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AFC West training camp preview: 3 things to watch

Around The League's Training Camp Preview series will identify three things to watch for the teams in each division this summer. First up is the AFC West.

Denver Broncos


1. The Broncos jump-started contract talks with Demaryius Thomas and Julius Thomas in early June. General manager John Elway left little doubt that the two are offensive building blocks in Denver. The goal is to have both players locked up to new deals by the start of training camp.

2. There is a health watch on defense. Pass rushers Von Miller (ACL surgery) and DeMarcus Ware (elbow surgery), run-stuffer Kevin Vickerson (hip injury) and nickelback Chris Harris (ACL surgery) are all candidates to open camp on the PUP list. All four appear to be on track for the season opener.

3. Offensive coordinator Adam Gase has made it clear that the No. 2 running back job is wide open behind "Making the Leap" candidate Montee Ball. The Broncos still believe in Ronnie Hillman's talent, but he closed out the 2013 season fourth on the depth chart. It's not a bad idea for fantasy footballers to take a late-round flier on C.J. Anderson.

Kansas City Chiefs


1. The Chiefs are joining the Broncos on contract watch. Justin Houston skipped mandatory minicamp last month, angling for a mega-deal. Although Kansas City's brass has expressed confidence in a new contract for Alex Smith, the team is willing to roll out the franchise tag in 2015 if no agreement is reached.

2. August practices will be an opportunity for fans to see if the hype surrounding first-round pass rusher Dee Ford is warranted. The former Auburn star has drawn lofty comparisons to Von Miller and Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas for his lightning-quick first step.

3. Tight end is a position to watch, with 2013 third-round draft pick Travis Kelce expected to take on a major role coming off microfracture knee surgery. Don't sleep on Demetrius Harris, a Wisconsin-Milwaukee hoops star recently compared to Antonio Gates by NFL Media's Gil Brandt.

Oakland Raiders


1. General manager Reggie McKenzie emphasized to Bryan Fischer of College Football 24/7 last week that there is no pressure to rush Derek Carr. The second-round quarterback has already passed Matt McGloin on the depth chart after an impressive spring. NFL Media's Albert Breer noted internal belief at Raiders headquarters that Carr will actually push Matt Schaub for the starting job this summer.

2. Oakland's roster was so barren prior to the 2014 NFL Draft that coach Dennis Allen struggled to name a young star who could legitimately be considered a nucleus player. Now that No. 5 overall pick Khalil Mack has joined Sio Moore, the Raiders boast a pair of intriguing young linebackers. It will be interesting to see how Allen moves Mack around in training camp. The early signs are promising.

3. Andre Holmes is the name to watch at wide receiver. He spent the offseason working opposite Rod Streater with the first-team offense while free-agent acquisition James Jones nursed hamstring and shoulder injuries. Bypassing Denarius Moore on the depth chart, Holmes ranked 15th among all NFL receivers with 366 yards over the final five games of the 2013 season.

San Diego Chargers


1. We can't wait to get a look at new coordinator Frank Reich's fast-break, no-huddle offense, similar to the one run by Peyton Manning in Indianapolis. Our expectations for speedy tight end Ladarius Green are sky-high, so we want to ensure that the Bolts are running plenty of two tight end sets in practices and preseason action.

2. Rivers succeeded in 2013 despite the absence of a deep threat opposite Keenan Allen. Can Malcom Floyd return to that role after suffering a career-threatening neck injury last September? He looked like his old self in offseason practices, which bodes well for his chances of nudging Vincent Brown into the No. 4 receiver role.

3. The secondary was a season-long headache for John Pagano's defense last season, as the cornerbacks lacked speed and were too often overmatched in coverage. General manager Tom Telesco addressed the issue by drafting Jason Verrett in the first round and signing 2013 Pro Bowl selection Brandon Flowers. The coaching staff is also high on young safety Jahleel Addae and cornerback Steve Williams. This defensive backfield could be one of the most improved units in the division.

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