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Column: Broncos could have avoided quarterback quagmire

Tue Dec 1 2:05am ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer

Denver Broncos quarterback Kendall Hinton (2) throws against the New Orleans Saints during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton, left, greets Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio after an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. The Saints won 31-3. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)


New Orleans Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan (94) sacks Denver Broncos quarterback Kendall Hinton (2) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)


DENVER (AP) The Denver Broncos could have avoided the quarterback quagmire they got stuck in over the weekend had they only embraced the notion of a ''quarantined QB'' that was championed by the likes of the Buffalo Bills and Philadelphia Eagles last summer.

Coach Vic Fangio deemed as overkill that pandemic precaution back in training camp.

So, after the NFL disqualified all of his quarterbacks over coronavirus concerns, Fangio had to turn to a rookie receiver on his practice squad who played quarterback in college but hadn't taken any snaps at practice in the pros.

It was no surprise then that Kendall Hinton completed more passes to the Saints (two) than to the Broncos (one) in Denver's 31-3 loss to New Orleans in which he posted a passer rating of zero.

''I don't think it's necessary, to be honest with you,'' Fangio said back on Sept. 3 when asked about the concept of a quarantined quarterback in case his QB room got wiped out by COVID-19.

''Plus, it has to be with the right guy, somebody that has experience in your system that if the emergency happens you have them there,'' Fangio continued. ''Our quarterbacks have been meeting together all camp. They're socially distanced like they should be. I think most teams are doing that. There hasn't been an issue so far, knock on wood.''

That good fortune ran out Saturday when the NFL disqualified Drew Lock, his backup Brett Rypien and practice squad veteran Blake Bortles for having been maskless around No. 3 QB Jeff Driskel before he tested positive for COVID-19 on Thanksgiving morning.

The Broncos' pleas to have their game against New Orleans pushed back a day or two to give them a fighting chance were rejected by the league. The NFL's medical team deemed the COVID-19 exposure in Denver was contained to the team's quarterbacks room, unlike the Baltimore Ravens' roster-wide virus outbreak that's led the NFL to postpone their trip to Pittsburgh three times.

The Ravens are now scheduled to play their game against the Steelers on Wednesday afternoon, six days after it was supposed to the main course of the NFL's Thanksgiving triple-header.

Denied a 48-hour reprieve and the chance to prepare a new passer or even to get Lock, Rypien and/or Bortles back in time to make it a fair fight, the Broncos turned to Hinton, who played quarterback at Wake Forest before switching to wide receiver last year.

Hinton was cut by the Broncos after training camp and a month ago was spending his days pitching products, not passing or catching footballs. He'd taken a job selling candy bars and other merchandise to high schools for fundraisers when he was summoned back to Denver for a $4,447 weekly practice squad paycheck.

This week, he'll get a $35,882 game check for taking it on the chin for the Broncos, completing just one of nine passes for 13 yards against the Saints.

One of the worst performances in modern NFL history drew props, not pillory.

''Mad respect to that kid,'' Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles said Monday.

''Mad respect & props 4 (at)Kendall-Hinton2 ... I don't care stats or score, this young man did nothing but battle w/the crappy hand he was dealt!'' tweeted Hall of Famer Kurt Warner.

''A lot of respect for this guy,'' Saints linebacker Demario Davis tweeted after the game. ''He handled this situation like a real pro. I can only imagine the range of emotions and mental download he went through in 24 hrs.''

Still, it didn't have to come to this had any of their quarterbacks worn their masks around Driskel last week or if the Broncos had just isolated one of their quarterbacks early on, especially after they'd signed Bortles in September when Lock was sidelined with a sprained shoulder.

It's what the Bills are doing with rookie Jake Fromm, who's on their 53-man roster but working only remotely, and what the Eagles did with veteran journeyman Josh McCown for two months before he was signed to the Texans' active roster a few weeks ago.

Asked Monday if the Broncos had discussed isolating Bortles once the quarterbacks are cleared to return, Fangio said, ''We haven't yet ... but that's something we will discuss.''

Not that he's inclined to do it even after the events of the wildest of weekends, one which put the Broncos (4-7) in perilous position of becoming the first team ever to miss the playoffs for five straight seasons following a Super Bowl championship.

