AFC West Camp Preview: Chiefs Rebuilding on the Fly
NFL Offseason - Will Andy Reid play Patrick Mahomes and his starters in the preseason? Can the Los Angeles Chargers avoid their traditional summer injury disaster? Will Khalil Mack be ready to participate in Las Vegas Raiders training camp? WHAT THE HELL IS CIARA DOING TO RUSSELL WILSON'S FACE? The answers to those questions and more can be found in Walkthrough's AFC West Training Camp previews!
Denver Broncos 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading into Camp: The Broncos didn't just trade for Russell Wilson. They traded the false optimism about their quarterback situation of 2016-2021 for false optimism about their defense for 2022. Yes, the Broncos were the winners in that trade. But they still have a lot to do this summer if they hope to do more than get a little better under Wilson and Nathaniel Hackett.
Camp Battles to Watch: Lloyd Cushenberry will have to hold off a push from former Lions starter Graham Glasgow at center. Glasgow could also slide to guard (he played both positions in Detroit) if Quinn Meinerz, last year's third-round pick from Wisconsin-Whitewater, doesn't take a leap forward this year.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: It's Wilson, of course, as he and Ciara install themselves as Duke and Duchess of the Rockies. Let's see what the ultra-glamorous couple was up to during their Italian getaway and … oof, can't unsee that.
Wilson aside, Randy Gregory underwent rotator cuff surgery not long after signing his reported $70-million contract with the Broncos and was not available for OTAs. Hackett sounded A-OK with the situation in minicamp. Why should anyone worry about a player who has never been healthy and available for a full year in seven NFL seasons? After all, Bradley Chubb is the Broncos' other edge rusher, and what are the odds that guy gets injured or disappoints...
Circle-It Date: The Broncos-Cowboys August 11 joint practice should feature storylines and sound bites galore. There's no way Jerrah wants to see his boys upstaged by Russ and Dr. Pimple Popper!
Kansas City Chiefs 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading into Camp: New receivers! New edge rushers! New defensive backs! High draft picks and budget-friendly free agents everywhere! The Chiefs are like a Super Bowl contender dressed up for Halloween like a rebuilding team. Or vice versa? Nope, as long as Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid around, they're still contenders.
Training Camp Battles to Watch: Nate Taylor of The Athletic reports that Marquez Valdes-Scantling was the Chiefs' best receiver during OTAs. Rookie Skyy Moore, meanwhile, missed most of OTAs with a hamstring injury. The Chiefs know what they are getting from Mecole Hardman (screens and reverses) and Juju Smith-Schuster (catches in traffic, TikTok videos that gave Steelers fans conniptions). Oh, and Josh Gordon participated in minicamp like a regular football player, not some receiving cryptid. No one receiver will replace Tyreek Hill, but we will get a better sense in the weeks to come of who Patrick Mahomes' go-to receiver will be, whether Moore will have a major role in 2022, and if Gordon will once again disappear into the underbrush.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: First-round pass-rusher George Karlaftis was reportedly so energetic during rookie camp that coaches ordered him to (in his words) "tone down." Karlaftis, the 30th overall pick, has tools to rival edge rushers taken in the top 10, but he spent his childhood in Greece playing water polo instead of football. The Chiefs are relying on Karlaftis and Trent McDuffie, another first-round pick, to stabilize a defense that needed a second-half surge to climb all the way to 24th in DVOA in 2021.
Circle-It Date: Andy Reid still plays many of his starters in the preseason. In fact, Mahomes actually threw 18 passes in the second preseason game of 2021! So look for an old-fashioned dress rehearsal when the Chiefs face the Commanders on August 20. Even if Mahomes doesn't play much, all of those receivers and first-round picks probably will.
Los Angeles Chargers 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading into Camp: The Chargers have a clear-cut to-do list.
- Avoid their traditional Curse of the Mummy injury plague (which has subsided in recent years).
- Make sure the run defense is fixed.
- Create the greatest fourth-down conversion package in NFL history so their season doesn't end with Austin Ekeler getting stuffed on fourth-and-1 from his own 28 when the Chargers are protecting a two-point lead.
