The Hall of Fame Game has always been special because of the event it honors, and that was no different when the Denver Broncos rolled into Canton to honor the late Pat Bowlen and star cornerback Champ Bailey.
And as if Bailey’s Mile High Salute as he was introduced before the game weren’t enough, in his sideline interview he masterfully pointed out the raw deal Broncos have gotten over the years in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
"Randy Gradishar, Louis Wright, Steve Atwater...I mean, c'mon, these guys should be in the Hall of Fame."@champbailey gets it.— Doctor of Words (and tights and kicking ass) (@docllv) August 2, 2019
Although the 14-10 victory was a bit of a sleeper, for a lot of players, it was a good chance - possibly their only chance - to get game reps they haven’t had.
Vic Fangio, in his head coaching debut complete with kidney stones, summed up the game best by acknowledging that winning always feels good.
“As we all know, nobody is in there doing cheetah flips and cartwheels about [the win], like they would in a regular season game, but winning has cured more ills than penicillin,” he said. “It’s always nice to win.”
The Broncos scored mid-way through the first quarter and then not again until just 1:33 left in the game, but it was enough for the go-ahead touchdown and the lead. First-year running back Khalfani Muhammad scored the first touchdown of the game from the three-yard line and finished as the top rusher and receiver for the Broncos.
Former CU Buff wideout Juwann Winfree - one of many receivers trying to crack the roster - caught a 15-yard touchdown pass from undrafted rookie Brett Rypien on a tipped ball to score on a 4th-and-14 play.
Despite the game being a contest between the backups, Fangio didn’t want to downplay the significance of what the Hall of Fame game honors. Having coached in four Hall of Fame games, he said it’s “always cool to be here for this game” to honor former great players and coaches.
And although everyone but Fangio made a big deal out of his “debut” as a head coach, he was as down-to-earth as ever after the experience.
“I wouldn’t use the words ‘soaked in and enjoy.’ I just haven’t been overly fazed by the next step up,” Fangio said, pointing out that it’s not all that different from coaching one side of the ball. “I’m not trying to make light of it. ...It hasn’t happened to me yet. I’m sure it will at some point.”
The coach had some praise for a few players, including Dre’Mont Jones, Winfree and possibly Justin Hollins and DeMarcus Walker, but the coach was making no statements until he has time to look at the tape.
“Well obviously, Dre’Mont had some nice plays there at the end. Winfree made the acrobatic catch. Those were some of the guys, but I need to watch the tape first,” he said, adding that Walker told him he had a good game. “He came right up to me after the game and he was talking some smack. We’ll see, I’m anxious to see...But he did tell me he played well.”
So as we wait for Fangio’s more detailed evaluation of the players, here are a few of my observations following the first game of 2019.
None of the backup QBs playing Thursday night were overly impressive, but Hogan did show an ability to make plays - proving why the Broncos have put Hogan as their No. 2 quarterback. Hogan finished the night with possibly the worst stats of the trio, but he was effective in leading a drive that delivered the team’s first touchdown.
Fangio noted, however, that often Hogan didn’t give his receivers enough to work with.
“I think Kevin is the winningest quarterback in the history of Stanford football, so he’s been around of a lot of good football, played good football and I’m not surprised,” he said. “But I think he could have played better, too. Some of the drops he had, the ball placement was not great. Made what should have been easier catches harder catches. The guys should have caught them, but they didn’t. I think he is capable of better.”
Hogan also should eat up the pass-rushing hits Broncos fans want Drew Lock and Joe Flacco to avoid while the offensive line works out some early kinks in the preseason.
The running backs
On the heels of Denver signing Theo Riddick to a one-year deal
Broncos running backs coach Curtis Modkins helped Riddick along as a rookie in Detroit. The Broncos have often had more serviceable running backs than they know what to do with, and if I’m another franchise, I’m keeping a close eye on what Denver chooses to do with Muhammad and/or Jackson.
Veterans needing to prove their worth
A handful of third-year players are looking to prove they are worthy of staying on the roster, including left tackle Garret Bolles and safety Su’a Cravens. Both made a standout play in the game, and for me it’s safe to say both look ready to roll for 2019.
It’s impossible not to be drawn in by the speed at which Cravens plays the game.
Su'a Cravens enforcing a strict no fly zone pic.twitter.com/5oCMIC50uI— The Checkdown (@thecheckdown) August 2, 2019
Defensive end DeMarcus Walker also turned in a sack and looked comfortable playing his traditional defensive end position rather than outside linebacker.
It's almost like this guy is good but just wasn't used properly.— Doctor of Words (and tights and kicking ass) (@docllv) August 2, 2019
Meanwhile, Malik Reed must have been watching tape of the great Von Miller as he dreams of making this Denver roster. Reed dipped his shoulder and got around the edge with ease on his first sack of the preseason.
High speed and keeping a low profile are staples of Miller’s game.
Denver’s pass rush is lethal — just straight lethal — as opposing QBs will be forced to make a decision in a matter of seconds.
Matching edge pressure with a push up the middle will be what Fangio’s defense is known for up front.
Which player stood out to you the most in Thursday’s Hall of Fame Game?
This poll is closed
"Whorfin" (all of the above - but not a fair answer!)