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Around the AFC West: latest storylines as training camp inches closer

Checking out the most recent news from Kansas City’s divisional opponents.

NFL: Los Angeles Chargers at Las Vegas Raiders Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Only a week and a half remains until NFL players report to training camp. And among the Kansas City Chiefs’ divisional opponents, there are more storylines to talk about.

Denver Broncos

A defense in question?

The Broncos’ biggest offseason splash was signing former Dallas Cowboys pass rusher Randy Gregory — but there were still some other signings they believe will help solidify last season’s improved defense.

After Gregory’s deal was announced, Denver stayed quiet — unless you consider signing former Philadelphia Eagles linebacker Alex Singleton loud enough to make an impact. This Broncos’ defense has a lot of potential for 2022.

In the draft, Denver emphasized defense, selecting linebacker Nik Bonitto, defensive end Matt Henningsen, cornerback Faion Hicks and safety Delarrin Turner-Yell. With these players, the Broncos are preparing for today and the future.

Meanwhile, linebacker Bradley Chubb’s rookie contract is set to expire after this season; he will be trying to play out of his mind to get an extension. But he has had problems staying healthy, so it will be interesting to see how training camp goes with him. This could be the last year we see Chubb in a Broncos uniform.

Las Vegas Raiders

Is Josh McDaniels the answer?

The Raiders decided not to part ways with interim head coach Rich Bisaccia. His new regime hopes to make a fresh beginning after Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock — and includes former Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, who brings in hope for an offense that has a lot of talent.

It won’t be hard for McDaniels to draw up plays for wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who can use his route-running ability to get open and get first downs. (For this reason, third down is called “third and Renfrow” in Las Vegas). This will be familiar territory for McDaniels, who has previously worked with similar players like Wes Welker and Julian Edelman.

Spreading the ball around should not be a problem. With newly-signed star wideout Davante Adams added to the mix with Renfrow and tight Darren Waller, defenses will have to pick and choose whom to double cover. We can expect a lot of AFC West games to be shoot-outs in 2022.

Will McDaniels be the answer? The team’s mentality going into Week 1 will be crucial — and a good performance will set the tone for the rest of the season. Still, we might once again see what McDaniels did the last time he coached in this division.

Los Angeles Chargers

A step forward for Justin Herbert?

Last year, the Chargers’ quarterback mirrored his outstanding rookie season — but Los Angeles still came up short of the playoffs. I am curious to see if Herbert will take a bigger step forward. In 2021, he threw for close to 700 more yards (and seven more touchdowns), but can he continue to improve?

Herbert might be the third or fourth-best quarterback in the division. He has yet to show me that he can get into the postseason or win a significant game. Going into his third year, he should be more comfortable — but in 2021, he couldn’t even change plays with a crowd in the stands.

Of course, coaching was a big reason why the Chargers missed the playoffs. Still, the quarterback needs to be able to recognize the times he needs to step up, call an audible and find the end zone. A year ago, the Chargers were the media’s favorite to win the division — but they finished 9-8. This season, they are once the media’s pick to take the AFC West crown. But to do it, they need Herbert to improve — not just by putting bigger numbers on the stat sheet, but by learning how to grind out games and find ways to win.

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