The Denver Broncos quarterback room will be far more interesting than this time last season. In 2015, there was a clear hierarchy—Peyton Manning, followed by Brock Osweiler and then Trevor Siemian—those days are gone.
Veteran Mark Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch took to the field Tuesday for their first day of organized team activities in Orange & Blue, joining Siemian, who is in his second season with the team. At the end of practice, head coach Gary Kubiak laid out the new hierarchy. . . or lack thereof.
“It will be very competitive for all of them. Reps-wise, we’ll probably be right down the middle with all of them.” he said of the quarterback group.
Sanchez seems to be the favorite to earn the starting job in September, but his recent history of inconsistent play coupled with injury issues makes that far from a certainty. During his eight seasons he possesses 72 more regular season starts than Lynch and 71 more than Siemian, he has also thrown nearly as many interceptions (84) as touchdowns (86) in that span. As he stepped onto the field Tuesday, just ten days after suffering a left thumb injury that required surgery, he noted he knows what it takes to compete for a starting job but not at the expense of the team.
“I think that’s just part of being a pro and understanding that we all want the same thing,” Sanchez said Tuesday. “If we compete like we know how and we’re all trying to be the starter, then the best guy is going to play and the team is going to benefit from that entire competition.”
Sanchez’s thumb may set him back for about a week but both he and Kubiak believe he will be full-go by then. Sanchez’s biggest asset to the Broncos, regardless of recent failures, is his experience. He knows what it takes to play over the entire grueling NFL schedule and the intensity that playoff football brings, having gone to two AFC Championships. However, in the coming weeks, he will be putting the film study on the Broncos offense he has obtained since he was traded to the team March 11 to practice. After day one he was encouraged.
“It’s one thing in the classroom to say, ‘Here is my read, here is who I’m looking at.’ Now you’ve got to put it all together on the field,” he said confidently. “I thought we did a great job of that today and had a heck of a start. It’s fun to be a part of.”
Lynch seemed to have completed the most impressive throws Tuesday and considering he is the newest to the team, that was surprising. He hit a lengthy touchdown throw to wide receiver Jordan Taylor and immediately sprinted down the field in celebration.
“It was competitive and it felt like real football again,” Lynch said through a big smile. “That was the first time I had ever thrown a touchdown in practice or in a game or anything in the NFL. It was pretty exciting. I had to be fired up for it.”
Lynch believes his biggest challenge ahead is the playbook. He ran, mostly, a spread offense during his time in Memphis and the speed of not only the game on the field but also the play calling in the huddle will be a big change.
“Obviously, just the playbook in general, it’s a lot to handle, especially coming from the offense I came from,” he admitted Tuesday afternoon. “Especially with how fast we get in and out of the huddle. That’s kind of the biggest learning curve. I feel pretty good about it.”
Along with the challenge of play calling will be how he progresses with his footwork from the shotgun, where he is familiar from his college days, and from under center. He is an athletic player with plenty of arm strength accompanied by surprisingly fast feet, considering his 6-foot-7 frame, but transitioning to the Broncos offense on the field will be mostly new concepts for him. Kubiak understands that it will take time but likes the direction Lynch is going in.
Kubiak understands that it will take time but likes the direction Lynch is going in.
“Footwork, you want it to be where you don’t think about it," told the head coach. "He’s having to think about it right now because he hasn’t done it. But boy, he’s made a lot of ground up since we got him.”
Lastly, many are fixated on Sanchez and his history in the league along with the highly touted Lynch but Siemian remains the most experienced quarterback on the roster when it comes to being a Denver Bronco. Last season, he entered camp with no pressure, due to the presence of both Manning and Osweiler and a knee injury he suffered at Northwestern University that ended his college career.
“I feel great. I feel really confident at this point,” Siemian said Tuesday. “Last year at this time I had the knee [injury] and was swimming a little bit in the playbook. I’m light years ahead of where I was last year.”
During the entire season, he was able to soak in the offense and learn from two experienced Broncos. Tuesday he admitted that this offseason is his time to really get his reps in and is looking forward to the equal opportunities.
“I tried to learn a lot last year," he explained. "I wasn’t playing a ton but I had 18 (Peyton Manning) in the room and I had Brock [Osweiler], so I was learning from those guys. At the end of the preseason, you kind of feel like you’re getting in a little bit of a rhythm and then you go on ice for a little bit for the year. I’m ready to get back to it and knock a little rust off but I feel good.”
While many around Denver believe the competition comes down to Sanchez and the first-round pick Lynch, Kubiak sees Siemian as a viable option as well.
“Not many guys are asking about him, but I’m really excited about Trevor," he explained. "He’s got a chance to be a really good player. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He basically took the first group today."
The Broncos certainly have an idea in mind of how they want the quarterback competition to play out this season but, as last year proved, anything can happen over the course of an NFL season. The Broncos first day of organized team activities displayed a far different group than last season and many more questions than answers as to who will win the job. One thing is clear, the often used but seldom true statement of an “open quarterback competition” is just what the Broncos have on their hands.