AFC West training camp storylines to watch

The AFC West hosts a slew of intriguing teams heading into the 2021 training camp cycle. The Chiefs are a perennial powerhouse with the most impressive quarterback in the league. The Chargers look to match that offensive output with their own impressive talent at QB (along with a few incredible defensive talents). The Broncos have one of the more well-built rosters in the league but lack a passer. And the Raiders are the teenage rebels that do whatever they want despite the sound guidance from their parents. It’s a fun group of NFL teams!

AFC West training camp storylines

Patrick Mahomes had toe surgery in the offseason, but he recently played in a celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe, so it’s probably safe to say he’s healthy. The Chargers are an offseason darling, much like they’ve been for what seems like my entire adult life. The Broncos passed on Justin Fields in lieu of Drew Lock. Finally, Jon Gruden and Co. completely disintegrated their offensive line.

Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs do not have the best roster in football; they might be pushing a top-five roster overall. However, when you pair Andy Reid with a generational talent at quarterback, it hides many holes.

The big training camp story for the AFC West champion Chiefs must be their almost entirely revamped offensive line. Will Mike Remmers or Lucas Niang start for the Chiefs at the right tackle spot? Will Creed Humphrey end up starting at center as a rookie? As long as the Chiefs’ offensive line remains relatively healthy, they are the favorites to return to the Super Bowl in 2021.

Las Vegas Raiders

What isn’t a story for the Raiders? The cash-strapped Raiders decided destroying the continuity on their offensive line was a good idea during the offseason. Then, they took what many believe was a reach in Alex Leatherwood in Round 1 of the NFL Draft. The only two pieces remaining from last season are OT Kolton Miller and G Richie Incognito. They originally cut Incognito but quickly re-signed him one week later.

Outside of that, everything went swimmingly during the offseason. They ignored their horrific run defense by drafting three safeties, one of whom will transition to linebacker in the NFL. Once again, this looks like a team that could receive good quarterback play but be ruined by a bad defense. The offensive line changes are ultimately the scariest difference from 2020.

The downgrades on the offensive line mean the Raiders’ weapons must close that gap. Henry Ruggs must improve in Year 2, as does Bryan Edwards. Darren Waller will play like a top-three tight end, and Hunter Renfrow should provide a consistent target in the slot. The biggest training camp story for the Raiders is the development of their two second-year receivers.

Los Angeles Chargers

Hollywood has a team that fits the bill. Justin Herbert is a rising star in the NFL, even if he is one of the quieter athletes in the league. The team is full of high-tier talent at nearly every position. They have one of the best pass rushers in the league and quite possibly the most talented safety in the game.

The biggest training camp storyline for this AFC West team is health. Both Joey Bosa and Derwin James battle injuries often. Getting them through the preseason is imperative for their success in 2021. It’s even more important they stay healthy, given the lackluster cornerback duo they’ll attempt to throw at opposing offenses.

They drafted Asante Samuel Jr. in Round 2, but what they have right now on the outside is Tevaughn Campbell and Michael Davis. Does that scream “competent cornerback play” in a division ripe with receiving weapons?

What can Rashawn Slater bring at left tackle as a rookie? The talented Northwestern alumnus gets thrown into the fire, protecting Herbert’s blindside. After not playing in 2020, it’ll be fascinating to see what Slater looks like early on in camp.

Denver Broncos

The biggest question surrounding the Broncos comes at quarterback. Can Drew Lock improve enough to make Broncos fans forget they passed on Fields? Lock was objectively bad in 2020, but Denver either saw enough in him to keep him around or did not like what they saw in Fields. Either way, it’s a massive gamble for a franchise that hasn’t figured it out at quarterback through the draft.

Instead, they added to what was already arguably the best secondary in the league. With the addition of Patrick Surtain II, there really is no question about it anymore. The Broncos finished last in the AFC West in 2020 and head into training camp projected just a half-game under the Raiders.

The pieces around Drew Lock are exceptionally talented

Von Miller and Bradley Chubb should have some time to work their way to opposing signal-callers with a secondary that features Justin Simmons, Kareem Jackson, Bryce Callahan, Kyle Fuller, Ronald Darby, and Surtain. Add in Alexander Johnson and Josey Jewell clogging rush lanes, and the defense looks formidable.

Offensively, they have one of the better wide receiver corps in the NFL. Courtland Sutton has been productive when healthy. Jerry Jeudy is already one of the best route runners in football. K.J. Hamler is one of the fastest players in the league. And Tim Patrick was incredibly consistent in 2020.

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