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Broncos backups vie for roster spots in backup battle vs. Rams

Is Kevin Hogan good enough for backup spot? Well..
Posted: 9:53 PM, Aug 24, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-25 00:04:01-04

LOS ANGELES — Preseason games don't have to boast stars, starters and kings to be interesting, it turns out. All it takes is for a 29-year-old quarterback to retire in his prime. Andrew Luck walked away from football, mentally worn down from a battery of injuries, admitting, "It's taken the joy out of this game....the only way forward for me is to remove myself from football."The Colts bet on Andrew Luck, forever changing Broncos' history. Denver landed Colts icon Peyton Manning, winning four division titles, playing in a pair of championships, and winning Super Bowl 50 with No. 18.

Be warned, Colts. The Broncos have not been the same since Manning, at age 39, stepped away. Denver is on its fifth starting quarterback since Manning, hoping with fingers crossed that Joe Flacco will provide stability and, if possible, victories. Flacco spent Saturday warming up, signing autographs and watching the battle of the backups.

Count Kevin Hogan and Jake Butt among those who capitalized on opportunities against the Los Angeles Rams, who bested the Broncos 10-6 at the Los Angeles Sports Coliseum.

With the possibility that Drew Lock might open the season on injured reserve with a sprained thumb, the Broncos need a safety net underneath Flacco. Hogan showed improvement Saturday, making a push for a roster spot given the Broncos tight cap space and reluctance, for now, to trade for a reserve quarterback after giving up a selection for Flacco.

Hogan "had some good plays, some not so good," as coach Vic Fangio put it on the NBC broadcast. In fact, he was much improved. He completed 8-of-12 passes for 69 yards and rushed for 14 yards on four attempts. That's an upgrade over his 13-for-30 in the previous games.

Hogan finished with an 81.6 rating. Is that enough to avoid a waiver-wire claim or trade? It's tilting in that direction, but nothing is certain when it comes down the last 10 roster spots. While Hogan has had plenty of chances, Jake Butt watched helplessly this summer.

Returning from this third ACL surgery, Butt, who missed two weeks of camp with knee soreness, made his preseason debut. It brought gasps and intrigue. On his first play, Butt ran a short square out pattern, then limped to the sideline, favoring his left leg. After talking with trainers, Butt began loosening up and returned to the game. He provided a hint of the promise that made him college football's top tight end at Michigan. On a scoring drive engineered by Hogan, Butt caught two passes for 17 yards.

Though Jeff Heuerman (shoulder) and Noah Fant (ankle) did not play, the Broncos appear better prepared at the tight end position with Butt and Fumagalli (five catches) making progress.

At inside linebacker, this was not separation Saturday. But there were moments that could resonate as Fangio picks his last uniforms. Keishawn Bierria started alongside Alexander Johnson and made a goal-line stop in the third quarter on Johnny Mundt. Johnson and Justin Hollins were tied with seven combined tackles with 12 minutes left in the game. Hollins is becoming a quick study at two positions, and has a nose for the ball. Is that enough to avoid signing a veteran to back up Todd Davis, whose availability for the season-opener is uncertain? It appears so.

At inside linebacker, this was not separation Saturday. But there were moments that could resonate as Fangio picks his last uniforms. Keishawn Bierria started alongside Alexander Johnson and made a goal-line stop in the third quarter on Johnny Mundt. Johnson and Justin Hollins were tied with seven combined tackles with 12 minutes left in the game. Hollins is becoming a quick study at two positions, and has a nose for the ball. Is that enough to avoid signing a veteran to back up Todd Davis, whose availability for the season-opener is uncertain? It appears so.

As for special teams that have drawn the ire of Fangio -- he has threatened to play starters if necessary -- it featured a mixed bag. Receiver Juwann Winfree produced the kind of stop need on punt coverage. He delivered a big fourth-quarter tackle, bringing teammates from the sideline to high-five him. No one stuck out on punt returns yet again as the competitions bleed into the Thursday preseason finale at home. And punter Colby Wadman continued battling inconsistency, matching a 58-yard punt with a 20-yard boot.

Footnotes

Bretty Rypien showed promise with a two-minute drive at the end of the first half, completing 5-of-7 passes on the drive. It led to a field goal. However, Rypien was picked off looking for Steven Dunbar Jr. down the middle of the field. The pass was deflected. Rypien is attempting to make the team as a third quarterback or, more likely, stick on the practice squad. ... Ran into former Broncos great offensive lineman Ryan Clady on the field before the game. He is happy in retirement, living in Southern California and raising a young child. ... Elijah Wilkinson started at right guard with Austin Schlottman at center. The Broncos are keeping their options open at the position. Starter Ron Leary has yet to play in the preseason as he recovers from knee and Achilles injuries.