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Around the AFC West: Departures shake Raiders

Taking a look around the division as the pads come on during training camp.

For the Kansas City Chiefs and the rest of the AFC West, this was the first week of full pads practices in training camp. Let’s take a look at how things are going in the rest of the division.

Denver Broncos

NFL: Denver Broncos Training Camp Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Another week — and another topic that stays the same: which quarterback is going to lead this team when the season begins against the New York Giants. It might all come down to who starts the preseason Week 1 game against the Minnesota Vikings the August 14.

Because of the drastic regression we witnessed with Drew Lock last season, I believe Teddy Bridgewater will be the starter. If that happens, you can only assume that Lock will want out of Denver as soon as possible.

When the Broncos drafted Lock in 2019 — after they signed Joe Flacco a month before the draft — it was reasonable to think the veteran would have helped teach and motivate the young quarterback. But it has not worked out that way — and to return as the starter, Lock will need to take a big step forward.

Position battle to watch

All arrows point to Jerry Jeudy becoming the Broncos’ most impressive wide receiver this season. But you cannot count out Courtland Sutton — the team’s true X receiver — who could split time with Jeudy. Thanks to his size — and how reliable he was when Sutton was out last season — Tim Patrick cannot be ignored, either.

With Jeudy, Sutton or Patrick at No. 1, K.J. Hamler is likely to be the second option for Lock or Bridgewater. Everything still depends on who will be throwing the ball.

Must-see tweet

Las Vegas Raiders

Las Vegas Raiders Training Camp Photo by Steve Marcus/Getty Images

As multiple players and executives left the organization, this was an odd and strange week in Las Vegas.

Offensive tackle Sam Young, backup running back Theo Riddick and linebacker James Onwualu all retired, while team president Marc Badain and Brandon Doll — one of his key assistants — also left the team. Running backs coach Kirby Wilson retired last month.

The player retirements aren’t expected to be significant losses for the team.

But running back Jalen Richard — who just came back off the Reserve/COVID list — will now be out for some time following a foot injury at camp.

Position battle to watch

In 2020, the Raiders’ most underwhelming position group was their linebackers. Cory Littleton did not step up like the way the Las Vegas paid him to do — and Nick Kwiatkoski out-performed him,.

But this season, the group is ready to shine. Undrafted Boston College rookie Max Richardson and second-year player Tanner Muse — who was hurt all of last season — are looking to improve the team at their SAM and MIKE linebacker positions.

This means linebacker Nicholas Marrow needs to continue to improve — whether that is by continuing to make plays in the open field or increasing the three sacks he totaled last season. The team’s longest-tenured linebacker, this is the season where Marrow can step up to help lead the team.

Must-see tweet

Los Angeles Chargers

Los Angeles Chargers mini camp 2021 Photo by Paul Bersebach/MediaNews Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images

After this week, the best word to describe the Chargers is determined. The organization is hoping quarterback Justin Herbert is the guy — and from what we could see last year, he is. Now all the attention moves to the defense. If healthy, they could be one of the more dominant defensive teams.

“The excitement with a new coaching staff, new players, a lot of free agents, a totally revamped offensive line, [S] Derwin James [Jr.] back, I’m back. We have guys healthy. We’re really excited,” Chargers linebacker Drue Tranquill told the media earlier this week.

If players are catching on to the team situation, then positive vibes are in the locker room.

It is yet another season in which everyone wants to pick the Chargers as the Chiefs’ toughest competitor — and this might actually be the year for them.

Position battle to watch

The Chargers’ tight ends have received little attention. In the offseason, they inked Jared Cook to a one year, $6 million contract after Hunter Henry left for the New England Patriots. The signing didn’t make flashy headlines — but with Cook’s previous production, it is still a solid move.

Without Cook, I believe Donald Parham could easily take all of the first-team snaps. His 2020 rookie season wasn’t something to go down in the history books — but for a player coming from the XFL to be a second or third tight end, 10 catches for three touchdowns is noteworthy. Parham’s size and frame make him an easy target for Herbert.

Must-see tweet

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