To say that 2020 has be a rough year is a vast understatement. The goal for most people is finding normalcy in anyway that they can. The NFL is no different. Trying to cope with trying times is never easy but the hope is that careful planning can set the framework for the league to have football. We have already seen the NFL have virtual drafts and virtual workouts. The next plan for the league is already in motion.
The NFL has offered the NFL Players Association no preseason games ahead of the 2020 season. It is a huge step toward resolution for the league and players as training camp begins this week. Veteran players have been consistent in their desire for no games. No preseason games will allow for a longer acclimation and strength and conditioning period for players once they arrive at team facilities. Teams now have a longer time to prepare for games.
It’s no secret that most players hate preseason. Still, you have to feel for fringe NFL talents who simply won’t have the opportunity to put their game on tape for other teams to see in hopes of making a NFL roster. Think of names like Victor Cruz, or even recently Raheem Mostert, as players who have greatly benefited from preseason action. The AFC West like many divisions have a lot of talented players who could have benefited from preseason. Here is my short list of few.
Denver Broncos: Essang Bassey, CB, Wake Forest
The Denver Broncos ranked 11th in passing yards allowed last season. They also traded for cornerback A.J. Bouye and drafted Iowa corner Michael Ojemudia. Denver’s biggest lost this off-season was longtime nickle corner Chris Harris Jr.
That’s why Wake Forest product Essang Bassey could have made a name for himself this preseason as an undrafted rookie. The 5’9″, 191-pound pass-defender has legitimate 4.46 speed and is a willing tackler he had 60 tackles in 2019 alone.
A three-year starter for the Demon Deacons, Bassey has plenty of playing experience and could push for a role in nickel and dime packages. He is also a prime special-teams candidate.
Denver Broncos: Jake Butt, TE- Denver has seven tight ends. Noah Fant, Nick Vannett, and Albert Okwuegbunam all figure to be locks. The road hasn’t been an easy one for Butt. He was selected in the fifth round of the 2017 draft out of Michigan. His stock fell after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee in his final game with the Wolverines during the Orange Bowl. Butt was able to rehab and return to the field to start the 2018 campaign. He was able to suit up in Denver’s first three games that year, catching eight passes for 85 yards, but then tore his left ACL during an October practice. Butt is now 24 years of age and finally healthy in 2020. The Denver TE room is now stacked and a solid preseason could have helped him recover from a period of tough breaks.
Kansas City Chiefs: Darryl Williams, C, Mississippi State
The Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs don’t have a lot of holes on their roster. However, planning for the future is never a bad thing. Chiefs current starter Austin Reiter is entering the final year of his contract.
Reiter has only been a full-time starter for one season, and he was responsible for eight penalties and two sacks allowed in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. Williams as an undrafted free agent could have pushed for time with the starting gig with an effective preseason and training camp. He has experience at both center and guard.
Kansas City Chiefs: Tommy Townsend, P- Punters are people too and for the first time in 15 years the Chiefs will need a new punter as they moved on from Dustin Colquitt this off season. The newest punter for the Chiefs, Townsend was a transfer to Florida from Tennessee. Listed at 6-2 and 176 pounds. During the 2018 college football season, he averaged 45.4 yards per punt on 51 total punts, earning recognition as a semifinalist for the Ray Guy Award. During his senior season in 2019, he averaged 44 yards per punt on just 42 punts. Through the course of his career at Florida, 47.3% of his punts landed within the 20-yard line. Townsend could have used the preseason to get acclimated with his new role.
Las Vegas Raiders: Javin White, LB, UNLV
Going into training camp there always seems to be that fan favorite and for the Raiders linebacker-safety hybrid Javin White is that. He is a hometown favorite as he went to UNLV. White is a pure athlete he was a former wide receiver and converted safety. “The Raiders were blowing me up throughout the draft,” White told FOX5 Las Vegas. “I felt like they were really on me the whole time.” As a former wideout and defensive back, White has the coverage instincts and ball skills to be a difference-maker at the second level. A solid preseason could have helped him get acclimated to a new position which would likely be LB he could either be solid depth or special teams. White had three interceptions last season. He is very much a fringe player and he was deprived a chance to play in a packed home arena.
Raiders #5 and 6 wide receiver- One of the Raiders biggest needs this off-season was wide receiver they addressed it in several ways drafting speedster Henry Ruggs and big bodied Brian Edwards. They also added former Eagles wide receiver Nelson Agholor. As it stands I believe the Raiders have four locks at wide receiver who will make the roster. Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs, Hunter Renfrow, Brian Edwards. I believe the the #5 and 6 options are open it will be a tossup between Agholor, Zay Jones, Marcell Atemen, Keelan Doss, Rico Gafford and a few undrafted free agents. Without a preseason Jon Gruden may look at some of the more veteran guys and it puts an even race at more of a disadvantage for some of the younger guys who don’t have the chemistry with Derek Carr and the offense.
Los Angeles Chargers: Josh Dunlop, OG, University of Texas-San Antonio
One of the most crucial needs of the Chargers going into the draft was the offensive line. This makes their pick up of Joshua Dunlop, a guard out of UTSA, very intriguing. At the guard spot, the Chargers currently have Dan Feeney, Trai Turner, and Forrest Lamp. Besides Trai Turner, none of the options are proven and reliable options so having depth there could be a huge bonus. Dunlop had an excellent career at UTSA he was an All-Conference USA selection. He is a grown man standing at 6 ft 7 and 305 pounds. Dunlop also has the versatility to move around and play tackle if necessary. Live game tape could have really helped show off his versatility.
Los Angeles Chargers: Cole Christiansen, LB- One of the positions that the Chargers addressed in the first round, through a trade, was linebacker Kenneth Murray. This is definitely a position of need as the Chargers have dealt with constant injury and lack of production. Denzel Perryman has flashed signs of greatness but he can’t stay healthy. Cole Christiansen can be someone who competes for snaps while also being a great contributor on special teams. Cole Christiansen was one of the better linebackers in the college ranks this past season. He is a two-time All-Independent Selection as well as a semifinalist for the LOTT impact award. He was a true leader on the Army defense being selected as a team captain two years in a row and also leading the team in tackles with 112. He was also 21st nationally in average tackles per game at 9.3.