AFC Notes: Bolts, Raiders, Dolphins, Joeckel

After a second straight Chargers season faces the prospects of being overrun by injuries, the team is planning to expand its offseason studies in this area. The organization appears set to devote more resources to researching injuries come 2017, given what’s happened over the past month.

I can assure you this year is going to be more in-depth and thorough than ever before,” Chargers president John Spanos said, via Michael Gehlken of the San Diego Union-Tribune.

This year’s Chargers have lost numerous key players, from the preseason injury to Stevie Johnson to the early-season carnage that’s taken out Keenan Allen, Danny Woodhead, Jahleel Addae, Manti Te’o and now Jason Verrett. Antonio Gates and Joey Bosa have also missed extensive time due to injuries. This comes after 2015’s spate of maladies that helped put the Bolts in the top five of a draft for the first time since 2004.

Gehlken points out the early portion of this decade did not bring the trouble the past two years have, with ACL and Achilles tears sparse before the ’15 season. Several within the organization said they’ve never seen anything like what’s happened to the Chargers on the health front the past two years, per Gehlken.

Here’s more from the AFC as most of its franchises prepare for their fifth games.

  • Al Davis‘ death staggered the Raiders and left them without a true GM for most of the 2011 season, but it ended up triggering the franchise’s steady climb back to respectability, Kevin Acee of the Union-Tribune writes. In addition to Reggie McKenzie drafting better than his predecessor, at least in the several years before his death, the Raiders hired a coach in Jack Del Rio who demanded facility upgrades, Acee writes.
  • The Dolphins aren’t sold on Ja’Wuan James‘ long-term potential at right tackle, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. A Dolphins source questioned the third-year player’s drive, noting the team hasn’t done enough to provide competition for him at that spot. Billy Turner replaced James against the Browns before James reacquired the job due to a Turner injury. “That was a wasted pick for a first-rounder,” former front-office executive Ken Herock told Jackson. “He should have been a third- or fourth-rounder. I questioned his strength, his recovery ability. Those are things I didn’t see.” Pro Football Focus rates James as the No. 44 tackle thus far in 2016 among the 75 who qualify as full-timers.
  • Jackson also notes Chiefs center Mitch Morse and Chargers inside linebacker Denzel Perryman drew support from members of the Dolphins front office during Day 2 of the 2015 draft, but Mike Tannenbaum opted to trade down and snag defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who has not produced to this point, in the second round.
  • Luke Joeckel‘s surgery could make a return to the Jaguars more likely in 2017, Ryan O’Halloran of the Florida Times-Union writes. Although the former No. 2 overall pick has not panned out, a strong season at guard would have created a robust market for Joeckel instead of one that could well be tepid due to a small work sample at his second position. Joeckel proved ill-equipped at left tackle, prompting the Jags to bring in Kelvin Beachum, and played just 155 snaps at left guard before undergoing surgery to repair his ACL, MCL and mensicus. O’Halloran notes the team liked what they saw from Joeckel inside. He stands to be a UFA if not re-signed after the Jags declined his fifth-year option.
  • The Broncos are planning to give Paxton Lynch his first NFL start Sunday after deeming Trevor Siemian unfit to return.
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