In a competition that is starting to show signs of separation, Friday illuminated how the two quarterbacks are beginning to solidify their respective identities.
Small Aspects Creating Separation
In terms of completion percentage, both Siemian and Paxton Lynch were comparable, in team periods and 7-on-7. However, it was with the little, but important things, that Siemian seemed to separate himself from Lynch.
Much as Lynch has done throughout camp, he showed flashes of his unique talent, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas off a bootleg rollout in 7-on-7. But was just too inconsistent, such as when he threw an interception to Bradley Roby in the end zone the play before.
Two periods later, Lynch was intercepted by Lorenzo Doss in what would have turned into a defensive touchdown. But it was in how the interception came about that is cause for concern with Lynch. Before Doss took the ball to the house, linebacker Danny Mason tipped Lynch’s pass at the line, putting the ball in the air for Doss to intercept it.
This wasn’t Lynch’s first tipped pass at the line. Even at 6-foot-7, Lynch has had far more passes tipped at the line of scrimmage during the first week of camp than Siemian. While Vance Joseph dismissed it, saying, “That’s more of how we are practicing than on Paxton,” the fact is Siemian has been practicing with the same rules and has had significantly fewer batted passes.
Additionally, sacks are becoming lopsided. On Friday, Lynch was brought down multiple times in team periods, while Siemian avoided the pressure entirely.
Finally, in what was the smallest detail — but critically important to a coach — each quarterback was given 3rd-and-1 with the ball around midfield. On Lynch’s first play, the handoff exchange with De’Angelo Henderson was fumbled and the second play, on 4th down, he had an errant throw to C.J. Anderson in the flat in what would have been close to a first down.
On their own, all of these smaller aspects of the game can be overcome by a team and quarterback. However, when one can avoid these mistakes and the other can’t, the mistakes add up to a significant advantage for the quarterback who is able to avoid them.
Friday was just one day, but in terms of the small aspects of the game, Siemian has gained an undeniable edge over Lynch.
Tape and Talk Tell the Tale
On Monday, when asked what the deciding factor will be as to who becomes the starting quarterback, Joseph was direct in what he’s looking for out of a signal caller:
“I’m looking for decision making,” he said. “Making critical errors in the scoring zones, we can’t have. You make an error out or in your 1st-and-10, 2nd-and-10, we can overcome those. If we’re going into score and we’ve already put up three points, and we give them seven, we can’t have that. That costs you games. More games in this league are lost than won, and we can’t go out and lose the game. That’s my point to the quarterbacks.”
After practice on Friday, when asked what he saw out of Siemian during the day’s practice, he said, “I saw Trevor being consistent, making his reads and making the throws where the reads told him to make the throws. He did a good job today.”
In other words, Joseph said Siemian made the right decisions. Additionally, after practice, Darian Stewart complimented both quarterbacks, specifically pointing to Siemian’s decision-making ability.
“Trevor is smart, savvy. He is doing some great things and making the right plays,” he said. “Paxton can run. He’s athletic enough to get outside of the pocket. Anytime you are dealing with a dual-threat quarterback that’s the toughest task.”
During the second team period of the day, and facing the first-team defense, Siemian couldn’t connect with his intended receiver on three straight plays. However, on his fourth attempt, he made up for it.
In a goal-to-go situation, Siemian found Cody Latimer in one-on-one coverage with Lorenzo Doss on the left side of the field and threw a perfectly placed fade route only where Latimer could catch it in the back left corner of the end zone for a touchdown.
After struggling in the red zone last year, Siemian has proven he’s made strides throughout training camp, specifically on the perfectly placed ball to Latimer.
Siemian came out of the gates firing — beginning practice with a 30-yard touchdown pass to McKenzie, off a play-fake, and followed it up with what would have been a 30-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Heuerman - if the tight end hadn’t dropped it.
Siemien was clearly the winner, for the second straight day, Now, the biggest test for each quarterback is on the horizon with Saturday’s scrimmage.