And so it begins. Two quarterbacks. One job. When Trevor Siemian threaded a touchdown pass as I sat on a grassy hillside with 3,792 Broncomaniacs during the first practice of training camp, a fan behind me bellowed: “That’s your starting quarterback right there!”
While Broncos Country is buzzing about the competition between Siemian and Paxton Lynch, here’s something nobody around here wants to talk about:
Have both these young quarterbacks been set up to fail?
“Hopefully the No. 13 that rolls out of the locker room tomorrow is better than the ‘slappy’ that rolled out here today,” Siemian said Thursday, displaying the self-deprecating humor that makes everybody in town want to give him a big bro-hug.
But know what’s not funny? Denver’s offense might be far too reliant on the talent of Siemian or Lynch to score touchdowns.
The last time the Broncos were so weak at the offensive skill positions, Tim Tebow was the quarterback.
There’s no polite way to put it. The Denver offense stunk last season (and we have the stats to prove it). Did president of football operations John Elway really do enough to alleviate a problem so big it drove a wedge between the offensive and defensive side of the locker room in 2016? After their first preseason practice, the Broncos are already scrambling to find weapons for Siemian and Lynch.
Let’s face it. Terrell Davis isn’t walking through that door.
When running back Devontae Booker blindsided the Broncos with news that his wrist has not been healthy for weeks and now requires surgery, coach Vance Joseph seemed a wee bit flustered. “It was a football nick, he thought,” said Joseph, before adding why fixing it pronto is absolutely necessary. “That bone can die and his hand can be messed up forever.”
Here’s all you need to know: Denver is throwing spaghetti against the wall at running back in the hope something sticks. The Broncos have signed Stevan Ridley, a street free agent who averaged 2.5 yards on 39 carries for a grand total of 97 yards rushing during the past two NFL seasons.
While C.J. Anderson has the football acumen of a veteran quarterback and the fighting spirit of a boxer, his durability issues are real and concerning. “He’s got to prove he can play 16 games and obviously be the bell cow,” Joseph said.
Maybe there’s your reason Elway rolled the dice in free agency, hoping for a medical miracle from former Kansas City Chiefs star Jamaal Charles, who still appears stiff and a step slow in a big knee brace after battling injuries for two years. Attention, fantasy football freaks: Keep close tabs on rookie De’Angelo Henderson. It’s a long way from Coastal Carolina to the NFL, but if his speed translates, opportunity abounds in Denver.
The Broncos opened camp by immediately throwing Lynch and Siemian in the crucible of a red zone drill. I loved Joseph’s willingness to get the competition started in a high-leverage situation. But this nagging thought also hung in the air, like a gnat at the ear: Shouldn’t Elway have more appreciation for a young QB’s need for legitimate targets when the field is short and congested near the goal line?
Yes, Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders have undeniable skills at catching the football. But the team’s best tight end, rookie Jake Butt, was catching soft tosses after practice, while recovering from ACL surgery on his right knee. Denver desperately needs Butt to be a force in the red zone ASAP. Nobody can declare with a straight face that there is a reliable third wide receiver in the arsenal of this team’s young quarterbacks.
Read the offensive stats from 2016 and try not to weep: In the 32-team league, the Broncos ranked 28th in yards per rush attempt, 21st in yards per attempted pass and 22nd in scoring. The convenient scapegoats for this offensive ineptitude were lack of imagination by former coach Gary Kubiak and a leaky front wall.
With Kubiak being hired back as a Broncos scout barely six months after he retired from the Denver sideline, here are my two cents: 1) Elway and Kubiak will be football brothers for life, and 2) You’re darn right the team’s offensive woes caused tension between them.
Part of the problem? Elway didn’t give his brother enough tools. Yes, the offensive line has been upgraded since last season. But please remember this: Big uglies don’t score touchdowns. Talent, not scheme, is what wins in the NFL.
The big argument in Broncos Country is: Siemian or Lynch!
It’s a clickalicious debate destined to keep the internet humming and sports talkers yakking through the dog days of summer.
On the eve of camp, Elway said: “There’s always going to be an issue somewhere on your football team.”
So maybe we’re asking the wrong question.
Are you certain Lynch vs. Siemian is this offense’s biggest issue?