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Broncos’ backup QB job still a big question mark for Fangio

The fight for No. 2 QB is still up in the air as Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien need to show Fangio more in final preseason game.

Denver Broncos v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

As the Broncos prepare for their last preseason game Thursday against the Cardinals, and coaches begin cutting the roster from 90 to 53, one of the big question marks is still the quarterback position.

Not the starting QB, of course. But with Drew Lock - the second-round pick hoped to be the No.2 QB on the roster - sitting out indefinitely with a thumb injury, the backup job is up for grabs and Thursday’s game will be a major deciding factor.

And apparently - if you actually watched the preseason game on Saturday with rapt attention - you would have heard the rumor that the Broncos approached the 49ers about trading for one of their backup QBs.

From Niners Nation:

During the Rams’ broadcast of Saturday Night’s preseason game against the Denver Broncos, NFL Network’s Andrew Siciliano, Nate Burleson, and Mina Kimes dropped a bomb. The broadcast crew said that the Broncos approached the 49ers about a trade. This was as Denver’s backup quarterbacks were struggling to move the ball down the field. If you have NFL Gamepass, go to the first quarter with just over nine minutes left. That’s when the discussion began.

Burleson said during joint practices that John Elway, the Broncos general manager, inquired trading for one of the 49ers’ backup quarterbacks Nick Mullens or C.J. Beathard. The 49ers were not interested and told Elway that they would be holding onto both quarterbacks.

Although nothing was confirmed by the Broncos, it’s clear that the backup QB choices are less than ideal.

Vic Fangio hasn’t declared the starter for Thursday yet, so both Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien will get significant reps to try and “separate” themselves as the definitive No. 2.

Asked what it would take to show separation to Fangio, Hogan admitted he wasn’t sure, but he would “love to go show it.”

“I’m going to go out and make the plays that are there, run the plays that are called and if the shot is there, I’m going to take it,” Hogan said. “I’m looking for those. Unfortunately, we just haven’t had those opportunities, but I just want to show command of the offense, be efficient and march the guys down the field.”

All three of those would be welcomed - and fans certainly wouldn’t mind a touchdown or two (or four, we’ll take four) - but Fangio seems to have adopted a Justice Potter Stewart approach to determining which guy separates - he’ll just know it when he sees it.

Although Fangio admitted that it can be difficult to evaluate quarterbacks fighting for a job when they aren’t operating with a full playbook in preseason, he still believes they can show potential - because it should surface.

Other takeaways from Tuesday’s presser after practice:

Vic Fangio

  • Although starting quarterback Joe Flacco has only had limited time with live-fire reps this preseason - having not taken the field last week in the third preseason game (Broncos’ fourth) - Fangio believes Flacco has had enough reps, especially with extra practices due to the five-game preseason schedule: “You can’t look back. If we wanted [Flacco] to get more, it was there for him to get, but I feel good where he’s at. He’s had, I don’t know the exact number, you guys probably know, I’m going to say close to 40. There are some quarterbacks in this league that haven’t had any and won’t have any. I think 40 is a good number for him. Maybe if we had pushed it, could’ve gotten him into the 50s, but I think with the extra week of practice we had and where he’s at in his career I think he’s in good shape.”
  • Fangio definitely thinks the extra week of practice during training camp was a benefit for all - not just players, but the new coaching staff too: “We took advantage of it in a few ways. One, it gave us more practice time which particularly for a new staff—we’re basically a pretty damn young team—that’s all good. What we did after all the preseason games was, if you guys noticed, we gave the players two days off where I think most teams give them one day off, so we kind of got those days there that some of the other teams don’t get. We took advantage of it in multiple ways.”
  • While QB may not be completely determined, the offensive line is taking shape. Fangio’s positive comments about Elijah Wilkinson and his versatility practically guarantee him a spot: “I thought he did a good job. He went in there, hadn’t had a lot of reps. He definitely can play the position for us.”
  • Tight end Jake Butt is going to sit out the game Thursday because of soreness in his knee - possibly a bad sign for Butt’s future on the team. But Fangio noted it may or may not mean anything about his roster status. The coach was also quick to say he has not been disappointed in Butt: “It’s disappointing that he has [soreness], but it’s not disappointment in Jake if that’s what you’re saying. When he starts to feel good and plays or practices, then it flares back up again. It’s just something we’re going to have to deal with here. He won’t play in this game, and he may miss some time.”
  • Being as coy as ever, Fangio said there are a lot of “jobs” still open: “I think there’s still a good bit, myself. Definitely in the double digits for sure.”

Kevin Hogan:

  • Fangio acknowledged it can be difficult to evaluate a quarterback who doesn’t have a full playbook to work with, but Kevin Hogan emphasized coaches realize that when they’re out there: “It’s tough, but the coaches know that. They go and watch the film and review it and we talk about it. Sometimes the defense calls their ‘A’ defense and you don’t really have an answer. But they know what’s going on.”
  • For Thursday night’s game, Hogan is looking to open it up a little bit: “I just want to go out and make some big plays, put on a show for the fans and have fun,” he said. “I think we need to be able to open it up a little bit. I think that’s what we’re going to do. I’m expecting some successful drives and some points on the board.”
  • And if that means using his legs to move the chains, Hogan feels comfortable with that (even if you don’t!): “I’ve always been able to get out and run and make some plays with my legs. That’s something I have confidence in,” he said. “I am a pocket passer first. I’m going to go through my reads, and if it’s not there, if the pocket is breaking down, then I’m going to get out and make some plays.”

Brett Rypien

  • Playing for No. 2, Brett Rypien felt good about his performance against the Rams, more confident in what he is seeing on the field: “I felt good out there mentally. I thought I was seeing the field really well, but there were some things physically I think I can work on to be better for this week.”
  • An interesting comment from Rypien about the offensive scheme could be disconcerting if you’re apt to worry about preseason games. The rookie said he wouldn’t call offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello’s scheme in preseason “vanilla.” Instead Rypien said they were putting in most of their base concepts: “I don’t think [it’s vanilla]. I think we’re running what we’re running, and this is what the offense looks like for the most part,” he said after noting that they have “run most of our base concepts and thrown in a few shot plays.”
  • Rypien pointed out that part of the genius of Scangarello’s scheme is that moving different players in different positions will look different but could be the same concept: “Once we get into more game-plan weeks and into the regular season, we’ll have some change-ups based on what we’re seeing from the defense.”