HUDDLING UP FOR A SELFIE
Siemian, Lynch tested in red zone right away as quarterback competition heats up
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.”
Trevor Siemian, left, and Paxton Lynch, at training camp Thursday, are competing to be the Broncos’ starting quarterback when the season starts.