The day before the Denver Broncos' Week 12 matchup with the New Orleans Saints, all three quarterbacks on the roster were ruled ineligible after they were deemed to be a high-risk close contact to quarterback Jeff Driskel, who was placed on the reserve/COVID list due to a positive test.
The Broncos are now scrambling and practice-squad WR Kendall Hinton might be the answer. If you can't remember ever seeing Hinton drop back to throw a pass -- at any level -- don't beat yourself up. It's probably because you're not a die-hard ACC football fan. The former Wake Forest player was a wide receiver in 2019, but played at quarterback the four seasons prior.
So who is Hinton and what will he bring to the position? During his collegiate career at Wake Forest, Hinton appeared in 22 games over four seasons. Hinton took most of his collegiate quarterback reps during his freshman season in 2015. He completed 93 of 177 attempts for 929 yards, four touchdowns and five interceptions. On the surface, those numbers are fine for a freshman, but things did get dicey. Hinton's 52.5 percent completion rate and 5.2 yards per attempt average were serious red flags.
Hinton would ultimately redshirt during his sophomore season. He went on to attempt just 74 more passes during his entire collegiate career at Wake (going 40 of 74 with four touchdowns and two interceptions). If he is called up to the Broncos' active roster for Sunday's game, and if he takes snaps at quarterback (or receiver, or wildcat quarterback) Hinton will record the first stats of his NFL career.
During his final season at Wake Forest Hinton started to turn heads only after his transition to wide receiver, where he finished with 73 receptions for 1,001 yards and four touchdowns. He averaged over 13.7 yards per reception and operated as a threat after the catch in the open field.
Hinton was also a star quarterback in the high school ranks. CBS Sports' Chip Patterson has more on Hinton's journey:
Hinton's college career was defined by resilience. A star quarterback in high school at Southern Durham, Hinton's arrival was met with excitement from those around the Demon Deacons' program. Hinton led his team to the state championship as a junior and had a 13-1 record as a senior, and when he got the opportunity to start against Indiana as a freshman in 2015 he set the school record for the most passing yards in a first career start. All of that momentum stalled when he suffered a knee injury in early 2016 and John Wolford took hold of the starting quarterback job. Hinton adjusted, made the transition to wide receiver during the 2018 season and finished his college career as one of the top pass catchers on a top-three ACC offense. He's been able to make these kinds of adjustments on the fly before and find ways to succeed, so he's a good pick to try and do it again for the Broncos.
Hinton's addition could allow for some interesting wrinkles from the Broncos from an offensive standpoint. Although it's obvious that the game plan will have to be simplified, Hinton's ability to create yardage in open space with his legs can allow the Broncos to dip into an area of his offensive system he may not have felt comfortable using with starter Drew Lock. Shurmur can also use -- and we expect him to lean on -- the zone-read option run game with Hinton and a combination of Melvin Gordon and Philip Lindsay.
While they have some similarities, the zone-read option run game is different from the wildcat offense that became popular in the NFL a few years ago. The zone-read offense also works well in unison with the inside zone blocking scheme the Broncos often leans on in the run game, so this could be a solid match from a schematic standpoint.
When a receiver hybrid makes his way to the quarterback position, it makes sense to expect a few trick plays from the offense, but it would be surprising if Denver calls any this week. Trick plays require repetition in practice and Hinton has had none of that with his Broncos teammates -- at least not from the quarterback position.
On the flip side, it would be excellent to see the Broncos give Hinton an opportunity to run some RPO (run pass option) plays from the QB position. A great way to maximize Hinton's athleticism and tools would be to run a mix of RPOs, zone-read option plays, and designed bootlegs to get Hinton out in space with an option to run or pass.
Also, don't be surprised if the Broncos give some snaps to their emergency quarterback -- reserve running back Royce Freeman. Freeman's last pass attempt was a 26-yard completion to Raiders reserve QB Marcus Mariota back in 2014 when the two were still at Oregon.
It's going to be a wacky and wild game Sunday between the Broncos and Saints and we can't wait to see what kind of wrinkles Denver rolls out on the offensive side of the ball.