Thomas was a standout with the Carolina Panthers for more than a decade but wasn’t brought back this offseason. His postseason experience and savvy could be a huge plus for Anthony Lynn’s squad.
QB Joe Flacco
VI: Over the past three seasons, Denver has used four different starting quarterbacks – Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Case Keenum. And unfortunately for this club, Denver has not made a playoff appearance since Peyton Manning was at the helm in 2015 on the way to a Super Bowl 50 title. By adding the 34-year-old veteran via a trade Baltimore in March, the team and new head coach Vic Fangio has a proven commodity in Flacco, who has certainly made his presence felt in the postseason. But can the Broncos get there?
RB Josh Jacobs
BE: A season ago, the ground game of the Silver and Black was slightly improved from 2017. Still, the Raiders were ranked 25th in the league in rushing for the second consecutive year. The former University of Alabama performer doesn’t have a lot of wear and tear due to the depth in the Crimson Tide backfield. But Jacobs is the kind of physical runner that could jump start the Raiders’ running game.
Julie Voigt (JulieNoted_PFG) and Russell S. Baxter (@BaxFootballGuru) are the co-founders of @pfgVIBE. Julie is also the Colts’ reporter for OurTurf Football while Russell writes for FanSided and NFL Spin Zone.