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Travis Kelce
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Around the AFC West: Camp starts and teams deal with change

(Photo by Abbie Parr / Getty Images)

The Broncos have been in training camp for a week now, but the rest of the division is just getting started with their respective training camps. The slow time of the news cycle is over, as every NFL team is preparing for the 2019 season and we’ll have a preseason game next week!

The AFC West is the toughest division in football, so keeping track of the news from around the division gives one an idea of what the Broncos will be up against in 2019.

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

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Kansas City Chiefs

The weapons in Kansas City are getting healthier at just the right time as they kick off camp this week. Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce (ankle) reported to camp on Tuesday, after he was held out of organized team activities and minicamp following offseason ankle surgery. The team had a plan to hold him out during the spring, but the plan was always to have him ready at the start of training camp.

Kelce, a third-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, is entering his age-30 season and is showing no signs of slowing down. He’s missed one game in the last five seasons and this ankle surgery was considered minor. The Chiefs offense was one of the most explosive in the league last year, but they would not be the same without Kelce threatening the deep middle seam.

Expect the Chiefs to limit how much Kelce does in training camp. In fact, don’t be surprised if he barely plays in the preseason as he’s a seasoned veteran returning from surgery and doesn’t need a ton of reps.

This will give the Chiefs an opportunity to look at some reserve tight ends in the summer. I’m interested in watching two former quarterbacks compete to see if they can be reserve tight ends for the Chiefs.

Blake Bell, a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in the 2014 NFL Draft, has bounced around the league after converting from a college quarterback at Oklahoma. He’s big, physical and knows how to present a large target across the middle.

John Lovett, an undrafted free agent out of Princeton in 2019, was a running quarterback in college but now is trying his hand at a different position. Word out of Kansas City is that they’d like to use Lovett in a similar fashion to the way the Saints use their No. 3 quarterback Taysom Hill.

I’ll be watching to see if Bell or Lovett can make plays and earn a spot on the 53-man roster at tight end.

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Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers received some bad news this week about their starting left tackle. Chargers offensive tackle Russell Okung (heart) is recovering from a pulmonary embolism caused by blood clots and will start training camp on the Active/Non-Football Illness list. Their general manager, Tom Telesco, said that Okung may miss all of training camp due to this illness.

This is a serious medical condition but it was caught early enough and can be treated. Okung called this illness a “wake up call” and that his medical checkup after he didn’t feel like himself a “life saver.”

Indeed, this situation could have been much more dire if Okung had ignored the signs. It’s good that he’s on the road to recovery, but there is no way of telling when he will be ready to resume football activities.

The Chargers lack depth on the offensive line and will move starting right tackle Sam Tevi take over to left tackle while Okung is out. The team is already reeling from the holdout of running back Melvin Gordon, and people I talk to around that team feel the end is not in sight unless Gordon backs down in his demand for a new contract.

With training camp just getting started for the Chargers, they are missing their starting running back and starting left tackle. That’s not a great way to kick off the 2019 season.

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Oakland Raiders

The Raiders had three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft, including Alabama running back Josh Jacobs who with the No. 24 overall pick. Jacobs is set to be their new lead back and should get plenty of carries as the Raiders featured back. The rookie is also likely to get plenty of looks as a receiver out of the backfield.

This could take Jalen Richard off the field for the Raiders.

Richard is the team’s receiving back and has made plays as a pass-catching threat for the offense in the past. Sources around the team I talk to believe that Richard could lose a “good chunk” of the touches he has gotten as a receiving back because Jacobs doesn’t need to come off the field. Richard emerged as a major threat in the passing game with 68 receptions for 607 yards in 2018. It sounds like even though he’s talented and has produced, the team wants to give Jacobs as much as he can handle this year.

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