On offense Lamonica has a well-stocked arsenal. The Raider running backs have both size and agility; Hewritt Dixon, who was having an extraordinary season in 1969 until he was injured, should be at full speed again and Charlie Smith, a quick, durable young runner, led the club in rushing. The wide receivers—Fred Biletnikoff and Warren Wells—make up one of the two or three best pairs in either league. The offensive line, anchored by All-Pro Center Jim Otto, is probably one of the most efficient units around, with speed, size and the instinctive ability to work together that comes with experience.
If any team challenges the top two it will have to be San Diego. The Chargers are a cut below both KC and Oakland in almost every department with the exception of receivers. Since Lance Alworth decided to play ball, the Chargers have the same trio (the other receivers are Gary Garrison and Willie Frazier) they have had for four years, and they caught a total of 121 passes among them in 1969. Inasmuch as neither John Hadl nor Marty Domres ranks among the league's top marksmen, it was a remarkable achievement. The running attack is strong behind a good offensive line, the Chargers being second in total offense in 1969.
But San Diego, which has finished third four years in a row, won't improve despite having so many good linebackers that Coach Charlie Waller has been fiddling with the 3-4 Oklahoma defense. The Chargers' secondary has leaked and doesn't appear that much better. The defensive line is not as good as Oakland's or KC's, ditto the quarterbacking.
Bucking for Third
The odds are, then, that the Chargers will still be in third at the end of 1970 unless Denver relegates them to fourth. The best the Broncos have managed in 10 years was a 7-7 season in 1962, but they could improve on that this year. Judicious trades have given them veteran help in the secondary, at halfback and at tight end. They had one of the quickest pass rush lines in the division last year. Steve Tensi should be the quarterback; he was injured in 1969 and underwent an operation, but he has been working well and ought to be ready. For the first time in their history the Broncos started veterans at every spot on both offense and defense in their opening exhibition game. Bob Anderson, a big, strong running back who was their No. 1 draft choice, will take some of the pressure off Floyd Little, the Syracuse All-America, as will 230-pound Willis Crenshaw who came from St. Louis for a draft choice and who'll probably start ahead of Anderson. Little, out for six games with a knee injury in 1969, still gained 729 yards on 146 carries and was leading the league in rushing when he was hurt. With another back to divert the defenses, he could take off.
"We're ready to play anyone," Little said at training camp. "This is the best Denver team I have been on in professional football."
But, at best, only good enough for third.