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Around the AFC West: Final roster tweaks with the season looming

(Photo by Jamie Squire / Getty Images)

The Broncos are finally done with the preseason! It was an extra-long exhibition this season since Denver played in the Hall of Fame Game and they ended up playing five games overall. Now, the regular season is right around the quarter but the team’s work is not yet done.

Like the Broncos, the rest of the AFC West played their final preseason game on Thursday night. This game is all about finding the players who will round out the bottom of your 53-man roster, and each team in this division will have some tough decisions to make.

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


Kansas City Chiefs

The Chiefs had to go out and sign veteran quarterback Matt Moore this week to be the primary backup to Patrick Mahomes. Backup Chad Henne suffered an ankle injury in the preseason game against the 49ers last week. Henne underwent ankle surgery and is expected to be placed on the injured reserve list, and that’s why the team went after Moore.

He was out of the league in 2018, but Moore has plenty of experience in the league. Undrafted out of Oregon State back in 2007, Moore has spent the last seven seasons with the Dolphins mainly as a backup and a spot starter. He’ll be able to hold a clipboard with the best of them and gives the Chiefs veteran insurance in case Mahomes gets banged up.

In addition to losing Henne with a fractured ankle, the Chiefs also lost a potential gadget quarterback this preseason too. Chiefs rookie tight end John Lovett suffered a shoulder injury back on Aug. 10 in the preseason game against the Bengals. The team placed the undrafted rookie from Princeton on Aug. 27. Lovett is listed as a tight end, but he was a quarterback in college and could have played a Taysom Hill-like role for the Chiefs.


Los Angeles Chargers

The Chargers have spent the entirety of training camp and the preseason without starting running back Melvin Gordon. While the team was going through the rigors of August, Gordon was holding out for a new contract. Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Gordon wants the security that comes with a long-term deal.

The sources around that team I talk to believe a deal could happen for Gordon sooner rather than later.

Deals get done at deadlines and we’ve got the start of the regular season as a huge deadline looming for both sides. Reports have indicated the Chargers have a contract offer on the table for Gordon that would pay him around $10 million annually – a mark that would make him one of the highest-paid running backs in the league.

The Chargers may not budge off that mark, but Gordon might budge on his stance. I’ll be watching this situation closely and we may have movement during the next week.


Oakland Raiders

The word out of Oakland is that head coach Jon Gruden wants the offense to “air it out” in 2019. That’s good news for fantasy GMs who add talented players like Antonio Brown or Tyrell Williams from the Raiders, but it could also be good news for the Broncos defense.

In a press conference on Wednesday, Gruden said “At the beginning of practice, we work on the red line, the 50-50 balls, and when you have Antonio Brown and Tyrell Williams, you have to commit to yourself throwing them, and same with (Darren Waller). We got to throw the ball down the field and if it’s incomplete or we get the catch, we can always challenge (Al Riveron, the senior vice president of officiating) in New York and see what he thinks.”

More focus on throwing downfield passes plays right into the hands of the Broncos defense. The pass-rushers Denver has are among the best in the league. If the Raiders want to throw more deep passes, that means quarterback Derek Carr will have to hold onto the ball longer and that gives Von Miller and Bradley Chubb more time to get to him.

If Carr is able to evade the rush and find a player down the field to throw to, he has to contend with ballhawks in the secondary like Chris Harris Jr. and Kareem Jackson. The Broncos defense is going to be elite, but I think fans will notice a big difference when it comes to getting turnovers. This defense under Vic Fangio should get their hands on the ball a whole lot more than they did over the last two seasons.