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Seven Broncos who are trending up after the team's first preseason game

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 2, 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 most of Denver’s starters were held out of the game, there was plenty to be learned from the team’s extra preseason game. And there were plenty of positives.

Here’s who is trending up after the first 60 minutes of football in the 2019 season.

HOGAN MANIA

Everyone knew this was coming, right? Two days after he was asked if he was stuck between a rock—veteran starter Joe Flacco—and a hard place—“the future” Drew Lock—Kevin Hogan acted like he was as cool as the other side of the pillow.

In three series, with Flacco getting the game off, the starter looked like a composed veteran the Broncos hoped he could be when they signed him last year.

In three series, Hogan finished 5-for-8 for 37 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions and a 73.4 passer rating. But his performance was much better than the numbers would suggest, most notably by leading the team to their first touchdown drive on his second series.

On that touchdown drive, Hogan stayed composed after Noah Fant dropped the first pass. Two plays later, he found Fant on 3rd-and-5 for a gain of seven and a first down. No. 9 had two more completions on the drive, moving the chains on both.

If it weren’t for two drops, Hogan would have had one incompletion on the day.

Thursday night’s game was arguably Hogan’s best outing since training camp started.

THE GODFATHER

Vic Fangio’s “Godfather” nickname has never been more fitting. In fact, in terms of toughness, the Godfather may need to change his name to Vic Fangio.

After being hospitalized hours before kickoff due to a kidney stone, Fangio was on the sidelines coaching the entire game.

When Tony Dungy, who has dealt with a kidney stone, heard the news of Fangio being in the hospital, he told the NBC broadcast, “There’s no way he’ll be able to coach.”

Well, coach, the Broncos’ new coach was coaching. Talk about tough. And that wasn’t the only way he was tough on Thursday night.

Coaching from the sideline for the first time in ages, Fangio dialed up a defensive masterpiece.

After three series, Denver had given up one total yard. One. Fangio’s defense was giving up 0.1 yards per play in those series. His unit balled, only giving up 10 points on 3.5 yards per play.

The only downside was his failed defensive pass interference challenge, although he did become the first coach in NFL history to take advantage of that new challenge.

Oh, he’s undefeated as an NFL head coach.

STARTING OFFENSIVE LINE

The Broncos desperately needed to see positive play from their three starting offensive lineman that played on Thursday. Fortunately for them, they did.

Garett Bolles locked down the left side of the offensive line in his two series, and Dalton Risner held his own in his NFL debut next to Bolles.

The best sight to Mike Munchak, however, was Connor McGovern’s pristine shotgun snaps. After struggling throughout the beginning of training camp getting the ball to Flacco in the gun, McGovern put it right on target to Hogan every time he was in the gun.

THE UNEXPECTED KIDS

It wasn’t the usual suspects from John Elway’s batch of talented young players. Instead, it was the likes of Malik Reed, Khalfani Muhammad and Dre’Mont Jones.

Reed, an undrafted rookie out of Nevada, balled out of the gate. The outside linebacker racked up a tackle for a loss—where he read the play perfectly and crashed down the line of scrimmage—and had a sack in the first quarter.

In the second quarter, Reed again tracked down a run from the backside and made the tackle at the line of scrimmage. The Flacons later double-teamed Reed due to the destruction he was causing.

Fellow rookie Jones had an incredibly impressive NFL debut, too. The third-round pick took over the second half of the game, finishing with three tackles, three quarterback hits and a tackle for a loss. One of his quarterback hits came against starter Matt Schaub that forced the veteran’s pass off target and into the hands of Broncos’ cornerback Trey Johnson for the interception.

Jones was so impressive, in fact, Fangio pointed him out as the first young player that stood out to him after the game.

On the other side of the ball, Muhammad, a seventh-round pick in 2017, had a heck of a game. The smaller speed back showed burst running inside, outside and in space. He finished the day with 50 rushing yards on a 7.1 average, a team-long 31-yard run and the lone rushing touchdown. He was also the team’s leading receiver with 24 yards, including an 11-yard screen pass.

Last but certainly not least is rookie sixth-round pick Juwann Winfree who pulled in the “acrobatic,” as Fangio called it, game-winning catch. Winfree displayed his talent on the touchdown, corralling the tipped ball and getting both feet in bounds to give the team their first “W” on the season.

“Winning has cured more ills than penicillin,” Fangio joked after the game.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

  • Josh Watson, the undrafted linebacker out of Colorado State, had an excellent hit on the quarterback on an inside rush. He read the play well and burst through the hole to force an incompletion.
  • DeMarcus Walker continued his impressive camp by racking up a sack in the second quarter. He “was talking some smack” to the head coach after the game, telling him how good of a game he had.
  • Trey Marshall had two punishing hits on the night, saving a touchdown on his second. The safety showed he can be a force in the secondary.
  • Brett Rypien led the Broncos on a game-winning drive, throwing the miracle touchdown on 4th-and-14 with 1:33 left in the game.

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