While the end result won’t matter, there will be competitive football on Thursday night as the Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons face off in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game in Canton, Ohio.
Every year, two teams play an extra preseason game before their regular four-game preseason schedule begins. It takes place at Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium and coincides with the enshrinement of a new class entering the Pro Football Hall of Fame next door.
This year’s Hall of Fame class will be inducted on Saturday night.
In addition to watching the exhibition game, Broncos and Falcons fans who make the trip will also get to see one of their team’s former players get inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Former Denver cornerback Champ Bailey (2004-13) and former Atlanta tight end Tony Gonzalez (2009-13) are in this year’s class.
Here’s everything else you need to know heading into this year’s Hall of Fame Game.
Denver head coach Vic Fangio already confirmed that Flacco won’t be playing and that Kevin Hogan will be the starting quarterback against Atlanta. According to the Associated Press’ Barry Wilner, the Broncos will only play a few starters, including offensive linemen Garett Bolles, Dalton Risner and Connor McGovern.
Wilner also reported that Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones won’t be playing in any preseason games. That was what Jones also did last year before going on to lead the NFL with 1,677 receiving yards in the regular season.
Although there might not be as many familiar names on the field, this will still be a chance for fans of these teams to see some of the players battling for roster spots try to impress in a competitive setting. There will also be some rookies in action who fans may have never seen play before.
While Flacco isn’t playing and Hogan is starting, the most exciting Denver quarterback to watch in this one could be rookie Drew Lock, who the Broncos selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft.
Lock, who played at Missouri for four seasons, may not start for Denver this year, but he could be the quarterback of the future for the organization, so it should be exciting to see him play in a game with the Broncos for the first time.
“Of course, I’ll be a little fired up to show people what I can do and bring the juice that I brought through college,” Lock said, according to the Denver Post‘s Kyle Fredrickson. “I think you’ll still see the same me. I’m confident in what I can do, whether I go in right at the beginning of the game or at end of the game. I’m going to be the same guy and prove to people that one day, I should be starting these games.”
There will be plenty of chances for Lock to prove himself over the next month, and this will be his first big opportunity.
While Dan Quinn has been the head coach of the Falcons since 2015, this year he will also serve as the team’s defensive coordinator. He’s familiar with those responsibilities as he was the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida from 2011-12 and for the Seattle Seahawks from 2013-14.
Quinn also called defensive plays for the Falcons at the end of the 2016 season, when they eventually went on a run to the Super Bowl. So, Atlanta’s coach is hoping this change can help his team get back to the playoffs after missing it last year.
While the Hall of Fame Game isn’t the same as a regular-season game, it will be Quinn’s first contest serving as both head coach and defensive coordinator after former assistant Marquand Manuel was fired at the end of last season.
Will this change help the Falcons’ defense improve and help the team return to the postseason? The preseason could give the first glimpse of how this situation could work out.