Oakland Raiders safeties Michael Huff and Tyvon Branch at 2011 training camp (photo by Levi Damien)
Now we move to the secondary, starting with the safeties. The last line of defense in most cases. The AFC West boasts some of the best safeties in the league so there was some tough competition. There is a lot of proven players and a lot of potential here.
With such a solid overall group, there is no shame in being listed at or near the bottom. The talent is there for the most part so once the season starts, how well they play will have a lot to do with coaching and scheme. Sure, that typically goes without saying, but if the player doesn't have the talent, no amount of good coaching can make up for it.
Here are my rankings of the AFC West teams by their safeties:
SS Tyvon Branch, FS Michael Huff
Branch is one of the best safeties in the NFL. He has been the Raiders leading tackler for several seasons now. He takes good angles, makes solid hits and wraps up, and is extremely fast. Huff has shown at times that he can be a very good free safety. He has had the unenviable task of playing free safety for the Raiders and their man defense which demands that the free safety cover a lot of ground. With the new approach looking more to zone, his job should get easier this season.
That was one good 2010 draft for the Chiefs getting both these safeties. Many people think Berry is the best strong safety in the AFC West. Though, there is just one season to judge his talent, it was a good one. He was injured nearly all of last season but as a rookie in 2010, he had 4 interceptions, 10 passes defended, and 87 tackles. The team has similar hopes for Kendrick Lewis who was taken in the fifth round of the same 2010 draft. Lewis has had 6 interceptions over the past two seasons and started all 16 games last season. The Chiefs could be looking at a potent young safety duo here.
Weddle is the best free safety in the AFC West and one of the better free safeties in the NFL. Bigby has his issues, though. After the Packers moved on from him following the 2010 season, he played one season in Seattle in which he started just two games with a total of 11 tackles. He comes to the Chargers trying to salvage what's left of his career.
SS Mike Adams, FS Quinton Carter
Carter had a nice rookie seasons last year and has some potential. Adams comes over from Cleveland after having starting the first full season of his career. Nothing special here in a division with some special talent at the safety position.