Broncos coach Vic Fangio’s goal for Thursday’s Pro Football Hall of Fame game against the Atlanta Falcons: See as many young players as possible.
“I just really want to see all of them, to be honest with you,” Fangio said after Tuesday’s abbreviated practice. “This was Practice (No.) 11 so it’s going to be nice to go out there and go against somebody else, play live football and see where these young guys are at.
“I don’t think we can make any final conclusions off of one game, but it’s great feedback for us.”
To get the best take, Fangio plans on challenging his players with his defensive calls and wants offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello to do the same.
On defense, Fangio said: “If I’m pretty confident they might be throwing it, instead of giving a corner some help, I’ll see if he can cover his guy. Or I’ll play a light box even though we think they may be running it to see if we can handle it.”
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On offense, Fangio said: “Let’s see who can block a good pass rusher without chipping. And even though they have the box loaded, let’s see if you can run the ball in there.”
Fangio said the coaches will have a pecking order of who plays when and how much.
“Some of it is by feel and the way the game is going,” he said. “I always tell the coaches, ‘Count on 65 plays.’ If one side is doing really well, you might have only 50 and the other side 80. You have to adjust as you go. If you’re on the side that gets only 50, some guys will get cheated.”
Fangio was asked if winning the game is important.
“As we stand here today, it’s not that important,” he said. “Invariably, when we get on that sideline Thursday, it’s like playing a game of horse in the backyard — you still want to win. We want to win, but we know there are bigger fish to fry in the game, meaning we need to get evaluations of these guys to help us pick the best 53 for the team.”
Three first-team linemen to start. Fangio said center Connor McGovern, left guard Dalton Risner and left tackle Garett Bolles will start against Atlanta and “play a few plays.”
Risner, a rookie second-round pick, will be making his NFL debut.
“I think it’s good (for Risner),” Fangio said. “Dalton is the kind of guy that likes to play and it will be good to get his feet wet.”
Fangio and Scangarello had praise for Bolles’ play in camp.
“So far, he’s had a great camp,” Fangio said. “If we were to play (Tuesday) against Oakland (instead of Sept. 9), he would be the starter hands-down, unanimous decision.”
Said Scangarello: “He’s a really good scheme fit. His athleticism helps in the run game. … I think he’s playing very, very well.”
It is expected that Don Barclay (right guard) and Elijah Wilkinson (right tackle) will start in place of Ron Leary and Ja’Wuan James, respectively.
Pads come off. After seven consecutive days in full pads, the Broncos went through a lighter (no hitting) and shorter (less than two hours) practice.
Not participating were inside linebacker Todd Davis (calf, 10th consecutive missed practice), receivers River Cracraft (oblique, ninth) and DaeSean Hamilton (hamstring, fifth), tight ends Jake Butt (knee, eighth) and Bug Howard (ankle, fourth), cornerback Bryce Callahan (foot), and offensive linemen Jake Rodgers (calf, fourth) and Leary (day off).
Fangio ruled all of those players out for Thursday. James (lower leg), who did some individual work Tuesday, will also be held out.
Preseason experimentation. Scangarello will be in the coaches’ box to call the offensive plays. Fangio (defensive play-caller) will, of course, be on the field and so will defensive coordinator Ed Donatell.
Field level will be a new view for Fangio. He won’t stand along the line of scrimmage, instead choosing to be well behind or ahead of the football.
“It’s good (to) experiment with where’s the best place for me to stand when we’re on defense,” he said. “I’ll try and get an end zone view so I have somewhat of a wider view.”
Fangio will also need to design a hand-held play-call sheet as opposed to the big card he had in front of him in the coaches box.
“I may have to go to a double-sided (sheet),” he said. “It’s a work in progress.”
Briefly. The Broncos will have a light practice Wednesday before flying to Ohio and touring the Pro Football Hall of Fame. … The Broncos’ next open practice is Sunday at 9:15 a.m. … Scangarello on the offensive progress: “I think offensively, we’re coming together. It’s not there yet by far. But I feel confident and (quarterback) Joe (Flacco) has settled in a little bit.”