Football is officially back!!! Although it’s only the preseason, it’s so nice to finally have some sort of football back in action. Tonight’s Hall of Fame game features the Denver Broncos against the Atlanta Falcons at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium in Canton, Ohio on NBC at 8 p.m. ET.
The Broncos are coming off a 6-10 season, and have a new leader in charge under first year head coach Vic Fangio. “Lead by example” is exactly what HC Fangio is doing tonight; he is coaching tonight’s game despite being hospitalized earlier in the day for kidney stones — according to Adam Schefter of ESPN.
A new head coach is not the only thing new about Denver. They dealt last year’s starter Case Keenum after one season to the Redskins, and added former Super Bowl champion Joe Flacco and drafted Drew Lock in the second round. We’ll not be seeing Flacco tonight as he is listed as a “healthy scratch” as well as star outside linebacker Von Miller. Other notable injuries for Denver include:
WR’s Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) and DaeSean Hamilton (hamstring), G Ron Leary (undisclosed), TE’s Jake Butt and Bug Howard (ankle), (ACL), ILB Todd Davis (calf), and newly signed free agents CB Bryce Callahan (foot) and OT Ja’Wuan James (leg).
The starter at QB tonight is Kevin Hogan, who’s played on four teams in just four years. All eyes are on rookie Drew Lock, who we will have to wait to see after Hogan starts. Following Lock is another rookie; Brett Rypien, the nephew of former NFL QB Mark Rypien. Rypien has reportedly impressed the coaching staff so far in training camp, so it will be intriguing to see how he performs tonight.
The Falcons are coming off a disappointing 7-9 finish last season after dealing with all sorts of injuries to key starters on both sides of the ball. Atlanta did not make a ton of notable additions in the offseason, but they did upgrade one position for sure; offensive line. They drafted two o-linemen in the first round Chris Lindstrom and Kaleb McGary (who just underwent a heart procedure). They also added depth at guard in free agency with James Carpenter and Jamon Brown. A notable inactive tonight for the Falcons is All-Pro WR Julio Jones who declared he will most likely not play in any preseason games.
Players to Watch Tonight:
Falcons QB Kurt Benkert: Curious to see how much time the second-year QB out of Virginia will receive tonight. He spent last season on their practice squad, but he’s the third string behind Ryan & Schaub so you would expect to see them give him a lot of reps to prove himself.
Broncos TE Noah Fant: Denver selected Noah Fant in the first round. Fant, is an extremely versatile tight end for his size. Really curious to see how much he will be utilized tonight in his first game, and we’ll get our first look at seeing how he translated to the league.
Broncos DT Dre’Mont Jones: Jones is a third-round pick out of Ohio State and looked dominant at times in college. He could be a huge upgrade to their interior defensive line and could create a ton of pressure.
Falcons RB Qadree Ollison: The fifth round pick out of Pittsburgh has an impressive size-speed combo at 6’1″, 230 lb. and ran a 4.58 in his 40-time. With the departure of Tevin Coleman and the return from injury of Devonta Freeman, Ollison could have a huge opportunity to receive significant carries this season as he’s in competition for a backup role with two smaller, pass receiving type backs in second-year back Ito Smith and Kenjon Barner.