ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — A record crowd of more than 7,000 Broncos fans packed the grassy knoll on the West side of the fields at the UC Health Training Center on Saturday afternoon. The droves of Orange & Blue came out to see—among other things—their team's quarterback competition reach its highest point thus far in terms of the stakes.
Head coach Vance Joseph said earlier this week that Saturday's scrimmage would be an important time for him and his coaches to evaluate their players.
“That’s going to be a big deal for our roster as far as who’s doing things the right way,” he said. “Who’s making plays? Who’s making fewer errors? That’s going to be a big part of what we’re doing. When you say scrimmage, it should tweak a player to say, ‘Hey, my best is needed.’ That’s why you say scrimmage for these guys so you can get their best.”
In terms of the quarterbacks, it didn't appear Vance Joseph got his wish.
BSN Denver was on hand to witness the battle between Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch, here's what went down:
Series No. 1: Siemian with the first-team offense against the first-team defense
Trevor Siemian got the nod to open the scrimmage and started the day with the best drive by either of the quarterbacks. On his first throw, following a run, Siemian found running back C.J. Anderson for a short gain, leaving him a manageable third down.
On that third down, Siemian threw a rocket for what turned out to be one of, if not the best throw of the day. The QB dropped back, found Bennie Fowler open over the middle and released a long pass that Fowler hauled in and may have taken the distance if the play wasn't blown dead at first contact.
Now in field goal position, the offense ran it on first down. Trevor followed up the run with an incompletion on a miscommunication with Emmanuel Sanders. On third down, Siemian was looking for Sanders again, but No. 10 was called for offensive pass interference.
On 3rd-and-long, the offense ran a draw and set up Brandon McManus for a 55-yard field goal—the offense's only scoring opportunity of the day—which he clanked off the left upright.
Series No. 2: Lynch with the first-team offense against the first-team defense
In contrast with Siemian's first series being the best of the day, Lynch's first was the worst of the day.
On his opening throw, after a run, Lynch threw over the head of Jeff Heuerman, setting up 3rd-and-long. The quarterback dropped back, felt pressure, stepped up and attempted to rocket a ball into the hands of Emmanuel Sanders, who looked open, but as soon as No. 12 let the ball go, Chris Harris Jr. cut off the passing lane and took the ball the other way. Harris didn't take it all the way but would have had the "offense" inside the red zone.
“I know I kind of stepped up in the pocket and flushed out," Lynch said after practice. "I saw [WR] Emmanuel [Sanders] breaking out of his route—I didn’t see anyone around him, and I guess Chris just had fallen off from the flat and drifted back. Looking back, you can’t force those kinds of passes. If you get pushed up in the pocket, that’s when I can take it down and run with it and use my athleticism to live to see another down.”
"That's called route recognition," Harris Jr. said. "I'm just at that level of smart to be able to let my man go and be able to jump routes.”
In the spirit of the format, Lynch got one more play on the series. On what they called a lengthy third down, Lynch was sacked by Kasim Edebali.
Series No. 3: Siemian with the second-team offense against the second-team defense
Lynch started the three-and-out train, and Siemian followed suit. After a first-down run and a false start, Siemian faced 2nd-and-long. On his first throw of the drive, he was swatted at the line by Adam Gotsis—who has shown a propensity for the batted ball and also stuffed the first-down run—leaving 3rd-and-long. Siemian found Isaiah McKenzie on a short route, but it wasn't enough to move the chains. Punt.
Series No. 4: Lynch with the second-team offense against the second-team defense
After a short run, Lynch had A.J. Derby open up the right sideline but left the ball a bit short giving the defenders a chance to make a play on the ball and ultimately seeing it fall to the ground. On 3rd-and-long, the QB looked again for the tight end over the middle but missed low. Punt.
Series No. 5: Lynch with the second-team offense against the second-team defense
While it looked to be over after one series with each team for the quarterbacks, Lynch got one more chance with the twos.
On what was certainly his best throw of the day, Lynch hit his back foot and delivered a perfect spiral to the right sideline where Kalif Raymond snagged the ball and dragged his feet for a substantial gain. Unfortunately for the offense, after the play, Donald Stephenson was called for a personal foul and negated the big gain.
"It was our best play up to that point in the entire scrimmage," Joseph said. "Then we get a nonsense penalty of pushing the back after the play. He blocked his guy; he did his job. The play is over. Don’t be selfish and get a penalty and back us up by 15 instead of being up 20.”
After three straight De'Angelo Henderson runs notched a first down, Lynch had one more drop back but was sacked by Danny Mason on his last rep of the day. A play where there was a clear miscommunication between he and the running back regarding which side the play fake would go to.
This is where things get very difficult. By any perspective, Trevor Siemian did not blow anyone away on Saturday afternoon. But Paxton Lynch just did a whole lot of, well, nothing. He completed as many passes to the defense as he did to the offense and took two sacks. All the while, Siemian had no interceptions and no sacks to go along with a few completions and a drive that got the team into scoring position.
After a whole lot of debate, we simply came to the conclusion that you can't award Lynch any more than one point for the completion to Raymond. It's hard to give Siemian nine points for nothing special but, in the end, he moved the ball and protected it, something that can't be said on the other end.
With the lead that is developing, it appears Lynch's best chance to get back into it will be during the heavily weighted preseason games.