John Elway

If John Elway is willing to talk about another team in the AFC West as a favorite in the division, then maybe we all should listen and take notice.

John Elway, the Denver Broncos’ general manager, gave his assessment of the AFC West following the NFL Draft. He said the Los Angeles Chargers may be the team to beat this coming season. Whether it was to deflect attention away from his own team or he really means what he says, the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback’s words mean something.

Per’s Kevin Patra, “It’s the wild, wild West. I thought the Chargers did a really nice job with the draft,” Elway told reporters in Omaha, via The MMQB’s Peter King. “They’ve got the settled quarterback, even though the Raiders do too. Looking at it, [the Chargers] may be the ones to beat. As I stand here, looking at it, the Chargers might be the team to beat.”

Philip Rivers is still a solid quarterback and the Chargers have a good running game at the team’s disposal. The defense is improving with Gus Bradley in his second season as defensive coordinator. The Chargers drafted FSU defensive back Derwin James in the first round. Bradley drafted Jalen Ramsey in 2015 when he as the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars.

The AFC West may be a division in flux. The Broncos signed Case Keenum in the offseason. The Kansas City Chiefs elevated Patrick Mahomes to starter and traded Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins. The Oakland Raiders have Jon Gruden back as head coach and are looking for Derek Carr to bounce back from a subpar 2017 season.

The Broncos, despite their poor season last year, are intriguing.

“Is Denver’s offensive line fixed? How will trading Aqib Talib change the secondary? Will the combination of Bradley Chubb and Von Miller mask any other defensive questions?,” Patra writes.

As Josh Alper of wrote, “The Broncos picked quarterback Paxton Lynch in the first round of the 2016 draft and gave him a chance to win the starting quarterback job the last two years.

“Lynch didn’t win the job either time and the Broncos signed Case Keenum as a free agent this offseason to end thoughts of another quarterback competition. For some, the move also ended thoughts that Lynch would be the starter in Denver at any point in the future but the team’s insisted that isn’t the case over the last couple of months.”

John Elway said Keenum will give Lynch more time to mature in the NFL. I do not view Keenum as the “bridge” quarterback as other teams will use this season, especially in Cleveland and possibly Pittsburgh. His experience and his performance last season in Minnesota give this team a legitimate chance to compete for a playoff berth under head coach Vance Joseph.

“I think for Paxton and our football team it’s been a weight off all of our backs to have a starting quarterback and have everyone’s role defined from Day 1,” Joseph said. “So for Paxton, he can relax and get better each day and not worry about a competition. I think for Paxton being around Case also — I mean, Case has been through some ups and downs in his career, so he can learn from Case on how to handle those things. It takes time to be an NFL quarterback.

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