''I think if we just follow the protocols,'' Fangio said, ''we'll be fine.''

In other notable Week 12 calls:

TITANS TURNAROUND

The Titans were up 28-14 late in the first half at Indianapolis when coach Mike Vrabel sent out his punt team on fourth-and-4 at the Indy 38. A change of heart sent the Titans offense back out and Ryan Tannehill hit Corey Davis at the Indy 1 with 22 seconds left in the half. One play later, Tannehill took it in from a yard out for 35-17 lead, propelling them to a big win for a series split that put Tennessee back atop the AFC South.

''I wasn't campaigning on the sideline,'' Tannehill said. ''I was honestly ticked off that we didn't convert on third down. I was pretty ticked about that, but Coach gave us another chance and we took advantage.''

POLITICAL FOOTBALL

Washington briefly stood atop the dreadful NFC East standings after its 41-16 rout of Dallas on Thanksgiving, and the team posted a snapshot of the standings on the team's official Twitter account with the caption ''STOP THE COUNT!'' That's a phrase President Donald Trump popularized as he fought to overturn the results of the election in several swing states following President-elect Joe Biden's victory.

The team quickly deleted its tweet.

Top Headlines

Five Fantasy Takeaways from Week 12

The Paur Report
Player Notes
Jake Elliott Dec 1 12:30am ET

Philadelphia Eagles kicker Jake Elliott got two chances to kick on Monday Night Football in Week 12, making a 42-yard field goal but missing an extra point. Elliott hadn't missed an extra point until after the first Eagles touchdown in this game. Despite his consistency, he hasn't been much of a fantasy kicker mostly due to his lack of opportunities. The Eagles aren't scoring many touchdowns and they are leading the league in two-point conversion attempts. Elliott should remain a decent NFL kicker, but won't be a recommended fantasy option in most weeks.

From RotoBaller

Philadelphia Eagles Dec 1 12:30am ET

The Philadelphia Eagles Defense didn't do much in a Week 12 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football. They allowed 23 points, recording two sacks and no turnovers. In standard scoring, that's good for just two fantasy points. While the Eagles defense was the only reason the team was even remotely in the game as the offense struggled mightily yet again, they didn't do too much to help their fantasy managers. They'll have another tough matchup against the Green Bay Packers in Week 13.

From RotoBaller

Jason Myers Dec 1 12:20am ET

Seattle Seahawks kicker Jason Myers wasn't the top option of the week, but he finished quite well in the team's Week 12 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. He went 3-for-3 on his field goals and he nailed both of his extra points. This is the type of game that you've been looking for out of Myers. His team's red-zone efficiency was lacking in this game, and he was rewarded appropriately. Myers should be a solid starting kicker in fantasy over the next couple weeks with matchups against the Giants in Week 13 and the winless Jets in Week 14. If you currently roster him, you might not have a better option available to you on the waiver wire.

From RotoBaller

Travis Fulgham Dec 1 12:20am ET

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Travis Fulgham doubled his production from the past two weeks in Week 12. That wasn't a good thing though, as Fulgham had gone two straight games with one catch for eight yards. In Week 12, he made two catches for 16 yards. Progress! He was only targeted twice, as almost all Eagles pass catchers struggled to separate from the objectively bad Seahawks Defense. Fulgham came on strong seemingly out of nowhere this season, but quickly reminded everyone why he was in the nowhere he came from. He hasn't put up more than two fantasy points since Week 8.

From RotoBaller

Seattle Seahawks Dec 1 12:20am ET

The Seattle Seahawks Defense hasn't been the best group this season, but they've been playing well of late, especially in the team's Week 12 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. They harassed the Eagles offense all night long and they had a great stat line going until they gave up a late score to allow 16 total points. They finished the game with six sacks and they were also able to come away with an interception on the night. They'll see the New York Giants and the New York Jets in consecutive weeks in Weeks 13 and 14. If you tend to stream defenses, they might be the move for you in the next two weeks in deeper leagues.

From RotoBaller

Alshon Jeffery Dec 1 12:20am ET

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Alshon Jeffery made his first two catches of the year on Monday Night Football in Week 12. Jeffery made the two catches, gaining 15 yards on four total targets. Like all of the other Eagles, Jeffery had a hard time getting open despite playing against a historically bad Seahawks Defense. A former WR1, Jeffery has shown nothing to make anyone believe he's even close to the fantasy radar at this point in his career.

