Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio did not rule out every starter for playing in the Hall of Fame game and specified a few who will play.
Although the Hall of Fame Game in Canton, OH is typically treated similar to the fourth preseason game (where almost no starters play), the Denver Broncos will go into Thursday night with a pretty open mind regarding some players — young players and veterans alike — who need the extra reps.
That means some starters — beyond just the three special teams players (kicker Brandon McManus, punter Colby Wadman, and long snapper Casey Kreiter) — will play in Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Vic Fangio didn’t specifically rule players out by name, but obviously with Kevin Hogan starting, we can assume guys like Joe Flacco won’t play. Guys like Von Miller and Bradley Chubb won’t play.
This game will be an opportunity for the young players to show what they can do, but Fangio did note three specific starters on Tuesday would play in the Hall of Fame game to get some needed reps on the field in game situations.
Those three players specifically mentioned were left tackle Garett Bolles, left guard Dalton Risner, and center Connor McGovern.
Fangio also noted that Bolles has had a really good camp, and when asked if there was competition for his left tackle job, Fangio said someone would have to knock Bolles out like a boxer in a heavyweight fight, and even went so far as to call Bolles the ‘undisputed’ starter at this point in time.
Of course, like everyone else, Bolles is going to have to back up what he’s done in practices on the field in games.
The Broncos also are going to give rookie Dalton Risner the extra reps the fifth preseason game provides. This way, he can potentially just play this game and the next three games and sit out the last one with the rest of the starters.
McGovern is the eldest of these four players in terms of NFL experience, but he’s also switching to the center position full time and has struggled some with snapping the ball in practice when the quarterback is in the shotgun.
The preseason game against Atlanta will allow McGovern to get some much-needed reps there and continually work on his timing an ball placement.
Starting right guard Ron Leary and right tackle Ja’Wuan James won’t play in this game as they have been nursing injuries throughout training camp up to this point. The Broncos listed Don Barclay as the backup right guard and Jake Rodgers as the backup right tackle.
It’s possible that Elijah Wilkinson, who is having a phenomenal camp, will start in place of James at right tackle to prove he can be this team’s top swing tackle if called upon in that role.
Fangio did not note which defensive starters we could expect to see in this game, if any. He said ‘most’ of the starters would not play in this game, and defensively it wouldn’t surprise me to see all first-team players in street clothes.
The fun thing is, the Broncos’ no. 2 defense will have the look of last year’s no. 1 defense at times.
Here’s the Broncos’ second defense according to the depth chart the team released:
DE: DeMarcus Walker
NT: Zach Kerr
DE: Dre’Mont Jones
OLB: Justin Hollins
OLB: Dekoda Watson
ILB: Joseph Jones
ILB: Alexander Johnson
CB: Isaac Yiadom
CB: De’Vante Bausby
S: Su’a Cravens
S: Will Parks
I would be shocked if that’s not the defense the Broncos roll out when they hit the field against the Falcons for the first snap, but again, it really doesn’t matter. These guys are all primed to get plenty of reps.
It’s nice to think of that defense listed above as being the backup unit. It shows the strength of the Denver defense overall and speaks to the depth this team has in general.