The Paxton Lynch train has gone off the rails a bit, regarding his chances to be the starter come opening night for the Denver Broncos. When he was selected in the first round, there was hope around town that he could step in right away and replace the not-so-popular Mark Sanchez as the man in the huddle. It hasn't worked out that way so far.
The rookie quarterback is coming along nicely but at a slow and steady pace. So as Sanchez and second-year signal-caller Trevor Siemian battle it out, Lynch is on his own, trying to put the future into perspective.
On Wednesday, as the 49ers came into town for joint practices, the Memphis product saw fewer reps than he's used to as the teams mostly focused on their first and second units, but Paxton "did some really good stuff" with his opportunities according to head coach Gary Kubiak.
“We did a lot of stuff well,” the rookie confirmed. “We threw the ball downfield a couple of good times, and I was really pleased with my performance. I've been building on that since the game.”
Lynch’s promising play in the Broncos preseason opener has received rave reviews from national pundits, especially when compared to his rookie counterparts. The young quarterback isn’t letting it get to his head, though, focusing on working and improving.
“Just to keep pushing,” said the rookie about his mindset against the 49ers. “Every rep is not going to be perfect, obviously, but you can strive for it. That's what I kind of do, come out here and get the reps how I get them and try to execute as best as I can, no matter who I'm with.”
The entire experience is quite different for Lynch, who’s learning a doctorate level offense while going against only his third NFL defense (if you include his teammates in practice).
“It felt good to come out here and practice against another team,” explained Lynch of the joint practice. “It was a little different for me, being the first time that I've practiced against another team out here, but it felt good, and the crowd was really into it, so I was excited.”
The rookie QB has been brimming with positivity throughout camp, but he is starting to seem more comfortable on and off the field.
“I know that when I first got out here,” began Paxton. “It was spinning, and it was moving so fast for me, but it's getting to the point where I can hear the play call and slow it down a little bit and get in the huddle and move past some things quicker.”
Along with the speed of the game Lynch is also learning some valuable lessons about decision making.
“That's one thing that I've kind of started to learn,” said Lynch about checking down. “Just to trust my instincts. Like I did in college, if I felt the pocket break down, then I wasn't hesitant to get out on the run and try to make a play that way outside of the pocket. Kubiak doesn't mind me getting out of the pocket and making a play as long as I keep my eyes up and make a good one. Whenever the pocket breaks down, I just trust my instincts, and if it's to get out of the pocket, that's what I do.”
The biggest adjustment and improvement has come from the speed of the game for Lynch. Something that joint practices and live play will only accelerate.
“Adjusting to the game speed,” said No. 12 of his greatest challenge. “Now that you kind of learn your playbook a little better than you did in the past and you have a chance to go out there and play, you feel the game speed and how it changes from college to the NFL.”
With all the learning and focus on his game, Lynch hasn’t lost sight of the milestones he’s checking off in his budding NFL career. He’s checked his first preseason and joint practices off the list; now he gets to play his first home game as a Bronco.
“I'm very excited,” said Lynch. “I know that our first game was on the road, and the Bears got to play in front of their crowd, so coming out here to practice is exciting. You look over there to the berm and you know it's full of people. I'm excited to get to the stadium and see it packed.”
Without the pressure of having to start right away and compete for a job, Lynch has been in a unique situation. The potential franchise quarterback is taking to that pressure-free role well and doing exactly what he needs to, growing every day.