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Broncos focus against Dallas turns to reserve players

Things have changed since the Broncos’ last home game, a Jan. 8 loss to Kansas City:

New property. The Rob Walton-led group bought the team this week for $4.65 billion.

New trainer. A thorough search resulted in the hiring of Nathaniel Hackett to replace Vic Fangio.

New coordinators. Present are Justin Outten (attack), Ejiro Evero (defense) and Dwayne Stukes (special teams). Hackett will call offensive plays.

And new quarterback. Russell Wilson. That’s all.

But when the Broncos open the exhibition season against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday, the focus won’t be on Wilson, running back Javonte Williams, receivers Courtland Sutton and Jerry Jeudy and the entire first-team defense.

The starters did their job in Thursday’s joint practices, which means the candidates at the bottom of the roster will see the state of their depth.

Here are five players to watch, some of whom are fighting for a place and others for a role:

Josh Johnson/Brett Rypien

Hackett said the No. 2 quarterback spot is “big competition right now.” Johnson generally got the second-team snaps and in Thursday’s practice against Dallas, he took 26 team reps to Rypien’s 12.

“For us it will be about consistency,” Hackett said of Johnson and Rypien’s assessment. “Getting those achievements, making the right decisions, keeping the chains moving and taking the shots when you (have the chance). I think they both showed they could do it.

The Broncos signed Johnson in free agency even with Rypien in the fold. Just being functional will allow Johnson to enter the regular season as a primary backup.

Montrell Washington

The way the Broncos rotate receivers throughout their practice scenario has allowed Washington to catch passes from all three quarterbacks. He seems to have a good idea of ​​coverage in midfield and can snatch the ball when thrown over his head.

But Washington’s ticket to the initial 53-player roster is in the return game. He has to catch the punts. All. He has to make good decisions on kick-offs. All.

The Broncos drafted Washington to spark a stagnant comeback game.

“But he has to earn the job,” Stukes said. “We have to see what he does on Saturday when he is live. We haven’t had a live tackle period (in camp) so we want to see if he can make contact. We want to see his poise, we want to see him burst, explode and make plays.

Nik Bonitto

The Broncos’ first draft pick (second round), Bonitto mostly got second-team shots at outside linebacker against Baron Browning. If Bradley Chubb and Malik Reed aren’t playing, Bonitto should have plenty of playing time to assess his progress.

“We ask him to do different things from what he did in college and challenge him,” Evero said during the first week of camp.

Bonitto said he played the run differently compared to Oklahoma, where he was able to close gaps instead of picking up and getting rid of blockers.

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