Oakland Raiders vs. AFC West: Defensive Line

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Nov 23, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; Denver Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton (98) at the line of scrimmage in the first quarter against the Miami Dolphins at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

2. Denver Broncos

The Broncos, arguably, had the AFC West’s best defensive line. Giving up just over 80 yards a game, they were the second toughest defense to run against in the NFL. But a switch from the 4-3 base defense run by now Raiders head man Jack Del Rio to the 3-4 favored by DC Wade Phillips means the Broncos will be facing some big changes.

Perhaps one of the bigger changes this defense will face will be the loss of Terrance Knighton, who provided some strength and toughness on the interior of that defensive line. Sylvester Williams will be stepping in to replace Pot Roast, and by all accounts, has already begun to shoulder that responsibility. But the change in position and responsibilities may take some time for him to adjust to.

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Flanking him will be Derek Wolfe and Malik Jackson. Of the pair, Jackson is the weak link given his handful of starts over his three seasons in the NFL. Given Antonio Smith’s legal problems and the possibility that he may not see the field this year, Vance Walker and promising rookie Darius Kilgo become the main depth for this Denver defensive line – which means, they are very thin at the position.

The potential is there for the Broncos to have a big season in Phillips’ system, but as with anything, learning a new system is not going to be without it’s bumps in the road. Denver will still have a very good defensive line this year, but there very well may be a slight tapering off from last season and they may not be the cream of the crop in the AFC West.

Next: 1. Kansas City Chiefs