Siemian to make initial preseason start
The Broncos released their first depth chart Monday, and it listed their No. 1 quarterback as Trevor Siemian “OR” Paxton Lynch as the two continue to vie for the starting job.
Coach Vance Joseph said Siemian will start the Broncos’ first preseason game at Chicago on Thursday and Lynch will start the following week against the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara, Calif., to ensure both receive equal playing time.
But the designations lack their usual meaning in the quarterback race, and so do other battles on the roster. The starter for the preseason opener, Joseph insisted, is not the leader of the competition and not an indicator of who will start the regular season.
“No, no, no. He’s first out. He’s been first out all training camp. He’s been first out all spring,” Joseph said of Siemian. “It’s an open competition. The games matter. The games start Thursday. I want to start the games so I can get to the bottom of this.”
Joseph said he’s still unsure of the snap count for each quarterback in preseason, “but it’s going to be more than most starting quarterbacks would play the first couple of weeks.” And regardless of who starts, both are expected to see time with the first-team offense in each game.
“It’s going to be a mix of both,” Joseph said. “Obviously when the first guy leaves, we’re going to keep some ‘ones’ in just to keep the offense intact so the guy can play his best.”
While the quarterback competition remains open, first-round draft pick Garett Bolles appears to have a leg up in the competition at left offensive tackle. The rookie was listed as the leader on the left side, with veteran Ty Sambrailo as his backup.
“It means nothing to me. It’s just my name on a piece of paper,” Bolles said. “I’ve got Ty Sambrailo and I got Donald Stephenson coming after me every single day, and I’ve got to be ready to take my spot away from them. But at the same time, they’re pushing me. They’re great teammates to have, they’re great tackles and I’m just going to continue to get ready every day.”
At left guard, Max Garcia is listed ahead of recently signed veteran Allen Barbre, and Ron Leary is, unsurprisingly, the starting right guard.
At right tackle Menelik Watson
is listed first and Stephenson second. Stephenson restructured his contract during the offseason, requiring him to make the 53-man roster to earn the other half of his guaranteed pay ($2 million) this year.
One of the Broncos’ tightest positional races is at running back, and the depth chart offers some clarity. C.J. Anderson leads and Devontae Booker is No. 2. Booker, however, recently underwent surgery to repair a fracture in his wrist and isn’t expected back until the regular season. Jamaal Charles, who is still easing his way back from multiple knee surgeries, tops the group of backups, followed by veteran Stevan Ridley, rookie De’Angelo Henderson, Juwan Thompson and Bernard Pierce.
“We placed the guys that are injured in the spot they would be in if they weren’t injured. So ‘Book’ finished the spring as No. 2,” Joseph explained, adding that Booker had an outstanding spring. “Book was pushing to be the top guy. … We have a plan for Jamaal. We won’t reveal that yet. But he’s going to play in the preseason.”
The receiver group, which is still looking for its No. 3 wideout behind Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, has Bennie Fowler and Cody Latimer as the respective backups.
And at tight end, Virgil Green is No. 1, as expected, but his No. 2 is somewhat of a surprise: Jeff Heuerman, for whom the Broncos have high expectations after drafting him in third round in 2015. He sits ahead of veteran A.J. Derby, who was acquired in a trade with New England late last season, but Joseph, again, reiterated the blurred lines with starter designations on the depth chart.
“That’s a position where it’s a weird deal with the depth chart because when you’re in two-tight end (sets), who’s the starter? When you’re in three-tight ends, who’s the starter?” Joseph said. “When you’re in sub with (cornerback Bradley) Roby, is he a starter or not? It’s situational football and part of our package. Tight end-wise, they’re all starters.”
The defensive depth chart of- fers fewer surprises. Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko and Jared Crick make up the first-team defensive line. With multiple injuries to the Broncos’ pass rushers (wrist for Shane Ray and hip for Shaquil Barrett), rookie DeMarcus Walker is Von Miller‘s backup on the edge.
The Broncos drafted Walker in the second round with the intent of using him on both the line and on the edge. In recent practices, he has worked with the outside linebackers to compensate for injuries.
“I don’t want to say too much, but I think that he’s doing well out there,” Joseph said Saturday. “It fits him a little bit better, I think.”
The Broncos have also put an emphasis on finding a fourth cornerback, behind Chris Harris, Aqib Talib and Roby. Rookie Brendan Langley is currently that guy, ahead of Lorenzo Doss at right cornerback. But that could change.
“I will say this about the depth chart: It’s a starting point,” Joseph said. “Those two guys are competing for that fourth corner spot, which is a big deal for our football team. They’re one snap from being a starter on sub. What went into that — the spring drills, the training camp practices thus far — that’s what’s determined (Langley) is ahead of (Doss) right now. But Doss has played really well. He’s made a lot of plays, and Langley has a long way to go as far as learning what to do as an NFL corner. So it’s open.”
While the preliminary depth chart sheds some light on the new coaching staff’s view of its personnel, many positions are far from solidified.
“The final depth chart that will be out against the Chargers (for the regular-season opener), that’s the one that really matters,” Joseph said. “The rest, it’s a depth chart. Someone has to go first, second and third.”
Broncos quarterbacks Trevor Siemian, right, and Paxton Lynch chat with quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave.