Do Siemian, Lynch have enough help?

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - M A RK KISZLA Den­ver Post Colum­nist

And so it be­gins. Two quar­ter­backs. One job. When Trevor Siemian threaded a touch­down pass as I sat on a grassy hill­side with 3,792 Bron­co­ma­ni­acs dur­ing the first prac­tice of train­ing camp, a fan be­hind me bel­lowed: “That’s your start­ing quar­ter­back right there!”

While Bron­cos Coun­try is buzzing about the com­pe­ti­tion be­tween Siemian and Pax­ton Lynch, here’s some­thing no­body around here wants to talk about:

Have both these young quar­ter­backs been set up to fail?

“Hope­fully the No. 13 that rolls out of the locker room to­mor­row is bet­ter than the ‘slappy’ that rolled out here to­day,” Siemian said Thurs­day, dis­play­ing the self-dep­re­cat­ing hu­mor that makes every­body in town want to give him a big bro-hug.

But know what’s not funny? Den­ver’s of­fense might be far too re­liant on the tal­ent of Siemian or Lynch to score touch­downs.

The last time the Bron­cos were so weak at the of­fen­sive skill po­si­tions, Tim Te­bow was the quar­ter­back.

There’s no po­lite way to put it. The Den­ver of­fense stunk last sea­son (and we have the stats to prove it). Did pres­i­dent of foot­ball op­er­a­tions John El­way re­ally do enough to al­le­vi­ate a prob­lem so big it

drove a wedge be­tween the of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive side of the locker room in 2016? Af­ter their first pre­sea­son prac­tice, the Bron­cos are al­ready scram­bling to find weapons for Siemian and Lynch.

Let’s face it. Ter­rell Davis isn’t walk­ing through that door.

When run­ning back Devon­tae Booker blind­sided the Bron­cos with news that his wrist has not been healthy for weeks and now re­quires surgery, coach Vance Joseph seemed a wee bit flus­tered. “It was a foot­ball nick, he thought,” said Joseph, be­fore adding why fix­ing it pronto is ab­so­lutely nec­es­sary. “That bone can die and his hand can be messed up for­ever.”

Here’s all you need to know: Den­ver is throw­ing spaghetti against the wall at run­ning back in the hope some­thing sticks. The Bron­cos have signed Ste­van Ri­d­ley, a street free agent who av­er­aged 2.5 yards on 39 car­ries for a grand to­tal of 97 yards rush­ing dur­ing the past two NFL sea­sons.

While C.J. An­der­son has the foot­ball acu­men of a vet­eran quar­ter­back and the fight­ing spirit of a boxer, his dura­bil­ity is­sues are real and con­cern­ing. “He’s got to prove he can play 16 games and ob­vi­ously be the bell cow,” Joseph said.

Maybe there’s your rea­son El­way rolled the dice in free agency, hop­ing for a med­i­cal mir­a­cle from for­mer Kansas City Chiefs star Ja­maal Charles, who still ap­pears stiff and a step slow in a big knee brace af­ter bat­tling in­juries for two years. At­ten­tion, fan­tasy foot­ball freaks: Keep close tabs on rookie De’An­gelo Hen­der­son. It’s a long way from Coastal Carolina to the NFL, but if his speed trans­lates, op­por­tu­nity abounds in Den­ver.

The Bron­cos opened camp by im­me­di­ately throw­ing Lynch and Siemian in the cru­cible of a red zone drill. I loved Joseph’s will­ing­ness to get the com­pe­ti­tion started in a high-lever­age sit­u­a­tion. But this nag­ging thought also hung in the air, like a gnat at the ear: Shouldn’t El­way have more ap­pre­ci­a­tion for a young QB’s need for le­git­i­mate tar­gets when the field is short and con­gested near the goal line?

Yes, De­mary­ius Thomas and Em­manuel San­ders have un­de­ni­able skills at catch­ing the foot­ball. But the team’s best tight end, rookie Jake Butt, was catch­ing soft tosses af­ter prac­tice, while re­cov­er­ing from ACL surgery on his right knee. Den­ver des­per­ately needs Butt to be a force in the red zone ASAP. No­body can de­clare with a straight face that there is a re­li­able third wide re­ceiver in the arse­nal of this team’s young quar­ter­backs.

Read the of­fen­sive stats from 2016 and try not to weep: In the 32-team league, the Bron­cos ranked 28th in yards per rush at­tempt, 21st in yards per at­tempted pass and 22nd in scor­ing. The con­ve­nient scape­goats for this of­fen­sive in­ep­ti­tude were lack of imag­i­na­tion by for­mer coach Gary Ku­biak and a leaky front wall.

With Ku­biak be­ing hired back as a Bron­cos scout barely six months af­ter he re­tired from the Den­ver side­line, here are my two cents: 1) El­way and Ku­biak will be foot­ball broth­ers for life, and 2) You’re darn right the team’s of­fen­sive woes caused ten­sion be­tween them.

Part of the prob­lem? El­way didn’t give his brother enough tools. Yes, the of­fen­sive line has been up­graded since last sea­son. But please re­mem­ber this: Big uglies don’t score touch­downs. Tal­ent, not scheme, is what wins in the NFL.

The big ar­gu­ment in Bron­cos Coun­try is: Siemian or Lynch!

It’s a click­a­li­cious de­bate des­tined to keep the in­ter­net hum­ming and sports talk­ers yakking through the dog days of sum­mer.

On the eve of camp, El­way said: “There’s al­ways go­ing to be an is­sue some­where on your foot­ball team.”

So maybe we’re ask­ing the wrong ques­tion.

Are you cer­tain Lynch vs. Siemian is this of­fense’s big­gest is­sue?

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