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AFC West training camp preview: Four big questions

Around The League continues our training camp preview with a look at the AFC West. We already have asked questions on the AFC East, AFC North and AFC South. (To hear our division previews in podcast form, just click into the sound file below or go right here.)

Denver Broncos: Will Montee Ball start at running back in Week 1?

On paper, Ball is the obvious choice to be the Broncos' starter. That's why they took him in the second round of the NFL draft. The Broncos were looking for an early down thumper, and they released Willis McGahee. Ball still has to prove he can handle the speed of the NFL, especially in pass protection, after pads come on. Plenty of well-laid draft plans blow up in August.

One Denver newspaper still believes second-year pro Ronnie Hillman has a chance to start, but it's hard to imagine him being anything more than a passing-down back. Knowshon Moreno also is still around if anything goes awry with the young guys.

Kansas City Chiefs: Is this team as stable as it appears?

The Chiefs are healthy. They don't have a lot of injuries or meaningful position battles, which is strange for a team breaking in a new head coach, quarterback and defensive coordinator while coming off a 2-14 season. It will be fascinating to watch how Andy Reid coaches up Alex Smith and how the team uses the pistol formation, but that's not something we'll truly know much about until September.

Sure, tight end looks somewhat up for grabs. There are questions about if Jon Baldwin will play ahead of Donnie Avery at receiver. But this is a veteran team with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and that mostly knows its starting 22 players. Expectations should be raised.

Oakland Raiders: Who is going to start ... everywhere?

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Most teams have a few starting positions up for grabs in training camp. In Oakland, it's easier to name the guys we know will start. On offense, it's running back Darren McFadden, left tackle Jared Veldheer, wide receiver Denarius Moore and center Stefen Wisniewski. (Please add a mental "if healthy" disclaimer after McFadden and Moore.) The other seven spots, including quarterback, are up for grabs.

On defense, the only players we know are starting: defensive end Lamarr Houston, safety Charles Woodson, safety Tyvon Branch and rookie cornerback D.J. Hayden. We can guess who will start elsewhere, but the front seven mostly is up for grabs.

Matt Flynn's ability to take charge of this team will be the focus in August, but this is a roster with questions just about everywhere.

San Diego Chargers: How will the receiver position shake out?

The Chargers' defense has enough talent and continuity to contend. The Chargers' offense is full of questions, with the most answers likely to come in training camp at wide receiver. Malcom Floyd will start if he can stay healthy, which never is a given. After that, talented third-year pro Vincent Brown, surprising in-season pickup Danario Alexander, third-round draft pick Keenan Allen and free-agent bust Robert Meachem all are angling for snaps.

It's not a terrible group in terms of talent, but it's strange to have five wide receivers who could qualify as boom-or-bust players. You could describe the entire offense that way, right down to quarterback Philip Rivers.

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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