NFL Preseason Observations: What We Learned About AFC West in Week 1

Week 1 of the 2019 NFL preseason is in the books, so you know what that means: It's time to give some snapshot judgments that certainly won't hold up in two weeks let alone two months. 

But, let's take a look at the AFC West after one week of meaningless exhibition football, anyway. 

Quarterbacks Derek Carr and Philip Rivers sat on the sideline in shorts, while Joe Flacco and reigning NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes each played one series. Raiders backup quarterback Nathan Peterman showed off his wheels on a 51-yard run, Antonio Brown was nowhere to be seen and the Chargers were called for four penalties on one play. 

All in all, it was a sloppy week of football that mostly meant nothing. 

Regardless, here's one big takeaway from each AFC West team's first real preseason action (apologies to the Hall of Fame Game). 


Head coach Jon Gruden said most of his starters wouldn't see the field in the preseason opener against the Los Angeles Rams, and he didn't lie. 

But the Raiders' rookie class, sans running back Josh Jacobs, saw a decent amount of time and it looks like the Silver and Black could have two gems in the secondary. Safety Johnathan Abram played just 14 snaps against the Rams, but he flew to the ball and wasn't targeted in coverage. We'll learn more about Abram when the Raiders play the Cardinals on Thursday, but he was as advertised in his first NFL action. 

Then there was Clemson cornerback Trayvon Mullen. The second-round draft pick got the start and played 31 snaps, only being targeted twice without allowing a reception, including jarring a ball loose with a big hit in the first quarter. Mullen blanketed whichever receiver was on his side, as Blake Bortles and Brandon Allen eventually elected to look away from Mullen. Mullen has the length, athleticism and physicality to be a big-time corner in the NFL, and he showed that during joint practices when he stuck with Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks during 11-on-11 work. 

His preseason performance only backs up the idea that he could start for the Raiders soon, something Gruden mentioned when the Silver and Black opened camp. 


The rich got richer. 

A team that was a few plays away from going to the Super Bowl a season ago added Georgia wide receiver Mecole Hardman in the draft as Tyreek Hill insurance. That insurance wasn't needed since the NFL apparently had Inspector Clouseau looking into the allegations of child abuse that were levied against the Chiefs star wideout. As such, Hill is free to play ( I know, we're all shocked the NFL didn't do the right thing), and now the Chiefs have added another electric offensive weapon to the most dangerous attack in the NFL. 

Hardman's speed was on full display in the preseason against the Cincinnati Bengals. 

Mahomes now has Hill, Hardman, Sammy Watkins and Travis Kelce to distribute the ball too. Good luck stopping the Chiefs.


The Bolts opened camp with some question marks along the offensive line. Russell Okung, Rivers' primary blindside protector, suffered a pulmonary embolism in June and is out indefinitely while he's on blood thinners. The Chargers also needed to see what 2017 second-round draft pick Forrest Lamp could do. Lamp tore his ACL early in his rookie season and has played sparingly since. 

In their preseason opener against the Cardinals, Lamp played the entire game, starting the contest at left guard before moving to right guard in the second half. Lamp, overall, was sturdy. He was good in run-blocking, and although he got beat a few times in pass protection, it was a solid night for Lamp, who is competing to be the starting left guard with Dan Feeney. 

As for Okung's replacement, second-year pro Trent Scott got the nod and performed admirably. Outside of a holding call, Scott acquitted himself well, and he'll have to continue to get better in order to keep Rivers upright when the games count. 

[RELATED: How Raiders' 2019 draft picks fared in first NFL action]


John Elway has been searching high and low for a quarterback ever since Peyton Manning had to hang it up. The search has been about as close to a disaster as one could imagine. Whether it be in the draft, free agency or trade, the Broncos have not been able to find their long-term answer at QB. 

Elway traded for Joe Flacco this offseason, hoping the Super Bowl MVP has some magic left until 2019 second-round draft pick Drew Lock is ready to go. 

So, is Lock close? First reports were not great. 

The Mizzou product looked steadier against the Seattle Seahawks than he did in his debut in the Hall of Fame Game, but he still has a lot to work on. Lock started out 5-for-7 for 55 yards while leading the Broncos to a field goal on his first drive. But when the Seahawks took control in the second half, and Lock was tasked with bringing the Ponies back, his footwork, technique, accuracy and overall effectiveness went down the drain as the pressure was ratcheted up. 

Flacco might be cooked, but he'll be the guy this year and likely next unless Lock makes big strides. That's probably not the best-case scenario for the Broncos hopes of turning things around. 

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