From RotoBaller

Jalen Reagor Dec 1 12:20am ET

Philadelphia Eagles rookie wide receiver Jalen Reagor was second on the team in targets on Monday Night Football with seven. He only made three catches, gaining 11 total yards. Even though he's known for his speed and the Seahawks are known for their terrible defense, Reagor was unable to get open or gain any separation in another ugly game for the Eagles offense. Reagor still has plenty of long-term upside, but he's looking like he won't be much of a difference maker in his rookie year.

From RotoBaller

Greg Ward Dec 1 12:20am ET

Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Greg Ward made just one catch in Week 12, gaining three yards. Ward was targeted three times, but his only grab came on a screen pass that was quickly blown up by the Seahawks suddenly decent defense. Ward has been used for short passes and quick screens and hasn't run too many significant routes lately, making him a very low-upside fantasy player regardless of matchup or format.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Lockett Dec 1 12:10am ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Tyler Lockett was unable to get much going in the team's Week 12 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. He caught three of his four targets for 23 yards on the night. Lockett was one of the most consistent players earlier in the season, but that has begun to fade as the team's ceiling has lowered in the last month. Over the next few weeks, you'll be hoping for bounce-back performances in very solid matchups against the Giants and Jets in Weeks 13 and 14, respectively. The matchups bode well for that happening and he should be due for some big outings down the stretch for his fantasy managers.

From RotoBaller

Boston Scott Dec 1 12:10am ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Boston Scott ran the ball twice for seven yards and caught the ball five times for 40 yards through the air. The Eagles were unable to do anything on the ground (and barely anything on offense in general), but Scott soundly outplayed starter Miles Sanders (six runs for 15 yards, two catches for seven). Scott ended up tied for third on the team with his six passing game targets. If Sanders gets going, Scott probably sees the field a bit less, but Scott has shown plenty of times that he's able to hold his own on an NFL field. He's an extremely valuable backup and worth a bench spot on most fantasy rosters.

From RotoBaller

Dallas Goedert Dec 1 12:10am ET

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Dallas Goedert led the Eagles in all receiving categories on Monday Night Football. He caught seven passes, gaining 75 yards and scoring a touchdown. He was targeted 10 times, three more than any other Eagles player. Goedert's score came on a three-yard pass near the end of the first half. He was clearly quarterback Carson Wentz's favorite target and looked like the only Eagles pass catcher who was able to get any separation at all against a bad Seahawks secondary. Goedert will continue to be a TE1 even when Zach Ertz (ankle) returns to the lineup.

From RotoBaller

Richard Rodgers Dec 1 12:10am ET

Philadelphia Eagles tight end Richard Rodgers accidentally caught a touchdown at the end of Week 12's Monday Night Football contest against the Seattle Seahawks. Quarterback Carson Wentz threw a deep Hail Mary into the end zone with less than a minute to go in the game. It ricocheted off a receiver's hands and landed in Rodgers' hands in the end zone for a 33-yard touchdown. Rodgers has maintained some semblance of fantasy value, scoring touchdowns in each of the past two weeks, but with Zach Ertz (ankle) expected back next week, Rodgers will fall back to third on the tight end depth chart.

From RotoBaller

Russell Wilson Dec 1 12:00am ET

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson had a good matchup in Week 12, but he didn't do a ton with it against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday night. He completed 22 of 31 passes for 230 yards and a score. He also had five carries for 13 yards. The Seahawks focused a ton on balance in this game, as they had 33 dropbacks compared to 29 runs. After the torrid pace he was on to start the season, Wilson has cooled off tremendously over the last month. Heading into the fantasy playoffs, he has a great matchup against the winless Jets in Week 14. If you have Wilson on your roster, you're not benching him. He gets a great matchup against the Giants in Week 13.

