DENVER BRONCOS (9-9)
OPEN CAMP: July 25.
LAST YEAR: Broncos returned to playoffs after six-year absence behind inaccurate but incredibly clutch Tim Tebow. Then they upset Pittsburgh in first round on Tebow's 80-yard TD toss to Demaryius Thomas before bowing out with blowout loss at New England. Fan base had barely caught its breath when Peyton Manning was signed and Tebow was sent to the New York Jets in March.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: Manning, S Mike Adams, CB Drayton Florence, CB Tracy Porter, DT Derek Wolfe (draft), DT Justin Bannan, DT Ty Warren, TE Joel Dreessen, TE Jacob Tamme.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: S Brian Dawkins, WR Eddie Royal, Tebow.
CAMP NEEDS: Manning showed during offseason workouts that his arm strength isn't an issue, but timing is. He and his new corps of receivers have to get on the same page for massive makeover to pay immediate dividends. Rookie RB Ronnie Hillman will have to pick up blitz to see playing time increase. Don't be surprised if massive right tackle Orlando Franklin moves inside. Also, kicker Matt Prater needs to prove he's worthy of four-year, $13 million deal he signed in July after missing all offseason workouts. The recent arrest of defensive end Elvis Dumervil on a charge of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon could jeopardize his availability.
EXPECTATIONS: Broncos expecting big things with Manning now their leader. The QB showed no ill effects in offseason of nerve issue that weakened throwing arm last year, but this is a new team with new coaches, new teammates, new routines and new rhythms. It's a lot to tackle at one time, so there might be a bit of a learning curve for everybody.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS (8-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 25.
LAST YEAR: Philip Rivers committed an NFL-high 25 turnovers, including 20 interceptions. Defense was so bad on third down that Chargers used first three draft picks on defensive players. Team president Dean Spanos angered fans by keeping coach Norv Turner and GM A.J. Smith for at least another season.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: OLB Melvin Ingram, DE Kendall Reyes, SS Brandon Taylor, WR Robert Meachem, WR Eddie Royal, OLB Jarret Johnson, T Mario Henderson, FB Le'Ron McClain, WR-KR Roscoe Parrish, WR-KR Michael Spurlock, SS Atari Bigby, QB Charlie Whitehurst, TE Dante Rosario, LB Demorrio Williams.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: WR Vincent Jackson, RB Mike Tolbert, SS Steve Gregory, LT Marcus McNeill, DE Tommie Harris, LB Stephen Cooper.
CAMP NEEDS: Turner thinks this will be hardest 53-man roster to make in his six seasons. Biggest battles will be for backup spots, particularly at tight end, running back, outside linebacker and on offensive and defensive lines.
EXPECTATIONS: The pressure will be on Turner, and to some extent A.J. Smith, after Spanos brought back the coach and GM despite another season out of the playoffs. Team had strong run in free agency and draft, addressing their many needs, mostly on defense. Might be popular pick to win AFC West if not for Peyton Manning joining defending division champion Broncos.
OAKLAND RAIDERS (8-8)
OPEN CAMP: July 29.
LAST YEAR: Raiders dealt with death of longtime owner Al Davis, suffered significant injuries to quarterback Jason Campbell and star running back Darren McFadden, and set record for penalties and penalty yards. But they were still in position to make playoffs for first time since 2002 before losing four of final five games because of a lack of discipline and porous defense. Coach Hue Jackson made big trade for Carson Palmer after Campbell got hurt and Palmer showed signs of past stardom but was too prone to mistakes with 16 interceptions. Defense that was unable to stop almost anyone down the stretch also hurt and Jackson ended up losing job after season.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: GM Reggie McKenzie, coach Dennis Allen, CB Ron Bartell, CB Shawntae Spencer, G Mike Brisiel, LB Philip Wheeler, QB Matt Leinart, RB Mike Goodson, DE Dave Tollefson.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: RB Michael Bush, CB Stanford Routt, LB Kamerion Wimbley, Campbell, TE Kevin Boss, C Samson Satele, CB Lito Sheppard, DT John Henderson, CB Chris Johnson, DE Trevor Scott.
CAMP NEEDS: Starters at cornerback from either offseason acquisitions Bartell and Spencer or returning youngsters Chimdi Chekwa and DeMarcus Van Dyke. Other key camp battles will be at outside linebacker, where Wheeler has edge over fourth-round pick Miles Burris, and tight end where four players compete for starting spot. After offseason of no pads or hitting, Oakland also needs to implement new zone-blocking scheme and get second-year player Stefen Wisniewski ready to play center after spending most of rookie year at guard.
EXPECTATIONS: McKenzie has been rebuilding organization from coaching staff to scouting and personnel departments, even upgrading computer and video systems. His imprint is all over, but it might take time for results to show on field. Hampered by bad contracts and lack of high draft picks, McKenzie was unable to make major talent upgrades. The hope is a better scheme will improve the defense. Strength of team lies on offense. Raiders are banking on a healthy McFadden and a more settled Palmer with full offseason to learn offense and his teammates to provide big-play unit that can capitalize on all the speed Davis acquired over the years.
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (7-9)
OPEN CAMP: July 26.
LAST YEAR: Chiefs somehow played way into contention in AFC West despite season-ending injuries to All-Pro RB Jamaal Charles, Pro Bowl S Eric Berry, QB Matt Cassel and TE Tony Moeaki. Oh, and firing of coach Todd Haley in December. Romeo Crennel became interim coach and performed well enough to land full-time job, even leading Chiefs to only regular-season defeat of Packers. Now, all those injured players are on the mend, and Chiefs are starting to show swagger of contenders.
IMPORTANT ADDITIONS: RT Eric Winston, RB Peyton Hillis, CB Stanford Routt, TE Kevin Boss, DT Dontari Poe, OT Jeff Allen, WR Devon Wylie, QB Brady Quinn.
IMPORTANT LOSSES: CB Brandon Carr, QB Kyle Orton, C Casey Wiegmann, FB Le'Ron McClain, RB Thomas Jones, DT Kelly Gregg, S Jon McGraw, TE Leonard Pope.
CAMP NEEDS: Relatively few holes are left on roster, though depth at some positions remains sketchy. There are few positions battles in training camp; biggest question may be whether Charles, Berry and Moeaki are fully recovered from torn knee ligaments sustained early last season. All of them sat out majority of offseason program, but have also said they'll be ready to go by August.
EXPECTATIONS: Chiefs have improved suspect offensive line, drafted mammoth tackle in Poe to solidify defensive front, and should be getting a wave of star players back from injuries. As long as WR Dwayne Bowe signs franchise tender or agrees to long-term deal, no reason to believe Chiefs won't be in playoff hunt.