Before season opener, Broncos have decisions to make

DENVER — The preseason is over, and Head Coach Vic Fangio and the Broncos are on to the Oakland Raiders.

But before the team gets to that Sept. 9 “Monday Night Football” game, there are some decisions to make.

Namely, which player will serve as the team’s backup quarterback during the season’s initial stretch.

With Drew Lock battling a thumb injury, the Broncos must decide if Kevin Hogan or Brett Rypien can fill that void — or if they’ll look outside the building for a solution.

Following Thursday’s game, Fangio didn’t have an immediate answer.

“I don’t know the answer to that yet,” said Fangio when asked if Hogan had won the backup job. “We’ve obviously got to look at the tape to get a really good feel for what happened on each and every play. Obviously John [Elway] will play a major part in that, too, so we’ll see.”

Hogan finished 12-of-23 for 138 yards, a touchdown, two interceptions and a 48.8 quarterback rating in his final audtion for the role. One of the interceptions came on a last-second Hail Mary attempt to end the first half.

“My resume [over] the last month and a half, I’m proud of it,” Hogan said. “I feel like I’m playing good football. I thought the preseason games didn’t always go the way you hope. I feel like throughout camp, I played some real good football and have the confidence of my teammates and coaches. It’s out of my control, but I’m really happy with how I played.”

Rypien took a similar stance after he finished 8-of-11 for 86 yards, an interception and a 57.4 quarterback rating.

“I think that’s for [Fangio] to decide,” said Rypien when asked if he separated himself from Hogan. “From my standpoint, I just want to progress from that last game. I felt like I did that. I had goals coming into this game, but I’ve still got a long way to go be a guy in this league. But at the same time, I know what I need to work on, and I’ll do that for sure.”

Fangio, Elway and the Broncos will have to make decisions beyond the backup quarterback spot. By 2 p.m. MT on Saturday, the Broncos must trim their active roster to 53 players.

“It’s not a good part of the job,” Fangio said. “Even though I’ve never done it as a head coach, I’ve always felt like I’ve had to do it as half the team [as a defensive coordinator]. You develop relationships with these guys. They’ve been here since April with us. I like all these guys. They’ve put forth good effort and they all have dreams and ambitions, and for the ones that won’t be here, it’s hard to tell them that. It doesn’t mean we’re right, either. Sometimes you make mistakes. We’re going to try our best to get the right 53 on the team and then [the] all-important 10-man practice squad, because many of the guys that are considered regulars and established players in this league started on the practice squad. So we treat those with a lot of importance.”

The Broncos may also choose to place a few players on injured reserve ahead of the season opener. If a player is on the initial 53-man roster and then is placed on IR, they are eligible to return to the active roster after eight weeks. Each team is allowed to have two players return from injured reserve. If a player is placed on IR before the Broncos’ form their initial 53-man roster, then he cannot return during the 2019 season.

Several injured players — including quarterback Drew Lock (thumb), fullback Andy Janovich (pectoral) and running back Theo Riddick (shoulder — may end up being candidates to return from IR. Fangio, though, said the Broncos haven’t decided how they’ll handle their injured players when it comes to roster mechanics.

“Yeah, it’s a little up in the air,” Fangio said. “You have choices. You can carry them on the 53 and they’ll be inactive till they’re healthy. Or you can carry them on the 53 and put them on IR after that with the ability to pull them back. So that’s all yet to be determined.”

Tight end Jake Butt could be one of the players who is inactive for several weeks. The third-year tight end underwent a procedure on his surgically repaired left knee this week.

“From what I can tell in talking to Jake and our medical people,” Fangio said. “[He] had a little something in there that was nagging. He’ll be out for a while. Not the whole season or anything like that, but I would say he misses at least a month and it could be more. But [I’m] not positive.”

No matter what the Broncos do — at quarterback or a litany of other positions — their game against the Raiders won’t wait. The regular season has arrived.

“We need to be ready, because it’s here in 11 days,” Fangio said. “I think we’ve had a good camp. I think the guys have formed a bond within the team that is good and will hopefully carry us through the adverse times that we’ll have during a game and/or during the season.

“I think they’re ready, but you never know.”

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