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Five question marks for the Broncos after the team's first preseason game

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 2, 2019


Vic Fangio and the Denver Broncos are a perfect 1-0 in 2019.

On Thursday night, the Denver Broncos defeated the Atlanta Falcons 14-10 to kickoff the NFL’s season in the annual Hall of Fame game.

While there were plenty of positives that came with the team’s victory, there were also numerous areas of improvement, as Fangio himself admitted after the game.

Here’s who can improve after the first 60 minutes of football in the 2019 season.


As it’s been through the first two weeks of training camp, the ball was trending down again on Thursday night. Trending down all the way to the ground that is.

Juwann Winfree ended the game with a glorious “acrobatic” game-winning catch, but he started the game with a dropped pass on third down, forcing his team to punt on their first series.

Fellow rookie Noah Fant got in on the drop action, also putting one on the ground from Kevin Hogan on what should have been a routine catch in the flat.

The ball hitting the ground carried over to special teams where Brendan Langley let a punt slip right through his hands after sprinting to attempt to catch a short kick. That mistake gave the Falcons the ball in Denver territory.

Fortunately for Tom McMahon, Vic’s defense was playing out of their mind, and it turned into another Falcons punt, which Langley was not given an opportunity to return.

David Williams also dropped a pass, letting one slide through his hands on third down from the arm of Drew Lock. There was plenty of open green pasture ahead of him if he held on.

Coaches preach how a team practices is how they’ll play. That held true in this respect.


The Broncos used their first-round pick to snag a dynamic receiving threat in the middle of the field. Oh, by the way, Noah Fant can block, too.

But on Thursday, it was nearly the opposite.

Fant’s under-the-radar blocking skills were on display as he drove a defender into the end zone on Khalfani Muhammad’s touchdown run and he also had a good block on the outside on a separate run.

But a holding penalty on the rookie negated a 23-yard run by Muhammed as well.

On the receiving end, there were fewer positives.

Fant’s first pass slipped right through his hands onto the turf. He rebounded by hauling in a third-down pass and turning it up-field for a first down. That, however, was his lone catch on the day.

The No. 20-overall pick was targeted three times, officially, and had one catch for seven yards. On Drew Lock’s first pass, he sailed one over Fant’s head down the right hash. While it initially looked like an overthrow by the rookie quarterback, NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth put the incomplete pass on Fant.

Collinsworth, a former receiver himself, said Fant looked to have “training camp legs,” adding the ball was in the right position for a receiver that runs a 4.5 40-yard dash, as Fant does.

It wasn’t the perfect game that everyone wanted to see from the team’s top tick, but it wasn’t all negative, either.


Much to the chagrin of many, Drew Lock was Kevin Hogan’s backup entering the first preseason game. But it was evident why on Thursday.

After Hogan looked crisp, leading the team to a touchdown in one of his three series, Lock looked, well, like the rookie that he is.

There was the overthrow to Fant on his first pass, a near interception on another pass and another overthrow on a go route again down the right sideline this time to Muhammad. It’s only fair to give the rookie credit that he wasn’t afraid to take the shots downfield. But he didn’t connect.

Lock did pick up steam, taking off for a first down and later connecting with Nick Williams for a gain of 12 on a play-action boot.

But then he went back into rookie mode, looking frazzled in the pocket as he tucked the ball and ran backward when he still had time. The next play, while it wasn’t as much his fault as the pocket collapsed, he was sacked again.

There was also a delay-of-game penalty within two minutes of the first half under Lock’s guidance.

After the game, Fangio said he was “hoping for more” from the rookie quarterback but that he wasn’t surprised.

“I thought his accuracy wasn’t clean all of the time as well as his reads,” Fangio honesty evaluated his quarterback postgame. “We need to get him ready. More ready than he is now.”

Lock finished the night with 34 passing yards on a team-best 63.6 completion percentage for a 68 passer rating and two sacks.


Flags haunted the Broncos in their most recent practices. Much like the drops, that carried over to the field on Thursday.

In the first half, the Broncos had a troubling five penalties for 65 yards. In the second half, there was progress, only racking up three more penalties for an additional 25 yards.

While the numbers certainly weren’t great, it was the type of penalties that will drive Fangio up a wall.

There was an offsides on Jeff Holland, a delay of game with less than two minutes in the first half and after a Falcons timeout, an illegal formation on an extra-point block formation and a false start.

There was also a holding penalty on backup center Ryan Crozier that negated a first-down pickup on fourth down in the red zone in the waining seconds of the game. If it weren’t for Winfree’s heroics on the next play, that penalty simply would have cost them the game.

The Broncos ended the game with eight penalties for 90 yards.


The most experienced back on the team didn’t suit up on Thursday, yet it was still a rough day for No. 23.

Hours before the team’s first game, it was reported the team will sign veteran running back Theo Riddick later this week.

The problem for Booker is the soon-to-be new guy in town plays a very similar role as the team’s current third-string back as they are both viewed as receiving backs.

Riddick just happens to be one of the league’s best receiving backs over the last four seasons. With Muhammad and Devontae Jackson impressing on Thursday night, many believe the Riddick signing is bad news for Booker.


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