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Chargers a "Sexy Pick" to Win the AFC West

After six weeks of quiet, Chargers players and coaches will be greeted by loud expectations from the outside when training camp begins next month.

USA Today's Lindsay Jones, who visited Chargers minicamp last week, called Los Angeles a "sexy pick" to win the AFC West in 2018. She pointed to the return of defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to Anthony Lynn's coaching staff as a chief reason -- among others -- why the Chargers could dethrone Kansas City to win the division for the first time since 2009.

"There's a lot of reasons to be excited about the Chargers," Jones said on the team's official podcast, Chargers Weekly. "There's a lot of people like me out there that (are) going to keep talking them up as this offseason goes on and especially as we get into August and September."

The Chargers retained Bradley, added rookie safety Derwin James and will welcome back Pro Bowl cornerback Jason Verrett to the league's third-ranked scoring defense in 2017. Defensive ends Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, and cornerback Casey Hayward made the Pro Bowl last season, too.

Jones lauded the defense's potential and noted that the offense continues to put out a familiar, steady vibe.

"You know what the offense is going to be here on a year-to-year basis because of Philip (Rivers) and the consistency that he's brought for almost 15 years now," Jones said.

After last season's 0-4 start, Jones emphasized the need for the 2018 Chargers to start fast. Four of the team's first five games will be played in Los Angeles, including a Week 3 road game against the Rams. Other notable matchups at the beginning of the season include two divisional home games against the Chiefs (Week 1) and Raiders (Week 5).

Listen to the entire interview with Jones (29:20 mark), who also gave her thoughts on each of the Chargers' rivals in the AFC West. Below are a few highlights:

On Case Keenum and the Broncos: "It's the first time that he's ever been the unquestioned starting quarterback at any point in his career. … It was a very clear message from the Broncos this offseason that said, 'Case is our guy.'"

Broncos rookie defensive end Bradley Chubb: "He talks a lot of trash. He likes to swipe the towels off of quarterbacks and he likes to needle them. So, Bradley Chubb vs. Philip Rivers: That'll be fun. NC State (vs.) NC State."

The Chiefs' offense and quarterback Patrick Mahomes: "I think their offense could be fantastic. You just have to wonder though what exactly is the learning curve. What we've seen out of Mahomes is so small, but I think there's probably going to be half a dozen times every game that he plays where he's going to show off the big arm. He's going to show how accurate he can be on the move. But there's going to be three or four times a game where you're just going to go 'Oh yeah, he's a rookie. He's basically a rookie.'"

Expectations for the Raiders: "The reason that if you're a Raiders fan, to be optimistic right now is the same reason that you've been excited about them for the last three or four years, and it's not necessarily Jon Gruden. It's (quarterback) Derek Carr. It's (wide receiver) Amari Cooper. It's (defensive end) Khalil Mack."

Get an exclusive look behind the scenes of the Chargers opening video shoot.

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