HUDDLING UP FOR A SELFIE

Siemian, Lynch tested in red zone right away as quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion heats up

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

Self-pro­claimed “big­gest Den­ver Bron­cos fan ever” Jo­ce­lyn Cor­rea snaps a selfie with Den­ver Bron­cos out­side line­backer Von Miller af­ter the first day of train­ing camp at Dove Val­ley on Thurs­day.

Bron­cos gen­eral man­ager John El­way has de­scribed train­ing camp as Ground­hog Day. No mat­ter the year, no mat­ter the day, the scene is the same, just with some new faces.

Thurs­day, the Bron­cos be­gan Camp 2017 with many holdovers from years past — none more sig­nif­i­cant than the quar­ter­back quandary that has hov­ered over Dove Val­ley for two con­sec­u­tive off­sea­sons.

Round 2 stars in­cum­bent Trevor Siemian and 2016 first-round draft pick Pax­ton Lynch in a com­pe­ti­tion that could de­ter­mine not only the Bron­cos’ start­ing quar­ter­back for 2017 but for mul­ti­ple sea­sons af­ter.

The con­test that has gar­nered head­lines and at­ten­tion from afar has be­come a re­cent rou­tine in Den­ver. So Vance Joseph de­cided to mix it up.

For Day 1, at least.

In his first train­ing camp prac­tice as the Bron­cos’ head coach, Joseph had his quar­ter­backs con­fined pri­mar­ily to the red zone for team drills, forc­ing them to think and re­act quickly from the out­set and test­ing their knowl­edge of in­stalls they would typ­i­cally see later in camp.

No eas­ing their way into this one — not against a Den­ver de­fense that led the NFL against the pass the last two sea­sons.

“Things hap­pen fast down there, es­pe­cially with our guys,” Siemian said. “So real tight throws, which is in­ter­est­ing get­ting back, be­cause usu­ally you come back and you’re in the first in­stall

and you’re throw­ing to a bunch of green grass and you kind of ease your way into it. But down there it’s bang, bang. Good to get those reps.”

When play­ers de­parted in June for their five-week break, Joseph urged them to re­turn on the same level with their con­di­tion­ing and com­fort with the play­book. Stay in shape, he told them. Study too.

The first few days of camp al­ways serve as an im­por­tant gauge of play­ers’ phys­i­cal and men­tal sta­tus, and last year it fac­tored heav­ily into the quar­ter­back com­pe­ti­tion.

“It’s im­por­tant for every­one to come back the same that we left,” Joseph said Thurs­day, echo­ing his mes­sage from a month ear­lier. “We don’t want to go back­ward with these guys. We left at a 10 so let’s come back at 10. Watch­ing prac­tice, we didn’t miss much from the spring.”

Af­ter throw­ing the of­fense into the fire early with the red zone work, Joseph ended the morn­ing work­out early at 90 min­utes, per­haps spar­ing play­ers of early in­juries while giv­ing the quar­ter­backs plenty of qual­ity looks.

“Both guys were in com­mand of the hud­dle,” Joseph said of Siemian and Lynch. “Their com­mu­ni­ca­tion was pretty sharp. The con­cepts were there. Ob­vi­ously, ver­sus our guys in the red zone is tough be­cause those DBs don’t back pedal, but I thought it was re­ally a good prac­tice for the first time out in camp.”

Lynch, with two NFL starts and a year of learn­ing be­hind him, said he came to camp this year feel­ing more com­fort­able with the speed of the game, with his re­ceivers and es­pe­cially with the play­book.

As a rookie, Lynch was forced to ad­just not only to the pace of the pro game, but also to the ex­panded play­book that had him un­der cen­ter. New co­or­di­na­tor Mike McCoy’s of­fense fea­tures more shot­gun, where Lynch spent most of his time at Mem­phis.

“Hon­estly, it feels like night and day,” Lynch said. “I feel way more com­fort­able out there with those guys. I can kind of be my­self a lit­tle bit more. Last year, I just felt like I was tip­toe­ing away try­ing to learn things and fig­ure ev­ery­thing out at once in­stead of sit­ting back and get­ting a plan and stick­ing to it.”

Now that camp is un­der­way, the fo­cus for both, they say, is on the de­tails. The small things that could make each day a lit­tle dif­fer­ent from the one be­fore.

“For me, it’s pretty easy: I just want to be bet­ter than I was yes­ter­day,” Siemian said. “Hope­fully the No. 13 that rolls out of the locker room to­mor­row is bet­ter than the slappy that rolled out here to­day.”

Andy Cross, The Den­ver Post

Trevor Siemian, left, and Pax­ton Lynch, at train­ing camp Thurs­day, are com­pet­ing to be the Bron­cos’ start­ing quar­ter­back when the sea­son starts.

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