NFL

Time for the Denver Broncos to go all-in on Paxton Lynch

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We have no idea who will start for the Denver Broncos against the Atlanta Falcons this weekend. Will Trevor Siemian get off the trainer’s table and return to action? Or will rookie Paxton Lynch keep the job for another week?

We do know the offense will look much the same as it always does. When Siemian went down last week, Lynch picked right up where the starter left off. No holding back, no simplified playbook—just Lynch being Lynch.

It worked and the Broncos should stick with it, instead of going back to Siemian.

Listen, Siemian did good work as the starter over the first three games of the season. After turning the ball over three times in the first two games, he torched a surprisingly inept Bengals defense, showing improved accuracy and ball placement on the way to four touchdowns and 312 yards.

I still say Lynch is your guy.

Poise

How often do we see backup quarterbacks walk into a game and either look terrible or be unable to execute the full playbook? It makes sense that we see it as often as we do because backup quarterbacks get minimal snaps during the week.

Yet Lynch walked into the huddle last week and didn’t look rattled, didn’t look like a guy who had taken backup snaps and didn’t look like a guy who was going to need a stripped down gameplan.

When receiver Emmanuel Sanders was asked what impressed him about Lynch by DenverBroncos.com, it was that calm.

“No nerves at all,” Sanders said. “Paxton, he’s a first-round quarterback. He comes in; he knows he can ball.”

That allowed the Broncos to continue on with their gameplan as if nothing had happened. You might have expected a few mistakes, perhaps a turnover or two, but Lynch came in and delivered as if he had prepared all week as the starter.

Now imagine him getting a full week of practice, as he is right now.

Comfortable and Confident in the offense

The biggest knock on Lynch this summer (next to ‘needs to improve footwork’) was that he didn’t look completely comfortable.

Well, several months of practicing against the first team defense has changed that, as pointed out by cornerback Chris Harris.

“His reads were getting better. He’s starting to see what we’re in, pick up the reads a lot faster,” Harris added later.

Against one of the top defensive units in the NFL, you can’t help but improve and in fact, we’d panic if you didn’t. Lynch has not only learned and become more used to the offense, he has had to execute it every day against one of the best defenses around.

The biggest knock on him no longer exists, and we saw proof of that Sunday.

 

Along with that comes a confidence to make quick decisions with positive results.

“His confidence throwing the ball — he’s always had that. It’s handling all the aspects of walking in here today, getting a game plan that’s different from the one he had last week. He adjusts a little quicker,” coach Gary Kubiak said per the Denver Post. “I think he’s just more confident in his ability each week to kind of refocus and start over and get ready to play.”

As with his comfort level in executing the offense, this confidence was evident during the game against Tampa Bay. He had no hesitation in going downfield, made good decisions in throwing away the ball rather than forcing a throw that might have been a turnover and read the defense easily and accurately both pre-snap and during the play.

Improved technique

Lynch has worked hard to improve not just he knowledge and the mental aspects of his game, but the physical aspects as well. We knew Lynch had a solid arm (better than Siemian’s for downfield throws) and good mobility, but the footwork and some of his other mechanics were a bit raw.

No longer, according to quarterbacks coach Greg Knapp.

His footwork has gotten better and faster. He’s more comfortable with the offense, so it shows up in his tempo and timing with his decision-making and his route-throwing,” Knapp said in the Post article. “That’s been positive to see. He had to handle quite a bit of verbiage since he got here, and each week we’ve seen him grow within the system on spitting out the play and talking. He still will have some moments — I think Gary was quoted saying, ‘Hey, get out of the huddle a bit quicker.’ But part of that was nerves and the first time doing it.”

Lynch already had an elite arm, and tremendous athletic ability. Now we have seen that other concerns—his footwork, his drops, working under center—are non-factors.

While Siemian has been a decent fit for the offense, he plays too conservatively (his 6.2 air-yards-per-target is 3rd lowest in the league), while Lynch wants to go long, and wants to attack downfield. While he did better against the Bengals, Siemian holds the ball too long, and is therefore more prone to sacks while Lynch is far more mobile than defenses expect from a guy his size.

Even looking at Siemian’s one big game against the Bengals, Siemian put up numbers mostly because Cincinnati decided to focus on CJ Anderson. A lot of Siemian’s success came because Sanders and Demaryius Thomas are not guys you can cover one-on-one. His targets were often wide open.

The previous two games, when the defense was more balanced, Siemian did less.

Lynch is ready to go. Siemian has done a solid job, but Lynch’s physical tools were always far greater. Now that the other aspects of his game have been honed, it’s time to give the first round pick the keys to the offense full-time.

Why stick with the substitute teacher when you can have Robin Williams?


About Andrew Garda

Andrew Garda is a freelance writer primarily covering NFL football, with frequent side trips to everything else. A member of the Pro Football Writers Association, he is a contributing writer for Sports on Earth and Pro Football Weekly. He also covers fantasy for Footballguys.com. Garda is the host of the At the Whistle podcast and has been credentialed for many NFL drafts, Senior Bowls, pro days and various NFL events.