Four Downs: Change abounds in AFC West

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Four Downs: Change abounds in AFC West
Mike Tanier / FootballOutsiders.com

There has been plenty of off-season player movement in the AFC West. And that is especially true of the Denver Broncos, who were wise to acquire the Falcons' top draft pick in the John Abraham trade.

Here is a team-by-team look at how each of the AFC West's teams have fared since the season ended and what each can do to improve itself in the upcoming draft.



Kansas City Chiefs

Priest's vow of silence
Priest Holmes is fine.

Don't believe it? Just ask him. He might tell you. But that's all he'll tell you.

Yes, the enigmatic Holmes is impersonating Johnny Tight Lips again. Does "fine" mean that the neurological tests he underwent in late February were negative? Does it mean that he's cleared to play? Does it mean that he plans to play? You can hear Holmes now: "Back injury? Who says I have a back?"

Holmes has kept the media and his team in the dark. Search the Internet long enough, and you'll be able to find some players' grocery lists, but accurate health information on Holmes is nonexistent. Even Holmes' immediate family is playing a guessing game, according to an article in the San Antonio Express News last month. "He hasn't been carrying on as if he's going to play," Holmes' stepfather told the newspaper.

The Chiefs' off-season conditioning program began on Monday, and Holmes was one of the few no-shows. But that's nothing new: Holmes rarely earned any frequent flyer miles traveling to off-season functions in the past. "He'll be in and out, probably more 'out' than 'in,'" Herm Edwards told the Kansas City Star. In a March 28th report in the Florida Sun-Sentinel, columnist Ethan J. Skolnik says that Edwards isn't expecting Holmes to return.

The Chiefs are preparing for life without Holmes. Larry Johnson, of course, is now the team's featured back. Last week, the team signed Quentin Griffin as a possible backup to Johnson. Griffin had the greatest game of his career against the Chiefs, a 23-carry, 156-yard, two-touchdown effort in the 2004 season opener. Griffin then came down with a case of fumble-itis, and has spent the last two years getting cut and re-signed by the Broncos. Backs who fumble six times in 179 carries have a hard time finding work.

Then again, just how often will Johnson need a change-up runner? Johnson is big and durable, and he catches the ball well enough to be a weapon on third downs. If Holmes returns, Edwards will give him a role, and Griffin will be relegated to special teams. Even as the second-string running back, Holmes will find himself in and out of the team's gameplans. Probably more out than in.


Recent transactions
The Football Outsiders' spin on the players coming and going from Kansas City:

Defensive line re-signings: The Chiefs re-signed DT Lional Dalton and DE Carlos Hall. Neither player lit up the stat sheet last season, but Dalton was effective at clogging up the middle, while Hall forced a pair of fumbles while battling neck, back and hamstring injuries. Dalton will start opposite either Ryan Sims or Junior Siavaii; Hall is better suited to come off the bench as a pass rusher. At press time, the team was negotiating a contract extension for Jared Allen, their best defensive lineman. Smart move.

Huard and Collins: After backup quarterback Todd Collins signed with the Redskins, the team placed a premium on re-signing third-stringer Damon Huard, who eventually inked a one-year deal. Huard has thrown one pass in the last five years (incomplete); so he's a blank slate. The Chiefs may be in the market for a developmental passer, but keep your eye on James Kilian, the former Tulsa quarterback who is playing in Europe this spring.

Tony Richardson: The longtime Chiefs fullback who once blocked for Marcus Allen signed with the Minnesota Vikings last week. Richardson used to get a few touches per game as a change-up to Priest Holmes, but when Larry Johnson took over, Richardson was used exclusively as a blocker. Look for the Chiefs to use more two-tight end sets this season in an effort to get Kris Wilson more involved in the offense.

Kendell Garmon: Gotta have a long-snapper.


Draft preview
An overview of the names being tossed out by the Internet's mock draft community: Tye Hill, CB, Clemson (the current FOXSports.com pick); Ashton Youboty, CB, Ohio State; Jonathan Joseph, CB, South Carolina; Gabe Watson, DT, Michigan; Tamba Hali, DE, Penn State.

What, no running backs?

Seriously, the Chiefs obviously need either a cornerback to pair with Patrick Surtain or a defensive lineman to improve their overall pass rush. Youboty is very similar to fellow Buckeye Chris Gamble, who blossomed in his second season with the Panthers. Youboty has a rep for brain cramps and confidence lapses, but Surtain and Herm Edwards will be able to help him through the tough times. Hill and Joseph are also good fits; it may come down to who is available in the No. 20 slot.

The Chiefs need help at wide receiver, and they need depth on the offensive line. If Kilian doesn't impress in Europe, the Chiefs may select a quarterback like Fresno State's Paul Pinnegar at the end of Day 2. Don't be surprised if the team also picks up a kicker near the end of the draft, as Lawrence Tynes nearly drove Dick Vermeil to distraction in training camp last year.
http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/5461606
 
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