ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The competition for the most prominent sports position in the Rocky Mountain Region is officially underway.
After a season in which Trevor Siemian controlled the starting quarterback job in Denver — starting 14 of the 16 games — new head coach Vance Joseph has made it crystal clear that Siemian and Paxton Lynch are in a fair and open competition for the 2017 role, saying it’s 50-50 on who will win the job and it will, “go down to the wire.”
Although the quarterbacks will be starting from an even level, in theory, they will both be taking different paths to beat the other one out. On Thursday, as the team wrapped up their first week of offseason training workouts, the two young quarterbacks met with the media for the first time, discussing what will put them over the top come September.
Lynch, the second-year quarterback that started two games last season, believes the addition of new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy will bring an offense more tailored to his skills and background than that of Gary Kubiak’s system.
“I know he’s going to put us in the the shotgun a little more,” Lynch said. “That’s one thing I’m definitely excited about because I played my whole college system in the shotgun. I know we’ll have to get under center, but [McCoy] pressing the ball down the field I’m definitely excited about too, and having the opportunity to run around a little bit is something that excites me.”
During his collegiate career at Memphis, Lynch was used in just that fashion: exclusively from shotgun, allowed to run and encouraged to throw the ball down field. In Kubiak’s system last year, Lynch was asked to go under center and drop back, something that was foreign to him entering the league.
“[Footwork] was one of the big things that I worked on [this offseason]just because obviously I had never been under center,” he said. “Having a year under the system and having some five step drops and seven step drops definitely helped me and it showed when I went back and worked out.”
Along with a system that is more familiar to him, Lynch is confident that a year under his belt in the NFL will greatly benefit him.
“I would just say having that year of experience in the league [is beneficial],” he said. “It’s a whole new system now then it was, but obviously there was still some similarities — you are still going to take some five step drops, some seven step drops and make protection calls and read defenses. The fact that I’ve had a year to adjust to that and go against our defense for a year is really going to benefit me.”
While any experience is beneficial, Siemian would strongly urge that the best, and most beneficial experience is by playing on Sundays, not just during practice. When asked why he thinks he’s a better quarterback now than last year, Siemian replied, “Well, I played.”
“You can’t substitute those reps, and I learned that pretty quickly,” he said. “Even toward the end of the year the game just felt easier for me. I saw things a little better, and you just can’t substitute those reps, so hopefully, that helps me out.”
If the third-year quarterback wants to gain additional reps in 2017, he will have to stay healthy, something he had troubles with last season. After undergoing surgery in January to repair a grade-five separation in his AC joint in his non-throwing shoulder, Siemian said, “I feel fine. I got cleared just a bit ago… Ready to roll.”
“The older guys that stay healthy, they are really smart with the football,” he added on how he can stay healthy for a full season. “They ditch it when they have to, they get rid of it quicker, they are shooting check downs pretty quickly or they are getting down. I got a chance to watch Peyton [Manning] do that. I don’t know if I thought I was Superman my first year and that I can take a bunch of hits, but you can’t play for an extended career doing that. That’s something I’ll fix.”
Even when not precisely asked about it, Siemian continued to find ways to stress the importance of game reps. When he was asked if he can be the type of leader that Joseph wants from his quarterback he said, “I think so. There is no reason not to.”
“Playing obviously helps. It was my first year playing last year,” he said. “As I get older and get more reps and do more of those kind of things, that’s kind of my role moving forward.”
In what will likely be a congenial competition for many months ahead, both players will continue to jockey for the starting role in different ways. For Lynch, he’ll embrace the new playbook and system. For Siemian, he’ll rely on his playing experience on Sundays.