ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — For the first time since Denver’s preseason game last Thursday night, the Broncos weren’t in full pads — replacing thigh pads for shorts.
Just when it seemed Vance Joseph was going to give his team an easier day on the field — before flying to San Francisco later in the afternoon to practice against the 49ers leading up to their preseason game Saturday night — the shoulder pads were colliding and the first-team units were going full speed against one another.
Fortunately for the Broncos Quarterback Scoreboard, that meant another evaluation of Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch as the team prepares for a game in which each quarterback will play a quarter and a half, with Lynch getting the start.
In many ways, Tuesday’s practice was much of the same from each quarterback, exemplifying where each's strengths lie and what they each need to work on to grab the starting job when the games start to count. After practice Tuesday, Joseph wouldn’t say whether he would name a starter for the regular season next Monday, the first day back after Saturday’s game.
Here’s how Tuesday’s quarterback competition played out on the gridiron.
Mistakes Haunt Paxton
In terms of completion percentage, Tuesday’s practice was fantastic for Lynch. Focusing on short routes — his longest completion of the day was no longer than 15 yards — Lynch was efficient overall.
However, much like many other practices throughout training camp, mistakes turned what could have been a very positive day for Lynch on its head.
After a 7-on-7 and team period where Lynch didn’t have a single incompletion, Lynch faced a dreadful three-play sequence at the hands of the first-team defense. After starting the team period with a short completion to A.J. Derby in the right flat, Lynch was intercepted by Chris Harris Jr. He bounced back the next play with a 10-yard completion to Emmanuel Sanders on the right hash, but then immediately was intercepted by Kasim Edebali, who dropped into coverage.
On the two interceptions, it seemed as if Lynch never saw Harris Jr. or Edebali as neither offensive player Lynch targeted was open.
The next series, however, Lynch got the job done. On a drill starting from the offense’s own 1-yard line, the goal was to get a first down. Going up against the second-team defense, Lynch scrambled for five yards on 2nd-and-long before finding Kalif Raymond for 10 yards on 3rd-and-2 as he rolled to his right.
Siemian, however, found his only pass during this drill broken up by Aqib Talib on 3rd-and-6 from his own 5-yard line, thus not succeeding in the drill.
The lone sack of the day for either quarterback came at the hands of Harris Jr. getting to Lynch during a third-down drill.
The kicker for Lynch is he’s not making the same big plays during the second-half of training camp like he did during the first half of camp, thus not offsetting his mistakes with big plays and making the risk-reward for Lynch not as appealing.
On the other hand, during practice on Tuesday, Lynch was reading the field and going through his progressions, something he failed to do in the first preseason game. On most plays, while Lynch did keep his eyes on short range passes, it was clear that if his first read wasn’t open he looked to other options on the field — a crucial characteristic for an NFL quarterback.
Trevor Being Trevor
While Siemian didn't have as high of a completion percentage as Lynch, he also avoided the big mistakes — a crucial part of the competition as Joseph has emphasized that the most important aspect of a quarterback is decision making.
Outside of the 7-on-7 period to start the day — read below — Siemian kept his passes within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage, much like Lynch. Other than the missed third-down pass during the team goal line period, Siemian put together another solid day.
In the last team period, each quarterback had a miscommunication with their intended receiver, leading to incompletions on each play.
Play of the Day
Unlike the rest of practice, where Siemian kept the passes short, during 7-on-7, Siemian looked, and hit, deep twice. With Lynch receiving the first reps of the day, Siemian wasted no time, making the biggest play of the day with his first rep.
Lining up on the right side of the ball, Raymond ran a seam route on the numbers, creating enough separation on the defensive backs in coverage for Siemian to hit him perfectly in stride for a 40-yard touchdown.
Three plays later, Siemian found Hunter Sharp on another 40-yard touchdown, this time in the middle of the field. These two passes were the only touchdowns on the day for either quarterback.
Outside of the two touchdowns for Siemian during 7-on-7 — which carry less weight than team periods — and the two interceptions and sack for Lynch, both quarterbacks had similar, solid days.
However, Lynch’s mistakes on the day carry a significant weight in evaluating the competition between the two. Combining Lynch’s mistakes with Siemian’s early touchdowns, Tuesday was another clear “victory” for Siemian.
Now each quarterback faces a major test as they face the 49ers in two consecutive practices, followed by the second preseason game.