Football is almost back, if you can believe it. The Denver Broncos will start planting the seeds of their title defense when training camp officially kicks off Thursday.
The next three weeks should shed some light on important questions such as: How will getting shot in the leg affects Aqib Talib’s status as one of the top corners in football? How will Denver’s new-look offensive line gel? And, perhaps, most importantly, who is going to win the Broncos’ rock fight of a quarterback battle?
Veteran Mark Sanchez, second-year player Trevor Siemian and rookie first-round pick Paxton Lynch are all vying to start in Denver’s season-opener against Carolina on Sept. 8.
Sanchez is the No. 1 option at this point, Siemian the No. 2 and Lynch No. 3, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak said Wednesday, according to The Denver Post. Clearly, though, that depth chart is not set in stone. Broncos general manager John Elway called the competition “wide open” heading into camp.
So what should you make of that?
Sanchez as the team’s Week 1 starter makes a lot of sense, even if it’s hard to get excited about. Entering his eighth NFL season, he has by far the most experience among the three contenders.
Sanchez showed flashes of adequacy as a youngster with the Jets, but his career has gone off the rails the last few years mostly because of turnovers. He threw 18 picks in 15 games in 2012, then 11 in nine games the next year. For his career, he’s only thrown two more TD passes (86) than interceptions (84).
Denver should have one of the best defenses in the NFL and a good ground game. All it needs is a game manager who protects the ball at QB. There are serious doubts Sanchez can be this guy, but there are even more question marks about Siemian.
Siemian’s taken all of one NFL snap since the Broncos took him 250th overall in the 2015 draft. And that was a kneel-down in Week 15 against the Steelers to end the first half.
Siemian’s college career at Northwestern could generously be described as mediocre. He completed 58.4 percent of his passes and threw 27 TDs and 24 interceptions in four years, which inspired Northwestern’s own student newspaper to write that “unremarkableness was one of Siemian’s defining traits throughout his time at NU.”
(“Unremarkableness” is not a word, but you get the point.)
That leaves Lynch.
The Broncos essentially gave up a third-round pick to select the uber-athletic/Robert-Downey-Jr.-in-Iron-Man lookalike in April’s draft. Lynch has all the physical tools you want in an NFL QB; he’s got size (6-foot-7, 245 pounds), mobility, arm strength and accuracy. (Watch his highlights against Ole Miss if you’re not sold.)
The problem with Lynch is that he has little experience in a pro-style offense. He operated almost exclusively in the spread at Memphis, and in high school he ran the Wing-T (!!!!).
Grasping the minutiae of Kubiak’s offense is going to take time. Throwing Lynch into the fire from Jump Street could damage his confidence. Which is why, barring injury, Sanchez is likely this team’s Week 1 starter — Elway’s “wide open” comment notwithstanding.
Sanchez has the experience. He’s said and done all the right things since coming over. Denver can trot him out there against some truly scary defenses it’ll face in the first half of the season, including Carolina Cincinnati and Houston, while Lynch continues learning.
Starting Sanchez on opening night might not be the sexy move — but when you consider the alternatives, it might be the most prudent.