Broncos Bills Football

Denver Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett stands on the field during the first half of a preseason NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Joshua Bessex)

ENGLEWOOD • Nathaniel Hackett has made it clear he's not a fan of the preseason. 

The first-year head coach said Aug. 16, "You know me. I don’t like the preseason." A few days later Hackett and the Broncos were stomped 42-15 in their second preseason game and only three weeks away from their season opener Sept. 12 in Seattle.

Still, even if Hackett puts little stock into preseason results, he didn't like his team's performance on Saturday in Buffalo. 

"First and foremost, it's an opportunity to learn from your mistakes. Otherwise, the game was a complete waste," Hackett said. "For them, it's just understanding what we're trying to accomplish mentally in each rep is so important. And you want to get all that stuff out now during the preseason. Hopefully we go out a lot in that game." 

Hackett said he was frustrated with his team's lack of physicality against the Bills. The Broncos struggled up front on both sides of the ball, rushing for only 32 yards and giving up 208 on the ground. 

"In the end that’s not what we want to be about when it comes to physicality — across the board," Hackett said. "I think everybody can be more physical but it looked like they were thinking too much."

The Broncos, though, have hardly played any of their starters in the preseason — the Bills started their starters Saturday and a handful played the first quarter.

That's likely not going to change this week, either, as Hackett said Monday the plan is the same as last week's in terms of who will and won't play. The Broncos face the Vikings Saturday at Empower Field at Mile High in their final preseason game. 

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Hackett has no intentions of changing his philosophy this close to the season. He still intends to rest his starters and continue their jog-through practices throughout the weeks. And he's not alone in taking this approach. 

The Packers didn't play their starters, went 0-3 in the preseason and were the No. 1 seed in the NFC. The Rams also didn't play their starters, went 0-3 in the preseason and won the Super Bowl. 

So while some may be concerned about the Broncos' performance last Saturday, Hackett is sticking to his approach. 

"The first thing I would tell the fans is I’m sorry for that game two days ago because that is not what we're looking for," Hackett said. "But I mean I think the fans will understand more when we get all the way to week 17. That goes for all those guys, Courtland (Sutton), Jerry (Jeudy), all those guys. We want to see them in real games."

Injury update: Hamler nearing return

Hackett and the Broncos are hoping to have a key offensive weapon back soon. Wide receiver K.J. Hamler is nearing a return after a knee and hip injury last season. Hamler took part in team reps at Monday's practice and could play in Saturday's game, according to Hackett. 

"We definitely want him to get out there," Hackett said. "I know he's chomping at the bit. He's one of those guys, you tell him he can't do something, he's not a very happy camper. That's what you want. You want the guys to want to get out there and want to push themselves. I'm excited for him to get out here for both individual, some more team reps, just everything to start incorporating him and seeing what he can do.

"He might be a guy that needs to get some reps in the preseason game. We're going to communicate and make sure he gets what he needs to get ready."

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