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Chargers make changes only at top

This is the fourth of an eight-part series that looks at the up coming season for each division in the NFL. Today's installment looks at the AFC West.

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You don't expect many changes when a team goes 14-2, but the San Diego Chargers made a big one by overhauling their coaching staff.

Marty Schottenheimer is gone and replaced by Norv Turner, who was 58-82-1 as the head coach in Washington and Oakland. But if Turner can't win in San Diego, which may have the best overall talent in the NFL, he never will.

The Kansas City Chiefs should remain competitive after adding some key pieces. The offseason deaths of Darrent Williams and Damien Nash shook the Denver Broncos, but that didn't stop them from making a ton of moves to get back into the playoffs.

Hiring 31-year-old coach Lane Kiffin was part of a shake-up the Raiders hope will reverse their losing ways.

Here's a rundown of the offseason moves by each AFC West club, along with key questions each team faces entering training camp:

>San Diego

Key gains: WR Craig Davis (LSU), S Eric Weddle (Utah), LB Anthony Waters (Clemson).

Key losses: LB Donnie Edwards (Chiefs), WR Keenan McCardell (released), SS Terrence Kiel (released).

Breakdown: The Chargers didn't make any huge splashes in the free agent market, choosing instead to re-sign major contributors such as OG Kris Dielman, WR Malcolm Floyd and LB Shaun Phillips. They also didn't trade RB Michael Turner, who will have one more season as an effective change-of-pace back behind reigning NFL MVP LaDainian Tomlinson. Davis adds another weapon to the offense. Weddle can play safety or cornerback. Waters gets a shot to be Edwards' replacement. QB Philip Rivers should continue to improve under Turner.

Questions: Is Turner the answer as head coach? Who will replace Edwards' production (170 tackles in 2006)?

>Kansas City

Key gains: WR Dwayne Bowe (LSU), DT Alfonso Boone (Bears), DT Tank Tyler (N.C. State), DT Turk McBride (Tennessee), LB Donnie Edwards (Chargers), LB Napoleon Harris (Vikings), S Jon McGraw (Lions), K Justin Medlock (UCLA), OT Damion McIntosh (Dolphins).

Key losses: QB Trent Green (Dolphins), OG Will Shields (retired), OT Jordan Black (Texans), DT Ryan Sims (Buccaneers), LB Kawika Mitchell (Giants), S Sammy Knight (released).

Breakdown: Green's long-awaited trade to Miami leaves Damon Huard and Brodie Croyle to compete for the starting job. Bowe gives the new starter a big target. The Chiefs drafted to improve the D-line and upgraded the linebacker corps in free agency. McIntosh replaces Black on the offensive line, but Shields is a huge loss. Medlock will likely replace Lawrence Tynes, who struggled last season.

Questions: Will Green be traded before training camp? How will the Chiefs replace Shields, a perennial Pro Bowler? Will RB Larry Johnson be overworked again (NFL-record 416 carries in 2006)? Will thirtysomething CBs Ty Law and Patrick Surtain hold up another year?

>Denver

Key gains: RB Travis Henry (Titans), QB Patrick Ramsey (Jets), WR Brandon Stokley (Colts), TE Daniel Graham (Patriots), OG Montrae Holland (Saints), OT Ryan Harris (Notre Dame), DE Jarvis Moss (Florida), DT Tim Crowder (Texas), DT Marcus Thomas (Florida), LB D.D. Lewis (Seahawks), LB Warrick Holdman (Redskins), CB Dre Bly (Lions); DT Sam Adams (Bengals).

Key losses: QB Jake Plummer (Buccaneers), RB Tatum Bell (Lions), OT George Foster (Lions), DT Michael Myers (Bengals), LB Al Wilson (released), CB Darrent Williams (deceased).

Breakdown: Henry could be a 1,500-yard back in the Broncos' system. Graham's blocking will help the running game. Ramsey becomes Jay Cutler's backup. The Broncos needed help in the trenches, so they loaded up on offensive and defensive linemen in the draft and free agency. Bly and All-Pro Champ Bailey will be an excellent cornerback tandem.

Questions: With a year under his belt, is Cutler ready to achieve stardom? Can Wilson be replaced? Will new defensive coordinator Jim Bates restore what used to be an elite unit?

>Oakland

Key gains: Kiffin (University of Southern California), QB JaMarcus Russell (LSU), QB Josh McCown (Lions), RB Dominic Rhodes (Colts), RB Michael Bush (Louisville), FB Justin Griffith (Falcons), WR Mike Williams (Lions), TE Zach Miller (Arizona State), C Jeremy Newberry (49ers), DE Quentin Moses (Georgia).

Key losses: QB Aaron Brooks (released), WR Randy Moss (Patriots), OT Langston Walker (Bills).

Breakdown: Kiffin has brought renewed energy after a trouble-filled season under Art Shell. Russell, the top pick in the draft, is expected to start. Rhodes, Griffith and Bush crowd the backfield. Moss was considered addition by subtraction. The Raiders hope Williams, a bust in Detroit, will be better in new surroundings. Miller's receiving skills should help immediately. DT Warren Sapp showed up at a recent minicamp 50 pounds lighter. Moses is a good addition to the NFL's third-ranked defense.

Questions: Can Kiffin improve an offense that managed only 12 touchdowns and allowed 72 sacks last season? Is Russell the franchise player the Raiders need him to be? Will Moss be missed more than the team thinks?

NEXT: NFC East.

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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San Diego: Pieces in place for Super Bowl run.

Denver: Overhauled defense must step up.

Kansas City: Will they regret trading Green?

Oakland: Good draft helps rebuilding process.

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