From RotoBaller

Chris Carson Dec 1 12:00am ET

After missing several weeks with an injury, Seattle Seahawks running back Chris Carson played well in his Week 12 return against the Philadelphia Eagles on Monday. He finished with eight carries for 41 yards and a touchdown while catching both targets for 18 yards. The team showed a renewed commitment to the ground game, and it should be expected that his role will grow moving forward as he gets back to full health. The team gets a Week 13 matchup with the Giants heading into the fantasy playoffs, which should be beneficial if you roster Carson. With injuries and COVID-19 going around the league, Carson is the type of player to give you a safe floor of production in a strong Seattle offense.

From RotoBaller

Carson Wentz Dec 1 12:00am ET

Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz led his team to another loss on Monday Night Football. Wentz attempted 45 passes, completing 25 of them for 215 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception. He ran the ball five times, leading the team with 42 rushing yards. Wentz was even worse than his line showed, as his second touchdown came on a deflected last-minute Hail Mary play that somehow landed in the hands of Richard Rodgers in the end zone. Wentz held onto the ball way too long again and simply did not see some of his receivers get open. He took six sacks, adding to his league-leading total. Wentz looked frustrated throughout the game, echoing the way Eagles fans around the country are feeling about him.

From RotoBaller

D.K. Metcalf Dec 1 12:00am ET

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver D.K. Metcalf continued his strong 2020 season by annihilating Philadelphia Eagles cornerback Darius Slay in Week 12 on Monday night. He caught 10 of his 13 targets for 177 yards, and one of those three incompletions was a drop that should have been a touchdown. Metcalf has emerged as the favorite target for quarterback Russell Wilsonand he's a safe start every week with a ton of upside thanks to his big-play ability. With a soft schedule ahead, you're slotting Metcalf into your lineups with a lot of confidence as you head into your playoff matchups. Metcalf should be unstoppable once again in Week 13 against the Giants.

From RotoBaller

Jalen Hurts Dec 1 12:00am ET

Philadelphia Eagles rookie quarterback Jalen Hurts took his first snap of his NFL career without starting quarterback Carson Wentz also on the field. Hurts completed a six-yard pass for his only offensive statistic of the game. Hurts was reportedly taking first-team snaps during the week, leading some to believe the Eagles may be at least considering a switch. With the offensive line unable to block anyone and the receivers unable to get open, there aren't really too many quarterbacks who would succeed with this current Eagles roster.

From RotoBaller

Miles Sanders Dec 1 12:00am ET

Philadelphia Eagles running back Miles Sanders was unable to get anything going in Week 12, running the ball just six times for 15 yards and adding two catches for seven more yards. Sanders had an ugly drop as well, but more concerning was the fact that he was soundly outplayed by Boston Scott (5-40 in the passing game). It was another ugly game for the Eagles offense as a whole, but Sanders had at least been able to escape with decent performances despite the ugliness around him. Not this time. He'll get the Packers Defense next week and is almost sure to improve on this performance, perhaps even in just the first quarter.

From RotoBaller

Drew Lock Nov 30 11:50pm ET

Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio is hoping that three of his quarterbacks, including starter Drew Lock, will be cleared on Tuesday from the league's COVID-19 protocols and said that additional discipline is still "on the table" for Lock, Brett Rypien and Blake Bortles. Lock, Rypien and Bortles were deemed high-risk close contacts of Jeff Driskel, who tested positive for the virus, and were ineligible to play in Week 12 against the Saints. All four QBs were determined to have broken protocols by not wearing masks. "Everything's on the table, but right now I would say it's more the fine mode," Fangio said. Unless the Broncos suspend Lock for a game, he should be ready to go for Week 13 against the division-rival Chiefs, where he'd be a low-end QB2 in superflex leagues.

From RotoBaller

Jared Goff Nov 30 11:20pm ET

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay called out quarterback Jared Goff for turning the ball over too much in the Week 12 loss to the 49ers, but he later expressed confidence in Goff and said he never considered benching him. Goff threw two interceptions and also lost a fumble. It was the second time that the fifth-year signal-caller has had multiple turnovers in the last four games. Goff has had his ups and downs in 2020, but he has four seasons remaining on an extension that guarantees him $110 million. He has completed 67.2 percent of his passes this year (15th in the NFL) and has 16 touchdowns (17th), but he also has 10 interceptions and four fumbles, which is the second-most turnovers in the league. Goff will continue to be a midrange QB2 for the Week 13 matchup against the Cardinals.

From RotoBaller