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NFL AM: Elway Believes Paxton Lynch Could Be Ready Sooner Than You Think

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When the Denver Broncos moved up in the 2016 NFL Draft to select Paxton Lynch with the 26th overall picture, it was a clear message about there the future of that franchise is headed at the quarterback position.

But Broncos VP John Elway believes his new quarterback could be ready sooner than many believe and might contribute significantly to the present of the franchise as well as its future.

Though highly touted coming out of Memphis, Lynch doesn’t have the polish of Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, a big reason why while those two went first and second overall, the 22-year-old Lynch slipped to the bottom of the first round, where teams felt more comfortable drafting a QB who might be a year or two away from significant contribution. But Elway said in a radio interview on KDSP-AM on Friday that Denver isn’t looking at it that way necessarily.

“We think he’s going to be ready quicker than a lot of people think,” Elway said. “He’s a young guy with tremendous athletic ability, he’s got the strong arm, can make all the throws, he’s smart, and he’s a guy that can fit into this offense real well.”

Lynch’s fit into and grasp of the Denver offense is the key piece here. At Memphis, Lynch was effectively force-fed play calls, didn’t do a great deal of decision-making and took all his snaps from the shotgun. He joins a Denver team that just last season had one of the league’s most active on-field coaches in Peyton Manning running the show, calling out audibles at the line and adjusting his entire offense on the fly if need be. That’s quite the significant change of pace for both sides.

Broncos coach Gary Kubiak has begun working with Lynch in the team’s rookie mini-camp and likes what he sees, but also acknowledges that his new signal caller is in his NFL infancy and has a lot of growing to do before he’s ready to take the reins. But the enthusiasm and eagerness to learn he’s seen in his QB has the Denver coach optimistic.

“He’s got a long way to go, but it’s exciting to see him and what he could become,” Kubiak said. “Just watching him today, I think he’ll catch up pretty quick.”

The Broncos must be hopeful that Lynch does just that, as their other options at quarterback, should he need a redshirt season as some have surmised, aren’t exactly inspiring much confidence. The Denver quarterback if the season started tomorrow would be Mark Sanchez. But the Broncos will be rooting for Lynch to make enough progress that he can give Sanchez some competition for the spot come training camp.

If Lynch can make the leap, this might be the quarterback battle to watch in the NFL this summer. But it won’t be the only QB competition waged under the hot summer sun. Here’s a look at four more quarterback battles we’ll see this summer.

PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz vs. Sam Bradford vs. Chase Daniel

When the Philadelphia Eagles moved up to take Carson Wentz with the second overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, they had a plan. The team had just signed Sam Bradford to a two-year deal and Chase Daniel for three years. The plan was for Bradford to lead the team in 2016 with Daniel as his backup, and then Bradford would likely be traded after the season, giving way to Wentz, who’d have a solid redshirt season under his belt.

But that plan went up in smoke soon after it was hatched. Not surprisingly, Bradford wasn’t exactly on board with being a placeholder. The 28-year-old has been jerked around plenty early in his NFL career, mostly by his own body and myriad injuries, but he entered contract discussions with the Eagles thinking that would change in Philly, only to be blindsided by the team’s run at his successor a little over a month after he signed his deal. Bradford has since asked for a trade and pledged to stay away from Eagles offseason activities. At the moment, the team doesn’t seem inclined to fulfill his request, but that could change as time goes on and the situation gets more bitter.

If Bradford stays, the job is probably still his to lose, but there’s also the chance that his stance and absence from offseason activities could give Wentz or even Daniel a chance to get a leg up and make this a real competition. If Bradford is moved at his request, it could be a competition between Daniel and Wentz. Daniel has an edge there due to his knowledge of new coach Doug Pederson’s system, but if they’re forced to move Bradford, the Eagles might be inclined to speed up their timeline for Wentz and showcase their shiny new toy sooner than later.

CLEVELAND: Robert Griffin III vs. The Field and Himself

The Cleveland Browns have long been a black hole for quarterback play, revolving dozens of signal callers through the door since the day they selected Tim Couch upon their return to the league, with the first pick in the 1999 Draft.

