Lechler's departure the end of a kicking era in Oakland 

While the Raiders have seemingly avoided a winning record like the plague the past decade, the one source of consistency was the kicking game.

Kicker Sebastian Janikowski and punter Shane Lechler, both drafted in 2000, have been two of the elite players at their respective positions throughout their careers. But now, half of the tag-team is gone, as Lechler joined the Houston Texans in the offseason.

While Janikowski is still booming field goals from just about anywhere on the field in Oakland, Marquette King and Chris Kluwe engaged in a tight training camp battle, with King eventually emerging to win the punting job.

The inexperienced King will have a tall order to replace the seven-time Pro Bowler who is the NFL career leader with a 47.5-yard gross average.

SCOUTING THE AFC WEST

Denver Broncos

A popular pick by many pundits to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl after a 13-3 season in 2012, the Broncos are loaded offensively. Denver added receiver Wes Welker to an already-dangerous receiving corps, giving QB Peyton Manning a spoil of riches. The defense though will be without pass rusher Elvis Dumervil after an offseason fax snafu eventually led to him signing with the Baltimore Ravens. Linebacker Von Miller is also suspended the first four games of the year.

Kansas City Chiefs

After undergoing a major overhaul in the offseason, the Chiefs have emerged as a trendy choice to contend for a wild-card spot despite a 2-14 record in 2012. Former Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid takes over the franchise and one of his first moves was to bring in quarterback Alex Smith from the 49ers. Smith will have some talented players around him including star running back Jamaal Charles, receiver Dwayne Bowe and offensive tackle and No. 1 overall pick Eric Fisher.

San Diego Chargers

A disappointing 2012 cost Norv Turner his job, leading to former Broncos offensive coordinator Mike McCoy getting his first chance as the head man. The Chargers are hoping an infusion of new blood through the draft, including offensive tackle D.J. Fluker and linebacker Manti Te'o, can spark a bounce-back year. San Diego already lost big-play receiver Danario Alexander for the year in training camp, a big hit to QB Philip Rivers, who has struggled at times the past two seasons.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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