In an interesting year for the division, the AFC West teams as a group experienced some upheaval.
The worst-to-first Chiefs, the finally .500 Raiders, the “wait, what? we didn’t win the division?” Chargers, and the buck-less Broncos all have stories to tell about their 2010 experiences. Digging into it at the individual player level, there were even more noteworthy examples of growth, decline, hope, and disappointment.
Here are some players from each team that rose up, fell off, or showed they deserve another look:
KANSAS CITY CHIEFS
Moving On Up: DE Tyson Jackson (-40.8 to -1.7)
Jackson made a huge leap forward this season by shedding his rag doll approach to run stopping (-33.4 to +1.7) … and by having his snap total cut in half. After his rookie performance that set a PFF mark for the worst 3-4 defensive end season we’ve seen, Jackson’s overall grade worked up toward zero. It didn’t quite get there, but after starting his career with a -40.8, just approaching 0.0 has to be considered a victory.
Had a Bad Year: OLB Mike Vrabel (+4.5 to -7.4)
Already losing passing downs work to his presumed successor, Andy Studebaker, Vrabel did little in 2010 to challenge the view that his unique existence in the league is coming to an end. Vrabel’s game is deteriorating, as evidenced by a drop in grades in each of the major defensive areas: Run D, Pass Rush, and Coverage. He did, however, add the 12th touchdown catch of his career.
Give This Guy More Snaps: WR Verran Tucker (+1.5 in 225 snaps)
Desperately in need of receiver options opposite Dwayne Bowe, the Chiefs would be wise to look past aging vets Chris Chambers and Terrance Copper and give Tucker a shot. Though his season stat line reads like it was one good game (6 catches, 119 yards, 1 touchdown), Tucker had the team’s highest yards per catch average and was the only receiver on the roster besides Bowe to finish 2010 with a positive overall grade.
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS
Moving On Up: NT Antonio Garay (0.0 to +27.9)
Quite a comeback story here. A journeyman veteran that was plucked off of the Jets’ practice squad at the end of 2009, Garay took hold of the nose tackle spot for San Diego in 2010. He produced 29 quarterback disruptions and fought for 35 stops on his way to earning our No. 2 overall grade for interior linemen (behind only the now-famous Kyle Williams.) The picture of consistency, Garay graded positively in 14 of 16 games.
Had a Bad Year: RT Jeromey Clary (+5.6 to -12.6)
After having his 2009 season cut short, Clary returned to his every game, every snap self. What didn’t come back with him was his effectiveness. Outside of a three game stretch in the middle of the season where he looked like he was settling in, Clary struggled. He had the four worst PFF-graded games of his career in 2010 and his cumulative pass-blocking and run-blocking grades each slipped by nine points.
Give This Guy More Snaps: DE Antwan Barnes (+12.2 in 265 snaps)
Barnes may still appear to fit best as a situational rusher, but he could argue for a more substantial role on the heels of his 2010 effort. Bouncing from Baltimore to Philadelphia to San Diego in a span of five weeks early in the season, he is clearly feeling at home in sunny Southern California. In just 209 snaps after joining the Chargers in Week 6, he collected 27 QB disruptions, third best on the team.
Moving On Up: OLB Kamerion Wimbley (-11.0 to +21.1)
A change of scenery did him good. Sent packing from Cleveland’s 3-4 defense to a fresh start in Oakland’s 4-3, Wimbley exploded. He jumped from the bottom five 3-4 OLB’s in 2009 to the top spot among 4-3 OLB’s in 2010. Wimbley was stronger as a pass rusher from the year before, but we saw a bigger leap in his Run D, improving from -8.6 to a +13.3 grade.
Had a Bad Year: RG Cooper Carlisle (+6.4 to -23.3)
Carlisle’s age, his drop in performance, and a scheme change away from zone blocking add up to suggest his days in Oakland are numbered. Following a 2009 season in which he could at least hang his hat on decent run blocking, the floor fell out in 2010 and Carlisle wound up as one of the league’s worst rated guards.
Give This Guy More Snaps: DT Desmond Bryant (+11.3 in 333 snaps)
The talented but undrafted Harvard grad saw limited action in his second season. While getting his small chunk of a rotation that included Richard Seymour, Tommy Kelly, and John Henderson, Bryant impacted games — especially with his run defense. He added to his value by showing some versatility and filling in as a defensive end on occasion.
Moving On Up: WR Brandon Lloyd (+0.6 to +24.1)
Inactive for 14 of 16 games in 2009, Lloyd turned his 2010 opportunity into a Pro Bowl season. With Brandon Marshall out of town and Eddie Royal regressing, Lloyd slid into the number one role and ran with it. He led the NFL in receiving yards and led all receivers with a +24.1 overall grade.
Had a Bad Year: RG Chris Kuper (+4.2 to -7.8)
Kuper flourished under Mike Shanahan and his zone blocking scheme, but has seen his run-blocking grade drop in successive seasons now that the team has moved away from that plan. This season, fresh off of a five-year contract extension, his run-blocking mark fell to -11.0 and, in turn, his overall grade was dragged into the negative.
Give This Guy More Snaps: QB Tim Tebow (+13.3 in 213 snaps)
Too obvious to call this spot for Tebow? Love him or hate him, he makes things happen and for a franchise in need of a shake-up, getting him more involved could go a long way toward repairing the foundation. He has a lot of work still to do, but the dimension he adds with his legs should earn him some love from the new regime.