It’s hard to believe that will change in the short term with the group they’ve assembled here. After the team traded with Philadelphia to get out of position to select Wentz, they were left without the franchise quarterback many saw them taking after they were awarded the second overall pick in this draft. They passed on Lynch in the first round and opted to use their third pick of the third round, No. 93 overall, on Cody Kessler, a puzzling move to say the least.

Kessler now joins a Browns quarterback room likely led by offseason signing Robert Griffin III, who, despite sitting out all of last season with Washington and proving to be a mess of a player with significant injury concerns prior to that, has to be the leader in the clubhouse to be the team’s starting quarterback. Griffin’s biggest competition is probably likely to come from himself and his own limitations as a player, which were exposed during the final years of his stay with the Redskins. Perhaps Browns coach Hue Jackson and his staff can tap into something to rediscover some of the talent that made Griffin such a dynamic player as a rookie, but that remains to be seen.

In the meantime, the team’s options beyond Kessler and Griffin are a trio of journeymen. Many believed before the draft that Josh McCown would be cut by the franchise to make room for a rookie who might compete with Griffin, but the selection of Kessler instead of a better prospect calls that into question as well. As it stands, McCown might be the best starting quarterback option on the current Cleveland roster. The team also employs Austin Davis and Connor Shaw at the moment, though if either of them sees significant playing time in 2016, the Browns will almost certainly be headed toward another opportunity to draft a franchise quarterback at the top of the 2017 draft.

SAN FRANCISCO: Blaine Gabbert vs. Colin Kaepernick

Not too long ago, it appeared that Colin Kaepernick was not long for San Francisco, possibly headed to Denver to take up the reins there, but the draft changed all that and now the man that led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII may as well settle back into the Bay Area.

The question is, after the 49ers failed to draft a new quarterback of their own until the sixth round when they made Jeff Driskel a developmental project at the back end of their roster, will Kaepernick get a legitimate chance now to wrest the job from incumbent Blaine Gabbert? Gabbert is well-liked by the 49ers front office and they showed a significant amount of faith in him by not addressing the position in free agency or early in the draft while shopping Kaepernick. But Gabbert’s ceiling is fairly low and Kaepernick has shown in the past he’s capable of far more.

Enter new coach Chip Kelly, who now will get a legitimate chance to tap into whatever it was Kaepernick lost over the last few years and try to find the quarterback who took the franchise to a Super Bowl just four years ago and nearly did the same again a year later. There has to be a better Colin Kaepernick in there than we’ve seen in the last couple years. He’s still just 28 years old and should be right in the middle of his quarterback prime. If there’s anyone and any system that could revitalize Kaepernick’s, it’s Chip Kelly and this one, which his game seems almost tailor-made for.

The guess here is that Gabbert will enter the summer as the favorite, but Kaepernick will get every chance to compete and if Kelly and Co. can help him find the player he once was, this could be a fun one to follow.

LOS ANGELES: Jared Goff vs. Case Keenum

It wasn’t that long ago that the Rams were publicly singing the praises of Case Keenum as their quarterback of the now and perhaps even the future. The team was happy with the way the 28-year-old had settled into the role as a starter last year and seemed excited to see where he could take them. But behind closed doors, Los Angeles was singing a different tune and once they executed the trade to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, the conversation changed.

The Rams of course selected Jared Goff with that pick, and it is now expected Goff will lead the team into the present and future. It’s also expected that Keenum will simply take up a role as his caddy and backup. But Goff has a lot to learn and not a lot of time to do it, and there will be high expectations for the Rams in their relocation to Los Angeles. So although the conversation centers around Goff here, a week removed from the draft, we anticipate that there is still plenty of opportunity for that to change and a competition to ensue.

And ultimately that’s something that the Rams have to encourage. Heading to a new city with bright lights, there’s no reason to hand everything to Goff on a silver platter. They should encourage a competition that sees Keenum push him to be better.  That’s why it’s easy to expect that some time in the next several months, Los Angeles’ tune will again change and coach Jeff Fisher will announce that the competition between Goff and Keenum is wide open. Because, make no mistake, this is Goff’s job, but the Rams should still make him earn everything he gets as a rookie if they want him to succeed. Keenum is the perfect foil to help them do that, while posing no long term threat to the job or Goff’s confidence.


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys