ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Brett Rypien is poised to get his chance.
After Josh Johnson started the Broncos' first two preseason games, Rypien will guide the Broncos in the first half of their preseason finale against the Vikings, Head Coach Nathaniel Hackett announced Wednesday.
"I think both of those guys have done a good job, and I think 'Ryp' has earned an opportunity to go the first half," Hackett said. "I think he had a really good game last week. He's improved. Again, we're looking for consistency from that position. It's not saying that Josh hasn't done good, because he's done a fine job. We just want to make sure we give both those guys [a chance] because they've been working so hard and pushing each other. That competition is a great one. We want to make sure the guys that deserve that opportunity get it."
After Rypien completed just 8-of-18 passes for 113 yards against the Cowboys, he rebounded nicely to complete 22-of-26 passes for 191 yards, a touchdown and a 110.1 rating in Buffalo. He also nearly led another scoring drive, though he was sacked on fourth-and-goal in the final seconds of the game.
Johnson, meanwhile has completed 24-of-39 passes for two touchdowns and a 96.3 quarterback rating across his two performances.
"It's very exciting," Rypien said of his opportunity. "Any time you get an opportunity to start in this league — I don't care if it's the third preseason game or the Super Bowl — you're excited. It's been a hell of a camp, been a lot of ups and downs, but I'm excited for this opportunity and these guys are doing a great job out here. I'm excited to play with some of these older guys too."
Rypien has appeared in four career games for the Broncos, and he's made just one start, a 37-28 win over the Jets in 2020. Rypien completed 19-of-31 passes for two touchdowns, three interceptions and a 67.6 rating. While that offense is different from the one Hackett has implemented in Denver, Rypien said he has some background with this kind of system from his rookie season in 2019.
"It's really a timing and rhythm-based offense," Rypien said. "It's something I'm very comfortable with. It's been a great thing to be a part of."
Though the Broncos will certainly use the final preseason game to help decide which player will serve as Russell Wilson's backup, Rypien said he's singularly focused on showing improvement.
"I think I just want to get better," Rypien said. "That's the only thing I'm thinking of, is how can I somehow get better this week and go out there and play like it's my last game ever. Really, that's the mentality I think you take into every single day. I think if there's one thing I've learned about the NFL, you can't take any day for granted out here. I'm working my butt off every single day to try to be the best player I can possibly be, so when I go out on Saturday it's going to be the same thing."
RETURNING FROM INJURY
As wide receiver KJ Hamler continues to return from his ACL and hip injuries, he said he cleared yet another hurdle on Tuesday. During the practice, Hamler leapt into the air to make a catch. As he went up, Hamler felt "a little nervous," he explained Wednesday. And when he came down, those worries went away.
"When I landed safely, I knew I was fine," Hamler said. "You've just got to get those little goosebumps and those little fears out. I try not to live in fear. Like I said, it's my second ACL [injury], so I've been through it before. So I already know how the process is going to be. So just going out there and just doing what I need to do and doing what I'm capable of doing, it makes me get back in the groove."
Hamler said he's still getting back into the routine of going against defensive backs and must adjust to the "annoying" knee brace he'll wear this season.
The 2020 second-round pick could see his first game action since the injury against the Vikings, as Hamler said he'd be excited to play in the game.
… Hackett is assisted with game-management decisions by Football Strategy Analyst Brad Miller.
"He's done a really good job," Hackett said. "We have a lot of conversations, a lot of talks. In my past, I kind of did all of it by myself. It's really great to have somebody there that's always in your ear giving you the go if you want to go for it on fourth down, when to take a timeout — just kind of always keeping you up to date on that."
Hackett and the Broncos managed the clock perfectly in an end-of-half test against the Cowboys in Week 1 of the preseason. Hackett has yet to toss a challenge flag.
… Hackett said he "definitely" believes outside linebacker Bradley Chubb can be a game-changing force as a rusher for Denver, noting that he was "a guy we had to be aware of" when the Packers played the Broncos in 2019. Chubb noted that to reach double-digit sacks in 2022, he'll need to play within himself and the defense.
Take a look inside the Broncos' week of practice ahead of their third and final preseason game.