The Falcons and the Broncos faced off in the annual Hall of Fame Game to give us a product that almost represented a complete game of football. Denver ended up winning, 14-10, on a late circus touchdown catch, a highlight (finally!) that came more than 58 minutes into the game.
None of the big-name players for either team suited up in Canton. Julio Jones, Matt Ryan, Von Miller, and pretty much every other starter sat out Thursday night. That meant the game was populated by rookies trying to make a strong first impression — and some of them did.
A lot of players will have memorable moments in the preseason, but for the sake of regular-season relevancy, let’s focus on the rookies who have the best chance of making the team: draft picks.
Here’s what the newest crop of Broncos and Falcons did in the 2019 preseason opener.
Chris Lindstrom, G, Falcons
Atlanta’s first pick this year only played for a couple of drives, but he flashed his first-round ability in his first NFL action. Lindstrom was rock solid in pass protection and had a nice second-level block that caught the attention of the broadcast.
#Falcons 14th overall pick, OG Chris Lindstrom making an early impression. pic.twitter.com/9tYjFvyzZL— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) August 2, 2019
Lindstrom will have a big role to play this year as the Falcons try to fix an offensive line that allowed 42 sacks last year. So far, so good.
Noah Fant, TE, Broncos
Fant, the Broncos’ first-round pick, had a mixed bag in his first start. He was only targeted three times and dropped his first pass of the night. But then he made up for it by converting a third down near the sideline.
.@Broncos first-round pick Noah Fant with his first catch of the preseason! @nrfant— NFL (@NFL) August 2, 2019
: @ProFootballHOF Game on NBC
Watch on mobile: https://t.co/gjdN954aVr pic.twitter.com/lpMpIKjWzN
Fant finished with one catch for seven yards. Hopefully he’ll get a chance to show off his big-play potential later in the preseason.
Drew Lock, QB, Broncos
Lock looks like just about every quarterback John Elway has drafted: tall with a rocket launcher for a right arm. The second-rounder is also a bit of a project and looked like one during his first preseason action.
Lock showed off the aggressiveness that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of Missouri. He fired multiple passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air, including two bombs in the first half.
He didn’t hit on either of his long throws, but you can see how easy the ball flies out of his hand.
At least ... Drew Lock isn’t scared to throw it deep? pic.twitter.com/KUbfYx0ODN— Jordan Dajani (@JordanDajani) August 2, 2019
Lock ended up completing 7 of 11 passes, but he totaled just 34 yards against Atlanta. He’s not a threat to unseat Joe Flacco as the starting quarterback just yet — hell, he didn’t even start this game — and head coach Vic Fangio did not mince words when he spoke about Lock’s performance:
Fangio on Lock: “I was hoping for more but not surprised.”— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) August 2, 2019
At least his style of play should lead to some highlights — and bloopers — this preseason.
Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Broncos
Jones had two explosive plays in the fourth quarter that helped the Broncos get the ball back. He had a tackle for loss where he zipped through the line of scrimmage and crushed a Falcons running back right at the point of the handoff.
After that, he demolished Matt Schaub on a pass attempt, which forced an interception on the Falcons’ side of the field. Jones was lined up over the right tackle and just dusted him.
.@TheOfficial_80 with the pressure.@AlcaTreyIsland8 with the PICK!#PFHOF19 | #DENvsATL pic.twitter.com/4f7LKMRaft— Denver Broncos (@Broncos) August 2, 2019
Jones, Denver’s third-round pick, is the newest chess piece on a deep Broncos defensive line. Denver already has Von Miller, Bradley Chubb, and Derek Wolfe — so far, Jones looks like a great fit with those three.
Kendall Sheffield, CB, Falcons
Sheffield, the first of Atlanta’s two fourth-round picks, has speed for days. He wasn’t the most polished cornerback at Ohio State, but his athleticism pops off the screen — even in his first NFL game.
Right before the half, Sheffield forced a fumble by exploding downhill toward a Denver wide receiver, knocking the ball out of his hands.
My boy Kendall Sheffield out there making plays in his 1st NFL Game! Proud of you Kendall! pic.twitter.com/aik4FDrxZg— Footwork_King (@footwork_king1) August 2, 2019
That’s rare speed.
John Cominsky, DL, Falcons
Atlanta’s other fourth-round pick turned in a fantastic debut.
Cominsky played college football at Charleston, a Division II team in West Virginia, but against the Broncos he looked like he came from a blue-chip program.
His night got started with a fumble recovery on a punt. Cominsky was in the right place at the right time to scoop up the ball.
Our ball. @J_Cominsky with the recovery! pic.twitter.com/AsLMPwE62t— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 2, 2019
In the second quarter, he made some plays on defense. He sprinted down the line of scrimmage and caught the running back for a loss of yards. He also had a sack on Lock that featured a spin move.
DE @J_Cominsky's first NFL sack! pic.twitter.com/SLUjkhyDtH— Atlanta Falcons (@AtlantaFalcons) August 2, 2019
Cominsky is one of the most athletic defensive linemen in the NFL. He’s as raw as they come, but if the Hall of Fame Game showed anything, it’s that his ceiling could be sky high.