The Denver Broncos’ Paxton Lynch saw his first NFL regular-season action against the Buccaneers on Sunday.
Lynch came in with just over 2 minutes remaining in the first half when Trevor Siemian left with a sprained shoulder. The Broncos led by a touchdown at that point, and they had the ball at their own 32.
No one would have faulted the Broncos if they ran a quarterback-friendly play like a screen pass. It was Lynch’s first snap; ease him into it, and don’t force anything. Just make sure he doesn’t commit a turnover.
Instead, Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak let Lynch have some freedom from Jump Street. Here was his first throw.
Lynch tries to rifle a dart to Bennie Fowler downfield rather than hitting Emmanuel Sanders on a shallow crossing route. It was off target. But it did foreshadow how aggressive the rookie would play in his first NFL game.
Take Denver’s very next drive. It got the ball back with 1:14 left in the first half. That’s when you started to see Lynch get going. Here he hits Emmanuel Sanders in a relatively tight window for a gain of 16.
Sanders created a good deal of separation, no doubt. But it was impressive to watch Lynch come out so aggressive, decisive and accurate. He directed a nine-play, 47-yard drive before the half that resulted in a field goal.
He might have even gotten the Broncos in the end zone if Bennie Fowler didn’t drop this dime from Lynch on that same drive.
To me, that was Lynch’s best throw of the day even if it didn’t net any yards. He stood in as the pressure came and threw a strike. His strong play carried over into the second half.
He was especially accurate on intermediate throws. Lynch completed eight of 10 passes for 134 yards and one touchdown on throws between 10 and 19 yards, according to Pro Football Focus. He showed he has the size (6-foot-7), athleticism and arm strength to stand in the pocket and deliver darts.
All told, Lynch finished 14 of 24 for 170 yards and one touchdown. He displayed confidence, accuracy and smarts. Tampa Bay’s defense was bad, and its secondary pitiful. But it was still an impressive debut.
It’s unclear who will start Sunday against the Falcons. Kubiak said Siemian will if he’s healthy. Siemian sat out practice Wednesday, so that’s still up in the air.
It wouldn’t be too surprising if Denver gives Siemian a week to heal. If that’s the case, Lynch will play. It’s more than fair to have confidence in him after what he showed against the Buccaneers.