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Around the AFC West: Ugly holdouts, helmet issues and more

(Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

The Broncos are getting ready to take on the 49ers on Monday, and they will hold joint practices with their upcoming opponent across the next two days at UC Health Training Center. Meanwhile, the rest of the AFC West is continuing through the preseason.

One team in the division played on Thursday night, while the rest play over the weekend with the Broncos wrapping up the second week of the preseason on Monday night. With training camp in full swing, there is a ton to go over when it comes to the Broncos main opponents.

Let’s take a spin around the AFC West to see what the competition is up to.

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Kansas City Chiefs

Keep an eye on Chiefs running back Darwin Thompson. According to Chiefs sources I talk to, Thompson has been receiving more first-team reps in recent practices. A sixth-round pick out of Utah State in the 2019 NFL Draft, Thompson has a compact frame and is incredibly explosive with the ball in his hands.

Thompson is doing so good in training camp that the Chiefs may decide to use him as the primary backup to starter Damien Williams. That may lead to the release of veteran Carlos Hyde. The Chiefs like Hyde, but he’s currently being outplayed by the late-round rookie.

The Chiefs already have an explosive offense with multiple weapons at every position on that side of the ball. Thompson is not high on the depth chart, but he’s one of those reserve players who could do more with a larger role. Watch out for him in the rest of the preseason, and certainly take note if Thompson gets into the game during the regular season.


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Los Angeles Chargers

It’s looking more and more like Chargers running back Melvin Gordon is going to hold out into the regular season. Sources I talk to around the team convey Gordon has not made any progress in contract extension talks with the Chargers.

Word is the team is not budging off of their offer to Gordon that would pay him roughly $10 million annually.
They seem to be content moving forward with Austin Ekeler as their lead back. Behind him, versatile all-around back Justin Jackson can produce as a reserve runner and the Chargers offense may not miss much of a beat without Gordon.

In 2018, Gordon missed four games. The Chargers did not lose a game when he was gone.

This holdout is getting uglier as time rolls on. Perhaps he’ll change his mind, but at this moment the Chargers have all the leverage. The Broncos play the Chargers in Week 5 this season, and there’s a possibility that Gordon is still holding out by that time.


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Oakland Raiders

The Raiders got to beat up on a Vance Joseph defense (again) on Thursday night. Joseph went from being head coach of the Broncos to now working as the defensive coordinator for the Cardinals. The Raiders won the game 33-26 and their first- and second-team offenses had no problem tearing through Joseph’s defense like a hot knife through butter.

Starting quarterback Derek Carr was 100 percent passing on the night, going 2-for-2 for 40 yards and one touchdown. His backup, veteran Mike Glennon, enjoyed a great night as well finishing with 175 yards passing, two touchdowns and zero interceptions.

Oakland was still working without superstar wide receiver Antonio Brown. His helmet issue has been resolved, but Brown is still missing time with his foot problem caused by a cryogenic incident. Carr looked comfortable in the Gruden offense, and he said earlier in the week that he’s doing his best to execute this difficult offense.

That certainly showed through on Thursday night, but I’m sure Vic Fangio’s defense can put up a much better fight than Joseph’s unit.