SCOUT'S HONOR: Five pivotal AFC players
BY BRIAN DELUCIA
Special to FOXSports.com
Jun. 23, 2003 3:50 p.m.
The following five players must have big seasons
to elevate their respective teams to the next
level in 2003.
Edgerrin James, RB Colts: Tony Dungy did a very
fine job re-establishing the Colts as a
contending team in his first season at the helm.
Tom Moore pieced together another top 10 offense
without a healthy Edgerrin James. Having James
back at full speed is a major boost to the run
game, but gives the Colts an added dimension that
should bolster what they can do in the passing
game. A healthy James and an improving defense
will be intriguing to watch this season.
Tommy Maddox, QB Steelers: We finally saw what
everyone expected from Tommy Maddox coming out of
UCLA. Maddox established himself as an NFL
starter and allowed the Steelers to expand their
offense through the air. Maddox must prove now
that he didn't hit a lucky wave last season. He
has good chemistry with the offense and with
coordinator Mike Mularkey, but must cut down on
Gerard Warren, DT Browns: The light may have
finally turned on for Warren after a subpar
performance last season. Now his words of
dedication must translate to results on the
field. The Browns are counting on Warren to
anchor the defense with his size and natural
power from the interior. That includes shutting
down the run game inside, disrupting the timing
of opponents in the passing game, and protecting
a young group of linebackers. Cleveland can't
afford another season of finishing near the
bottom of the league against the run and in total
sacks if they want to overtake Pittsburgh in the
Chris Chambers, WR Dolphins: A lot of observers
will be talking about Jay Fiedler and Brian
Griese over the next several months. And Dave
Wannstedt has made it known that Ricky Williams
will be a workhorse this season. But Chris
Chambers is the guy who must really deliver for
the Dolphins. Chambers is a very talented
receiver with the speed to change the course of
games, but consistency is needed from him. He
must make plays in the clutch when needed. That
means Chambers needs to set up his routes better
and work to find more open spots in the opposing
Deltha O'Neal, CB Broncos: After releasing steady
veteran Denard Walker, the Broncos are counting
on O'Neal to mature into a shutdown corner.
O'Neal is coming off a very erratic season and
his immaturity has frustrated the coaches. O'Neal
has shown the ability to create turnovers, but
must prove he can shut down an opponent's top
receiver if the Broncos want to stabilize their
More thoughts around the AFC ...
The San Diego Chargers feel very confident about
their passing game as training camp approaches.
It's not because of signing David Boston, but
because they have been very happy with the
strides Reche Caldwell and Eric Parker have made
this spring. Caldwell is running more precise
routes and has improved his feel for the offense.
Parker should see opportunities as an occasional
downfield target with his speed.
The Denver Broncos are excited with the
experience and leadership ability former Steeler
Lee Flowers brings to their secondary. Pittsburgh
let Flowers go because his lack of speed hurt
their pass defense. That isn't a concern for
Denver. They really value the veteran presence
and on-field savvy that Flowers brings.
One of the primary reasons the Houston Texans cut
tight end Rod Rutledge last week was the
emergence of Jabari Holloway through the spring.
Holloway has added a lot of bulk and should see a
lot of snaps as a blocker this season. Some
Houston officials feel Holloway made the most
strides of any Texan player throughout the
Linebacker Randall Godfrey figures to draw some
interest around the league after he was released
by the Tennessee Titans this week, but the Titans
won't really miss him. There are a lot of
durability questions, especially after he's been
plagued by injuries over the last two seasons.
But the Titans got along just fine with Frank
Chamberlin in the middle. And the coaches really
like the potential of Rocky Calmus.