- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2007

The AFC, winner of the past four Super Bowls, opens its 16 training camps next week with new coaches at the helms of the 2005 champion, the top regular-season team of 2006 and two of last season’s top four defenses.

So here are the biggest questions facing each AFC team this summer:

EAST

New England: How much of an upgrade are new receivers Randy Moss, Donte Stallworth, Wes Welker and Kelley Washington? Will Moss behave? Can Sammy Morris replace Corey Dillon as running back Laurence Maroney’s partner? Can the thirtysomething linebackers keep going?

New York Jets: Will former Bears running back Thomas Jones fix the laggard ground game? Can the Jets, who went 1-4 against playoff teams last season, fare better against a tougher schedule this year? Will the no-name team overachieve again for second-year coach Eric Mangini?



Buffalo: Is rookie Marshawn Lynch ready to replace departed top back Willis McGahee? Was free agent guard Derrick Dockery worth the big bucks?

Miami: How much does new quarterback Trent Green have left at 37? Will the Dolphins’ much-criticized top pick, wideout Ted Ginn Jr., take new coach Cam Cameron off the hook?

NORTH

Baltimore: Was quarterback Steve McNair’s poor playoff performance a sign that, at age 34, he’s fading fast? How will new No. 1 back McGahee fare behind a weakened offensive line? Can the fierce defense cover for the departure of linebacker Adalius Thomas?

Cincinnati: Will coach Marvin Lewis ever have a defense worthy of his reputation as a coordinator? How will the offensive line hold up after losing two starters? Will the Bengals finally record more victories than arrests?

Pittsburgh: How will the players adjust to coach Mike Tomlin after 16 seasons under Bill Cowher? Was last season an aberration for Ben Roethlisberger, or have defenses figured out the one-time wunderkind quarterback?

Cleveland: Is there a true No. 1 quarterback among rookie Brady Quinn and holdovers Charlie Frye and Derek Anderson? Is Jamal Lewis still a full-time No. 1 back?

SOUTH

Indianapolis: How will the longtime hunters respond to being the hunted? Can a defense that was shoddy until the playoffs replace corners Nick Harper and Jason David and linebacker Cato June? Can running back Joseph Addai carry the full load? Will Marvin Harrison ever get old?

Tennessee: Can second-year quarterback Vince Young raise his passer rating of 66.7 with no bona fide targets? Is LenDale White ready to be a No. 1 back?

Jacksonville: Is Byron Leftwich on his way out at quarterback? Will receivers Reggie Williams and Matt Jones ever prove worthy of being top picks?

Houston: Is former Falcons backup Matt Schaub a legitimate starting quarterback?

WEST

San Diego: How will the AFC’s best team during the regular season last year respond to the departures of its three top coaches? Can Norv Turner finally win big in his third coaching shot and 10th season?

Kansas City: Is Brodie Croyle ready to start at quarterback after throwing just seven passes as a rookie last season?

Denver: Is second-year quarterback Jake Cutler ready for the John Elway comparison after just four starts?

Oakland: Is new coach Lane Kiffin up to the job at 32? Will quarterback JaMarcus Russell, the first pick in the draft, survive behind a young line that allowed 72 sacks in 2006?

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