ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On Monday, Vance Joseph named Trevor Siemian the Broncos’ starting quarterback. For the team’s first preseason game, that is.
Thursday night when the offense takes the field against the Chicago Bears, No. 13 will be under center. One week later, in Denver’s second preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers, Paxton Lynch will start — following the rotating pattern that Joseph has set for the quarterbacks during the offseason and training camp.
After announcing Siemian as the starter for Thursday, Joseph made it very clear this decision doesn’t mean Siemian is in the lead, answering that question with a simple, “No.” A word that he repeated 14 times in a row.
“[Siemian’s] been first all training camp. He’s been first out all spring. It’s an open competition,” Joseph said. “The games matter. The games start Thursday. I want to get to the games so we can get to the bottom of this.”
On Monday, in a practice that was moved indoors, both quarterbacks hit the field to try to create separation in the competition. Here’s what happened.
Run to Set Up Pass
With a heavy emphasis invested on the offensive line during the offseason, it wasn’t a big surprise earlier in camp when Emmanuel Sanders said, “I think our run game is going to be explosive this year and it’s going to open up the pass.”
During the team’s tenth training camp practice, the running game was the emphasis. Outside of 7-on-7, in which there is no running game, each quarterback led a run-heavy offense. While this made it difficult for either to get into a rhythm passing the ball, both were efficient in the passes they were asked to make and finished the day with similar completion percentages.
After throwing the only interception on the day, during a team period, Siemian threw the ball two more total times — a five-yard completion to C.J. Anderson in the right flat and an overthrown pass to Isaiah McKenzie on a right-sideline fade.
During the lone 7-on-7 period, in which running is not allowed, both quarterbacks were sharp. Siemian connected on every attempt, hitting passes from five to 15 yards downfield on the left, middle and right side of the field.
Lynch put on a similar performance during this period, connecting on all but two passes, both of which hit the intended receiver. Except for a pass dropped by Anthony Nash 20 yards downfield, Lynch eyed passes within 10 yards, looking to the left and middle of the field.
Each quarterback had one interception on the day. Siemian was picked off by Lorenzo Doss during a team period where Jordan Taylor, the intended receiver on the play, slipped when the ball was in the air, allowing for Doss to make an easy play on the ball. Lynch’s interception came during a one-on-one period where Bradley Roby had perfect positioning on a deep fade route.
Lynch’s Internal Clock the Difference
At Monday’s practice, the success for Lynch was as simple as this: when he made a decision, whether to scramble with the ball or pass it, in a timely manner, it turned out to be a positive play for the offense. When he lagged in his decision-making, it didn’t turn out well.
While this can be said about most NFL quarterbacks, it’s even more prevalent with Lynch. During Saturday’s scrimmage, Joseph blamed the lone interception of the day on No. 12 holding onto the ball too long.
During practice Monday, this was evident again. Although Lynch didn’t throw an interception during team or 7-on-7, he had far too many sacks that were caused purely from him holding onto the ball too long.
The worst of his mistakes came during 4th-and-goal. In a situation where it’s better to throw the ball in the air and at least give your receivers a chance, Lynch held onto the ball and took a sack, turning the ball over while giving his teammates no chance to make a play.
It’s not that Lynch should stay stationary in the pocket, either. During practice, when he made a decision to scramble early in the play, all of his runs turned into positive gains, albeit just a few yards, but significantly better than a sack or ill-advised throw.
On the other hand, when Lynch made timely decisions, he looked like the first-round pick that he was just a year ago, specifically on the day’s best play — read below.
Play of the Day
Lynch hasn’t been a stranger to this section during training camp. However, Monday’s play of the day came in a different fashion. Instead of the best play coming from his fast feet or strong arm, it came from his sound decision making.
As has been the case most days, the final period of practice was situational, and Monday was no different. Each quarterback started 1st-and-10 with the ball on their own 30-yard line leading 21-17 with 3:30 left on the clock. After two straight designed runs, Lynch faced 3rd-down from his own 35.
As he stood in the pocket, A.J. Derby ran a 10-yard hook on the right hash of the field. Before Derby turned around to look for the pass, Lynch had already released the ball, putting the pass on-point right when Derby turned around.
Since Lynch anticipated the pass, and didn’t wait for Derby to turn around, it didn’t allow time for the defense to act. In this situation, with no timeouts left for the defense and only 2:00 remaining on the clock, this play would have sealed the game for the Lynch-led offense.
While this wasn't the flashiest play Lynch has had during training camp, in the minds of the coaches it may have been the most impressive.
In what was close to a “push” day between the two quarterbacks — Siemian with one interception and Lynch multiple sacks — it was the final period that put Lynch just over the edge.
Lynch’s play of the day put his team in a position to win the game, while in the same scenario Siemian threw an incompletion on a deep route to McKenzie, giving the opposing team the ball with just over 2:00 minutes remaining.
In a run-heavy practice, Siemian was given fewer opportunities to throw the ball than Lynch, but Lynch closed out practice strong enough for the “W.”