The Hall of Fame Game is just a practice that doesn’t have any real impact on the coming season. It serves as an evaluation tool to observe who has the talent required to make the roster, and who does not.
The Broncos may have won the game, but there should be plenty of players left sweating after digging themselves a hole, Thursday night. Let’s take a look at five of the players that are in the hottest water.
Brett Rypien may have outplayed Drew Lock on Thursday night, but Lock’s roster spot is already set in stone. The same can’t be said for Kevin Hogan and Rypien, who are battling it out in hopes that the Broncos enter the season with three quarterbacks on the active roster, or at the very least, in hopes they can make the scout team.
Rypien had been the leader in the clubhouse for all of training camp, but Hogan thoroughly outplayed him in the Hall of Fame Game. While the games aren’t everything in the preseason, Hogan already has the inside track on Rypien for a job thanks to his experience in the league. If Hogan continues to be the better quarterback, Rypien will be on another team within five weeks.
Yes, he led the Broncos’ game-winning drive, but he did so after leaving the offense immobile for the rest of the quarter. He had a shortened field thanks to an interception, the Broncos wouldn’t have scored on that drive if it wasn’t for a friendly pass interference call fourth down, and Juwann Winfree had far more to do with the completion of that drive than did Rypien.
David Williams was a late camp addition by the Broncos, but if the Hall of Fame Game was a sign of things to come, he can expect an early exit.
Williams had a dismal performance in the contest, despite Denver’s other running backs all showing promise. Williams rushed for just nine yards on five carries with a longest carry of three yards. If you remove that outlier, Williams rushed for an abysmal 1.5 yards per carry.
He had an opportunity to turn both his and Drew Lock’s night around when Lock looked his way on a wide-open swing pass as Williams had a full head of steam. The ball hit him right in the hands and bounced off like it had hit the concrete. Given the addition of Theo Riddick, and how Devontae Jackson and Khalfani Muhammad have been performing, Williams’ days are numbered.
There is just one path onto the roster for Brendan Langley. If he doesn’t win the kick returner job there isn’t a chance he makes the final roster, and he may not even make the practice squad.
Langley got things off to a good start early when he took the opening kickoff 26 yards, slicing through the Falcons defense on his way. He continued to flash the athleticism that made him a fourth-round pick when Hogan found him on a slant Langley took for eight yards.
Langley’s night quickly went from good to bad, though, when he overextended trying to catch his first punt return. The ball was muffed and Atlanta recovered in Broncos territory. That’s an awful predicament for any kick returner fighting tooth and nail to make the roster, but it’s especially bad when your coach’s guiding ideology is avoiding death by inches, and you just lost a foot.
Austin Fort came out of nowhere to be one of training camp’s best surprises. With Fort’s fantastic practice performances, and Butt’s extended rehab process and health concerns taken into concern, it was all set up for him to steal a roster spot before Thursday.
Then Fort was a non-factor for the Broncos on offense. He was targeted four times on the night and managed to lose a yard on two receptions.
It wasn’t just that Fort disappointed, but he looked like the moment was too big for him, and as far as the NFL is concerned, the stage doesn’t get any smaller than the Hall of Fame Game.
On a night when the defense was suffocating to the Falcons’ offense, Linden Stephens stuck out like a sore thumb as one of the worst cornerbacks on the field.
On the bright side, Stephens made history by drawing the first pass interference flag to be challenged. On the not-so-bright side, in doing so he gave the Falcons’ offense 43 yards and also cost the Broncos a timeout.
On another play, Stephens lined up ten yards off his receiver on first and 10. The Falcons were smart and attempted to take advantage of this with a screen to the receiver. Stephens came up to make the tackle and got absolutely embarrassed as the receiver got around him to pick up the first down.
To make matters even worse, Stephens was also called for an unnecessary block in the back on special teams that started the Broncos off in horrible field position.
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