This is part eight of an eight part series detailing players that have jumped out at me and made me say, "Man!! That guy would be a good Raider!"
In the glory years, the AFC West was the toughest division in all of football. There would be at least three of the four teams worthy of playoff consideration. Over the past three years, it has been steadily declining to where only one team in the division can be considered a playoff contender.
Rich in tradition, the AFC West still plays a style that is still reminiscent of the old AFL days. All four teams can run the ball, they can usually pass, and usually can defend the pass. Most often than not, the winner of the West is the team that can stop the run the most effectively.
Before I start, let's take a look at the past articles written in other divisions:
I'm going to try and not make big reaches, so I'll find at least one player per team, but no promises past that. If you have any suggestions, post them.
This is a team that is very much in transition. The problem is that even Broncos fans are unsure where this team is heading. I like guys like John Lynch and Dre Bly, but I think they may be on their way out of the league. I also liked Jay Cutler when he came out of the draft, but he has yet proven to be consistent. Brandon Marshall was looking like he may have star material, but this off season hasn't been the best for the young receiver.
OC - Tom Nalen: I have nothing but respect for this guy. Not a big guy by today's standards at all, he's still a force in the middle of the Broncos line. I thought he was retiring, but I guess I was wrong. He's supposed to be back next year after suffering a torn biceps injury. For a lineman, that can be the injury that ends your career.
CB - Champ Bailey: I'd argue that he's the best in the league, but let's just say I wouldn't be disappointed if he wore different colors. One of the three or four best corners playing in the NFL today.
LB - D.J. Williams: Right now he's in the middle, but his natural position is outside. Regardless of the position, he excels as a linebacker. He's fast and strong. He can stand up the fullback and still make the tackle on the runner, and he can cover too. He's also pretty crazy looking, which may be my favorite thing about him.
DE - Elvis Dumervil: In 29 regular seasons over two years, he's already gotten 21 sacks. He's only 23! I don't think I'm looking forward to the next five years of his career.
Kansas City Chiefs
This is another AFC West team that seems to be in decline. They have some good players, but I'm not a big fan of the staff coaching them up. Napoleon Harris, In my opinion, was a good Raider, but he won't make the list here. The Chiefs have much to prove as a team before some of the players will make the list.
TE - Tony Gonzalez: Not much needs to be said about this guy. By the time he retires, there won't be any doubt that he's been the best pass catching tight end the game has ever seen.
WR - Dwayne Bowe: This guy is impressive. Along with Anthony Gonzalez (IND) and Sidney Rice (MIN), he looks to be a future star receiver in the league. He's fast and tall, and I'm sure that JaMarcus Russell wouldn't mind throwing to him again.
DE - Jared Allen: He grew up a fan of the Raiders, and he plays like a Howie Long on the line. He's nearly impossible to block for 60 minutes, completely disrupts an offense with his high motor. He's scary when he's going against you.
San Diego Chargers
I guess it's appropriate to save these guys for the last team I discuss in the AFC West, since they are the best right now. Although they are solid from top to bottom, many of their players are system players. Lorenzo Neal would've definitely been on this list had he remained a Charger, but I guess Norv is starting to work his magic in San Diego.
RB - LaDainian Tomlinson: Another guy that doesn't need anything said about him. If you don't know who he is or how good he is, you don't watch football.
TE - Antonio Gates: Dominating player that can block well enough and catch the ball very well. He's extraordinary at getting open when he needs to, like third and five.
OT - Marcus McNeil: Two years in the league and two pro bowls. Left tackle that dominates at the line of scrimmage. opens up nice running lanes for the Chargers' running game and protects Rivers' blind side during the passing game.
OG - Kris Dielman: A true throwback guard. Plays whistle to whistle, and has been accused of being dirty. He plays next to McNeil and the two of them form arguably the toughest left side in the game.
LB - Shawne Merriman: I can't argue with results. He really plays defensive end due to the 3-4 alignment, but you'll have a tough time finding a better pass rusher. He's mean and nasty, athletic, and has a nose for the quarterback.
DE - Igor Olshansky/Luis Castillo: I like both of these guys because they can hold up the run and rush the passer when needed. I think I like Olshansky a little better, due to the name 'Igor.' Really, can you blame me? What a great name for a lineman. Castillo is a monster in disruption and seems to make big plays for the Chargers defense.
Did I miss anyone? Did I reach too much? Agree or disagree?
Any feedback you have is greatly appreciated. I want to thank the guys that have given their feedback so far. If you think I got it wrong, let the world know by posting it.
Remember the only criteria to make my list, is that the player has had to have made an impression on me so significant that I would say to myself, "He'd be a good Raider," or "I wish he was a Raider."
Who's done that for you?