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Hall-of-Fame Game tonight a dry-run for players - as well as coaches

A first-time head coach, a new coaching staff and dozens of young players will finally get their chance to shift into game mode tonight at the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.

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DENVER BRONCOS TRAINING CAMP Photo by AAron Ontiveroz/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Happy Hall-of-Fame Game Day, Broncos Country!

WooHoo! The Denver Broncos will finally begin their 60th season and kickoff the NFL’s 100th season at the 2019 Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio, tonight as Broncos new head coach Vic Fangio will make his head-coaching debut.

And while it will be tempting to watch certain players and position groups with an eagle eye of skepticism and evaluation, it’s good to remember what this game really is - a dry run. For everyone.

A dry run for players, for coaches, for referees - heck, even for fans (special editor’s note - MHR’s Jess Place and Casey Barrett will be at the Hall of Fame game as well as the ceremony and tons of special events in between and will be bringing first-hand coverage to Mile High Report.)

It’s a chance to put young players, new players, players fighting to move up in game-like conditions to see how they react.

And when reporters asked head coach Vic Fangio (aka, VFF) how much people should “read into” his first depth chart for the game, he totally “Fangioed” his reply:

“I’m going to be honest with you. I wouldn’t read it at all,” he said on Monday. “They came to me and asked me to put this depth chart together. I gave it to the coaches and said just put it there. Anything — you guys know who’s been working with the ones. Anything after that is a free-for-all, and if you put any stock in to it you’re mistaken.”

In fact, Fangio is not putting any stock into his depth chart until Week 1 after he has cut down to 53 players.

Because Vic Freakin’ Fangio knows that preseason is about working out the kinks, finding the best combination of players, seeing which players rise to the competition, which ones can’t handle the pressure, which ones just need more development. It’s a practice.

“The main thing that we want to accomplish is get the individual and the team ready for the regular season,” he said, noting that one of his biggest jobs is getting the right 53 players. “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. ...Can guys cover receivers? Can guys rush the passer? Can we stop the run? So, it’s an evaluation tool, mainly.”

And lest you think he’s not including coaches, Fangio sees this week’s game as much about him doing his job right as the players moving the ball. As a first-time head coach, Fangio knows his role will be a little different - and he wants to practice.

“Experiment with where the best place for me to stand is when we’re on defense,” he said. “I’m going to try and get an end zone view of it. I won’t be on the line of scrimmage starting off. I’m going to try and be back a little ways, one way or the other, so at least I have somewhat of a wider view. We’ll see how that works.”

He’s also not worrying about what plays offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello is calling (it’s preseason for crying out loud, who cares?). Instead, he’s concerned about how coaches on the sidelines are helping players do their jobs on the field.

“I’m going to be more interested in the operation. How the players are going in. Do we have a flow? Are we making sure we’re not up against the play clock too many times?” Fangio said. “I’ll be helping him with that. More so the operation than the exact plays being called.”

But Scangarello will definitely be paying attention to his offense on the field.

Choosing to be in the box rather on the sideline, the first-time coordinator believes that with a strong o-line coach, quarterbacks coach and veteran QB on the sidelines, he can afford to take advantage of the quiet atmosphere the box allows for him to think through the play calling.

Asked how he’d measure his performance as a play caller on Thursday, Scangarello did not hesitate - “By points (laughing).”

“I know everyone says it’s [my] first time [calling plays] in the NFL, and yes, the NFL is the biggest stage and all that, but I’ve called a lot of plays,” he said, pointing out that calling this kind of offense in college where coaches can’t communicate with the quarterback is actually tougher. “So, in a lot of ways, the communication process is much smoother in the NFL. In the end, it’s the best defensive coordinators in the league, and I’ve got to be on it, and I have to do my job to help guys be in a position to be successful.”

But Scangarello - like his head coach - has a very grounded view of what he’s looking for tonight and throughout the preseason.

“In the end, our job is to be at our best come September when we start the season. ...I know when you’re watching it, things are going to look a certain way offensively and defensively. And rightfully so to say the offense struggled, or whatever. I understand all that from the outside. For us, it’s about measuring — we are putting in different schemes, and things don’t necessarily fit what we’re seeing and what we have to teach the quarterback and the players — and you have to install things. So, it’s not always going to be smooth, and vice-versa,” Scangarello said. “...Offensively we’ve just got to gel, [and] we’re coming together. By far, we’re not there, we still have a ways to go, but I feel the confidence.”

And for all these reasons, Fangio likes the five-game preseason the Broncos will have thanks to the HOF game.

“I like it. I think the guys that benefit the most from it are the young players. They’re going to get more reps,” Fangio said, adding that a lot of young players often feel squeezed by just four games to show what they’ve got. “So they’re going to get enough opportunities here and get their play on tape. The good thing about being a football player, you don’t have to make a resume up. Your resume’s on tape, and every team gets it.”

Horse Tracks - docllv’s pick of the day

‘You’re talking about one of the best dudes I’ve ever met’: Once a menacing safety, Steve Atwater thrives as a mentor – The Athletic
The eight-time Pro Bowler and should-be Hall of Famer returned to the Broncos in 2017 and plays a crucial role behind the scenes.

