AFC West: Top training camp stories that can affect the regular season

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We are just weeks away from the start of the 2020 NFL season. Training camp has been long and grueling for most of the teams in the NFL and with new rules being put in place due to Covid-19 teams are being asked to adjust on the fly. However, as they say the show must go on. In the AFC West we have seen a few significant injuries and moves that may affect the balance of power in the division. Let’a take a look at some of the top training camp stories thus far in the division.

Kansas City Chiefs

For the defending champs Chiefs its been a pretty boring training camp and as we will learn later sometimes boring is good. The most noteworthy news for Chiefs is that defensive tackle Mike Pennel has been officially suspended for the first two games of the  regular season.

Pennel is as an important run-stopping force for the Chiefs on their defensive front. He averaged slightly less than 20 snaps per game as a dependable rotational lineman who helped fill in the gaps where other younger players weren’t quite ready to contribute. Its only a two game suspension so they won’t miss him too much.

Chiefs signed veteran center Daniel Kilgore. Kilgore, 32, is a 10-year NFL veteran who was drafted out of Appalachian State in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the San Francisco 49ers. Listed at 6-feet-3 and 291 pounds, he’s mostly played at center through eight seasons with the 49ers and two with Miami. After missing most of 2018 with a torn triceps, he started 13 games with the Dolphins in 2019. The Chiefs have made an effort in revamping their interior o-line also adding veteran LG Kelechi Osemele.

Las Vegas Raiders

Raiders have had an eventful off-season and have followed that up with an eventful training camp. Raiders acquired former Dolphins LB Raekwon McMillan for a 2021 4th round pick. The Raiders are getting a fifth-round pick back from Miami. McMillan played 60 percent of snaps and was one of Miami’s better run stoppers before a hamstring injury ended his season in December. In 2018, he had 105 tackles, five for a loss, and two forced fumbles. He played in 13 games last season and had 72 tackles. The Raiders were looking to sure up their LB corp after releasing Marquel Lee who failed his physical.

Tyrell Williams has a torn labrum in his shoulder. Williams hasn’t practiced and has 13 days to get cleared for Week 1. Even if he plays, Willams seems doubtful to have a featured role. Bryan Edwards is playing in place of Williams. Hunter Renfrow, Henry Ruggs, Nelson Agholor and Zay Jones have seen first-team reps.

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Bryan Edwards (89) runs a drill during an NFL football training camp practice Friday, Aug. 21, 2020, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Speaking of Brian Edwards Edwards opened camp with the first-team offense and has been the star of 11-on-11 drills. The Athletic’s Tashan Reed believes the Raiders “don’t want people to know how good they think Edwards is” and “won’t hesitate” to play him. It’s looking possible the Raiders let both Edwards and Henry Ruggs open the season as starters. Raiders really trust both their young rookies to play significant snaps this year and they both are in the running for rookie of the year qualifications.

Trent Brown finally practices. The NFL’s second-highest-paid RT has been absent from practice for unknown reasons, with GM Mike Mayock previously telling reporters that Brown was “in the process with trainers.”  Brown missed the final four games of the season due to a torn pectoral muscle, but was a key factor in the Raiders turning their offensive line into a top unit prior to the injury. The team needs Brown healthy in order to hit their offensive ceiling.

Denver Broncos

There’s a lot of hype and excitement around the Broncos young offense, but they are going through some growing pains currently. The offense has struggled with rhythm, with drops, miscommunications, turnovers, blocking and pretty much everything.

Quarterback Drew Lock told reporters after practice that he’s happy that these mistakes are happening now so they can have time to correct them instead of them happening during the season.

“I’ve always been the guy who’s able to learn more from mistakes rather than being all daisies, all roses out there. It will be good for us to be able to go back and look at how we struggled, look at what we did wrong, especially like you said for those young guys. It’s big to struggle early I feel like. I got told this when I was in college. I’d rather—someone was telling me this, they’d rather me struggle early and be great later on. I’d rather us struggle right now, obviously, then be great when the season comes along.”

A lot of the sloppy play can be contributed to injuries as well Broncos have been the trainers worst nightmare thus far. K. Hamler (hamstring) J. Winfree (groin) M. Ojemudia (quad) A. Holder (soft tissue) J. Strnad (wrist, out for season) D. Bausby (soft tissue) T. Davis (calf) M. Carney (sick, not COVID-related) T. Patrick (soft tissue) A. Fort (knee) M. Purcell (calf). The vast majority of the Broncos injuries are soft tissue related. On most occasions, that means muscles.

Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Mark Barron (26) celebrates his interception in the end zone of a pass by Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton during the second half of an NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (AP Photo/Tom Puskar)

Often times with injuries you always hear the term “Next man up” the Broncos linebackers have experienced some key injuries which prompted them to sign Mark Barron. Barron a former No. 7 overall pick of the 2012 draft. He entered the league as a safety but struggled and eventually moved to linebacker. Barron found his footing with the Rams, starting every game he was active for from 2016 to 2018. He landed in Pittsburgh last year and recorded three pass defenses and three sacks plus an interception. Barron is a solid depth addition this late in training camp.

Los Angeles Chargers

Each and every year it seems like the Chargers have the absolute worst luck as far as injuries are concerned. This off-season is no different.The Chargers will start their regular season without safety Derwin James for the second straight year.

James is likely to miss significant time with a meniscus injury he suffered during  practice. James was coming up to make a tackle but stayed on the ground for a little bit. He walked off under his own power and grabbed his hamstring. He walked to the medical tent with trainers with his head down and right before getting there, threw his gloves to the ground. Last season, the All-Pro safety missed 11 games with a foot injury that he sustained during training camp.

Another huge blow for the Chargers is wide receiver Mike Williams could miss the beginning of the 2020 season due to a sprained shoulder. Williams is expected to miss two to four weeks with his shoulder injury that he also suffered in practice,

The time frame puts the start of the season in doubt for the fourth-year receiver. Coach Anthony Lynn noted  it’s unclear if Williams will be ready for the Sept. 13 opener versus the Cincinnati Bengals. “I certainly would hope so, but I don’t know,” Lynn said. Williams missing any game-action would be a blow to Tyrod Taylor’s prospects as the opening-day starter. Williams is coming off his first 1,000-plus yard season in 2019 and had a 10-touchdown campaign in 2018.

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