The Broncos have five preseason games to prepare for the 2019 season, giving them an extra opportunity to look at young players, install a new system and work out the kinks before things get underway for real on Sept. 9 at Oakland. Their first chance to accomplish these goals comes on Thursday night, when they take on the Falcons in the Hall of Fame Game.
While most believe that the preseason is already too long, something that becomes painfully obvious every season when the final exhibition features only players who won’t be making the roster, Vic Fangio sees the bright side of having to play an extra game. The first-year head coach is happy to have the extra work.
“I think the guys that benefit the most from it are the young players; they’re going to get more reps,” Fangio said on Monday after training camp practice No. 10. “So many times, I think young players feel with the four-game schedule, they don’t get enough opportunities. So they’re going to get enough opportunities here and get their play on tape.”
That might help them make the roster in Denver. Or it might help them secure a spot with one of the other 31 teams in the NFL.
“The good thing about being a football player, you don’t have to make a résumé up,” Fangio added. “Your résumé’s on tape and every team gets it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to do right and give everybody an ample amount of reps.”
How will the Broncos go about doing that? For starters, they won’t play most of their starters in the preseason opener.
“Most of them won’t play,” Fangio admitted on Monday. “There might be a couple of guys that get a handful of plays.”
In other words, don’t expect to see Von Miller, Chris Harris Jr., Emmanuel Sanders and other star players. Included on that list is new quarterback Joe Flacco, who won’t make his debut in orange and blue on Thursday night.
“We’re going to go with Kevin (Hogan) to begin with,” Fangio said when asked who would start at quarterback against Atlanta. “Then, Drew (Lock)’s going to follow him and then (Brett Rypien) is going to follow him.”
This will create an opportunity for players listed second, third or lower on the depth chart to show the coaching staff that they deserve more playing time. It’s a chance for Fangio and Company to make sure they don’t overlook anyone.
“One of our biggest jobs is to make sure we pick the right 53 guys,” the head coach explained. “We want to see guys go out and play.”
To get that answer, the Broncos will take an interesting approach. Unlike a regular-season game, Denver won’t necessarily call the perfect play for each situation arises; instead, they’ll intentionally put players in difficult situations, just to see how they respond.
“There will be times whereas coaches we may have a good feel for what the other team is going to run, but we’re going to call something that’s hard for us, just to see if guys can handle it,” Fangio said. “You know, a hard assignment. Can guys cover receivers? Can guys rush the passer? Can we stop the run? So, it’s an evaluation tool, mainly.”
This approach makes the final score less important, but not entirely worthless.
“You know, like anything, once you start playing, that competitiveness gets in (you) and you want to win the game,” Fangio admitted. “But evaluation and getting the team ready is job No. 1.”
On Thursday night, the Broncos will get the chance to evaluate a lot of reserve players. And they’ll do so by testing them in all sorts of situations.
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