Horse Tracks - Broncos v. Falcons

Get Ready To See Broncos Left Tackle Garett Bolles On The Field For Hall Of Fame Game – CBS Denver
Broncos head coach Vic Fangio won’t play guys like Joe Flacco, Von Miller and Bradley Chubb but one starter who will see some time on the field at the Hall of Fame game is left tackle Garett Bolles.

Kevin Hogan to start Pro Football Hall of Fame game, Drew Lock and Brett Rypien to follow at QB
Head Coach Vic Fangio outlined his plan for the game, spoke about Emmanuel Sanders' progress and provided an injury update on several key players.

Broncos-Falcons: What to watch in Hall of Fame game -
The 2019 preseason has officially arrived with Thursday's Hall of Fame Game between the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons. Here are five stories to watch in the annual preseason opener.

Falcons OL Kaleb McGary to undergo heart procedure -
Atlanta Falcons first-round pick Kaleb McGary will undergo a cardiac ablation procedure Wednesday, the team announced. He has undergone two similar procedures earlier in his life.

Falcons - Broncos: The Hall of Fame Game will be a rookie showcase - The Falcoholic
The Falcons have a ton of incentive to get their depth right this season, and games like this will help them make key evaluations.

Kaleb McGary heart procedure has Falcons’ 2019 depth chart in flux - The Falcoholic
The situation is not ideal but there are options.

Falcons - Broncos series history: Denver leads 9-6 all-time - The Falcoholic
The all-time history favors the Broncos, but the biggest game of all is an even bigger blow.

Five Broncos to watch in Thursday’s preseason opener against Atlanta – The Denver Post
DeMarcus Walker is on this list.

Key Denver Broncos players to watch during Hall of Fame game
The Denver Broncos take the field on Thursday for their first preseason game of 2019. Which players will fans keep an eye on? I look at some of them here.

Horse Tracks - Broncos News

Broncos release initial depth chart for 2019 season
The team's depth chart is subject to change each week, but it does provide a few answers about where Head Coach Vic Fangio's team stands heading into the first week of the season.

GIF Horse - The pre-camp Denver Broncos’ preview - Mile High Report
It has to be the Broncos’ young hands. No position group has a wider chasm between national and local perception on the current roster.

Von Miller on whether he's already a Hall of Famer: 'No, I haven't done enough' | 9news
Besides Elway, Broncos' offensive line coach Mike Munchak has bust for players to admire.

Elway sees younger self in Hall of Fame bust room |
The Broncos general manager was team's first to be enshrined in 2004.

Denver Broncos: Nick Williams has a shot to make 53-man roster
Nick Williams has looked good at Broncos training camp and he has a chance to make the team's 53-man roster.

Denver Broncos: Von Miller ranked among top 10 players in the NFL
Broncos outside linebacker Von Miller was ranked among the top 10 players on the "NFL Top 100" list.

Inside the Broncos' tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame
Take an inside look at the Broncos' tour of the Pro Football Hall of Fame shortly after they arrived in Canton, Ohio, on Wednesday ahead of their preseason opener against the Falcons in the Hall of Fame Game.

Broncos Day 10 Camp report: Ramping up for the preseason opener
Justin Simmons added another interception to his camp haul, while Head Coach Vic Fangio threw in some planned penalties to toss his team a curveball.

‘It’s like playing a game of H-O-R-S-E’: Vic Fangio, Broncos set expectations for Hall of Fame Game – The Athletic
It may be just a preseason game. But for Vic Fangio, his staff and Broncos players vying for roster spots, Thursday's game carries weight.

Horse Tracks - NFL News

Top 100 Players of 2019, Nos. 10-1: Aaron Donald takes No. 1 spot -
Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald moved to the No. 1 spot after an impressive 2018 season which ended with him winning Defensive player of the Year. See who else rounds out the top 10.

NFL Top 100 Players of 2019: Five things the voters got wrong -
NFL Network's "Top 100 Players of 2019" is complete. With all the names and rankings out in the open ... who got a raw deal? Jeremy Bergman identifies five things the voters got wrong.

Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti dies at 78 -
Pro Football Hall of Fame LB Nick Buoniconti died at the age of 78, the Miami Dolphins confirmed. The five-time All-Pro was a member of the 17-0 1972 Dolphins.

Camp Buzz: Chiefs move CB Tremon Smith to RB -
Chiefs cornerback Tremon Smith is going from returning punts to taking handoffs, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport discusses Michael Thomas' impact on Julio Jones and Tom Brady reveals a big change.

NFL's top quarterback-wide receiver duo? Saints, Patriots combos sizzle -
There's no shortage of impressive quarterback-wide receiver duos in the NFL, but which tandem is the best heading into the 2019 season? NFL Network analysts debate.

Tom Brady jokes 'should we take a poll?' on new deal -
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is entering the final year of his contract -- a topic he addressed Wednesday with New England reporters.

Panthers to limit McCaffrey's snaps, not touches in '19 -
Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey was on the field for a league-leading 91.3 percent of offensive snaps last season. In 2019, Carolina hopes to have him on the field less, but maintain his touches.

Baker Mayfield unafraid in calling out Browns WRs -
At a practice last weekend, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield briefly yelled at his receivers for not working back to him while he was scrambling. On Wednesday, Mayfield addressed his outburst.