- Hope Justin Herbert isn't buying into his own hype.
Camp Battles to Watch: Incumbent right tackle Storm Norton finished third in the NFL with 42 blown blocks in 2021. Trey Pipkins, who started at right tackle for a while in 2020, appears ready to overtake him. In the event of a double knockout, Matt Feiler might move over to right tackle, with sixth-round pick Jamaree Salyer (Georgia) replacing Feiler at left guard.
Isaiah Spiller (Texas A&M) is expected to win a role as Ekeler's platoon mate, especially since Joshua Kelley and Larry Rountree did little in the role. But keep an eye on UDFAs Leddie Brown (West Virginia) and Kevin Marks (Buffalo), a pair of compact but determined dirty-work rushers. Ekeler, for his part, wants some help. "I wanna play a long time, so I want guys to come in and earn some reps," he said per Alex Katson at Chargers Wire). "I want these guys to come challenge me." The Chargers would love one of these backs to prove himself as a short-yardage battering ram.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: Let's check in on Khalil Mack's workout routine and … oh my. All Mack and his trainer need to do is throw a tiger at a motorcycle and this could be an outtake from RRR! Mack, recovering from a foot injury, did perform a few individual drills in minicamp; it's unclear how much action he will see in August.
The Chargers face the Raiders in Week 1, and Mack claims it's just another game. Yep, just another game against the team that traded you for a bunch of draft picks that they used as birdcage liner, and which also tied your new team's shoelaces together in a must-win Week 18 game in 2021. No extra emotions at play here.
Circle-It Date: Brandon Staley shrink-wraps his starters during camp, so there will be little to see. Training camp officially ends for the Chargers on August 18. If Herbert hasn't gotten electrocuted by his toaster or a megavolcano hasn't swallowed the team by then, it should be smooth sailing.
Las Vegas Raiders 2022 Training Camp Preview
Heading into Camp: Good luck trying to gauge the expectations for the 2022 Raiders. With Davante Adams and Chandler Jones, they should be better than last year's Raiders. And last year's Raiders reached the playoffs! Yet this year's Raiders don't look like much more than a one-and-done playoff team. Confused? A training camp in which Josh McDaniels imposes Belichick-level omertà is likely to reveal very little.
Camp Battles to Watch: Adams is WR1. Hunter Renfrow is WR2, though he will operate mostly out of the slot. The candidates for WR3 include Demarcus Robinson, a toolsy speedster who was never 100% with the Chiefs program; Keelan Cole, a toolsy speedster who never quite built upon his come-from-nowhere 2017 success with the Jaguars; and Mack Hollins, a toolsy speedster who enjoys life as a special teams gunner. There's a high probability that McDaniels solves this riddle with 12 personnel, Darren Waller and Foster Moreau to the right, Adams split left, Renfrow in the slot, and Robinson coming off the bench for 20 decoy deep routes per game.
Rock Ya-Sin and Nate Hobbs will be two of the starting corners, though Hobbs (like Renfrow) will probably stick to the slot. The other cornerback job will either go to former Ravens role player Anthony Averett or Trayvon Mullen, a stereotypical Raiders draft bust out of Clemson. Others are in the mix, including former Bengals special teams ace Darius Phillips (McDaniels really hoarded special teams aces in free agency) and Eagles slot tough guy Cre'Von LeBlanc. A deep unit is not necessarily the same thing as a strong unit.
Newcomer to Obsess Over: Davante Adams. You have probably read enough about him.
Returnee to Obsess Over: Alex Leatherwood remained ahead of Brandon Parker and others for the right tackle position when minicamp ended. That means Leatherwood either improved significantly from the last time we saw him or that McDaniels will spend the whole year scheming to hide the rain barrel on the offensive line.
Circle-It Date: Raiders training camp will be dull because there aren't many glamor-position battles, McDaniels will control information like the Belichick caporegime he has been for years, and the Vegas press pool has not really had a chance to coalesce into a source for breathless intrigue and dedicated hornet's nest-poking. But the Raiders face the Jaguars in the Hall of Fame Game on August 4. It's the worst football game on any schedule. But it's also the harbinger of the thrills and glory to come.