Phillip Lindsay took the first shots when the Denver Broncos opened with a Wildcat roster on Sunday. Then came Kendall Hinton, the practice squad’s high emergency rookie quarterback hours earlier. Then Lindsay again. Then his compatriot Royce Freeman tried his luck.
With their four quarterbacks ineligible for the game against the New Orleans Saints because they are on the COVID-19 roster, the Broncos have been forced to employ creative measures against one of the hottest defenses in the world. NFL.
Hinton, 23, an undrafted wide receiver who last played as a full-time quarterback for Wake Forest in 2017, started the game off the bench before going into Denver’s first third attempt.
Welcome to the NFL? Hinton’s first NFL snap turned into throwaway as he popped out of the pocket and popped the ball out of bounds as it was thrown to the ground by Saints star defensive end Cameron Jordan.
He opened the next series at quarterback, then rotated in and out of the roster early in the game as Broncos coordinator Pat Shurmur relied heavily on Lindsay exploiting the Wildcat.
It promised to be a long day. The Broncos only managed a first down (on a run from Lindsay) and Hinton went 0-for-7 with a first-half interception.
Hinton recorded his first goal of the day – a 13-yard connection by tight end Noah Fant – in the third quarter before throwing another interception at Saints defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson.
Hinton finished Day 1 of 9 for 13 yards with the two interceptions in the Saints Game 31-3.
The Broncos’ experience provides a new definition of the scrambling drill. The team only learned on Saturday afternoon that Drew Lock, Blake Bortles and Brett Rypien were ineligible due to close contact with third-string quarterback Jeff Driskel, who tested positive at COVID-19 Thursday. The close-contact QB trio were discovered wearing no masks while the Driskel case unfolded.
“I was disappointed on several levels: that our QBs put us in this position, that our QBs put the league in this position,” Broncos coach Vic Fangio said in a post-game press conference. “We are counting on them to be the leaders of our team, the leaders of our offense, and these guys made a mistake.”
The team even wondered if assistant quality control coach Rob Calabrese, who played center Florida quarterback, could be activated, ESPN said.
Do not go. The NFL refused this option.
And just think: Broncos fans yearned for another round of the Tim Tebow experience.