Fearless Fangio

Vic Fangio isn’t scared. Called out the playcalling in the red zone after the offense stalled vs. Seattle and San Francisco. “We can improve that, I believe,” Fangio said. Called out a veteran star, Chris Harris Jr., sending a message no one’s untouchable. “He missed a couple months,” Fangio said in training camp. Called out the Broncos’ special teams, characterizing the blunders as “unacceptable.” “I guess the kids don’t understand that’s how you make the team,” Harris Jr. said. It’s no wonder other coaches — often from other sports, such as Cubs manager Joe Maddon — consider Fangio one of their favorite people. He operates like they all wish they could — with no fear. Go 32 years in the NFL without a head coaching gig, you’re going to call it like you see it. On one sideline Saturday night is Fangio, who turned 61 on Thursday. On the other is Sean McVay, 33.

Centering the Broncos’ ship

OK, does it seem like Klee’s going overboard with the Fangio praise before he’s even coached a regular-season game? Fair ‘nuff. But I must hand it to the guy who’s doing all the things I’ve asked the Broncos to do. He banned rookie haircuts, a move toward a unified locker room. He brought honest evaluations to the podium, a show of respect for fans who grew tired of “a great week of practice.” Now he’s shut down the starters for the rest of the Broncos preseason, an admission that 56 days of preseason could haunt them in November and December. “I wouldn’t say it’s the biggest deal in the world,” quarterback Joe Flacco said. Instead, you’ll get Kevin Hogan and Brett Rypien at quarterback Saturday. But you’ll also have a healthy Von Miller, Bradley Chubb and Emmanuel Sanders for the opener against the Raiders and helmet-holdout Antonio Brown.

Preseason paydays

Go to DenverBroncos.com prior to kickoff. Print off a roster, the one that names the players in numerical order. That way you’ll know if No. 21 Su’a Cravens, No. 45 Alexander Johnson or No. 20 Jamal Carter helped their cause at positions of interest. Cravens was part of the rat pack, along with Shane Ray, made a healthy scratch to close last season. (It’s worth noting that Bradley Chubb mentioned malcontents in the linebacker group last year was part of the issue.) Too many red flags around Cravens, who should be fighting for a roster spot. Johnson must make folks comfortable while starting linebackers Josey Jewell and Todd Davis recover from injuries. “He’s got to step it up here,” Fangio said. While the Broncos’ stars are going to sit out the final two preseason games, what a sweet chance for the borderline guys fighting for a spot. Their futures are playing out in real time. Snag an interception or make the right special teams play and you make the cut.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

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