Big test ahead for two QBs

Joseph wants to see play­ers in game sit­u­a­tions

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nicki Jhab­vala

Two days be­fore the Bron­cos were to take the field in Chicago for their pre­sea­son opener against the Bears, first-year coach Vance Joseph trot­ted out the scout team at Dove Val­ley.

“I’m not go­ing to res­cue guys with scheme,” Joseph said af­ter Tues­day’s prac­tice. “But I will give them enough to play well. It’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween putting play­ers out there and not hav­ing them ready to play ver­sus help­ing them with scheme.”

His think­ing was this: More time to pre­pare for an op­po­nent, even in pre­sea­son, gives his play­ers a bet­ter chance of play­ing their best. The sea­son be­fore the sea­son is of­ten la­beled mean­ing­less, but for the past two years it has been any­thing but for the Bron­cos as they con­tinue to search for their start­ing quar­ter­back and lead­ers at many other po­si­tions.

In pre­sea­son, jobs are won and lost even when the games don’t count.

Since April, Trevor Siemian and Pax­ton Lynch have been bat­tling for the start­ing quar­ter­back gig while learn­ing of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor Mike McCoy’s new sys­tem. Their work in train­ing camp is weighted heav­ily in the eval­u­a­tion, but their per­for­mance Thurs­day and next week at San Fran­cisco will count the most.

“The games mat­ter,” Joseph said. “I want to get to the games so we can get to the bot­tom of this.”

Siemian will start against the Bears and play no more than a quar­ter and a half be­fore Lynch takes over. Against the 49ers, they’ll swap, giv­ing each a fair op­por­tu­nity with the first-team of­fense and against a de­fense other than their own.

These games re­quire a bal­anc­ing act for all as the coaches mon­i­tor not only the quar­ter­backs’ — and ev­ery other player’s — per­for­mance, but also their snap counts and how much of the of­fense is re­vealed be­fore the reg­u­lar sea­son.

“There’s a fine line there,” McCoy said. “There are cer­tain things ev­ery team in this league are not go­ing to show un­til the opener. You go in there and the big thing, we’re al­ways go­ing to talk is, it’s about us. We have to go out there and do our jobs re­gard­less.”

For the quar­ter­backs, their jobs will be de­cided by their com­plete body of work. The big­gest fac­tor? De­ci­sion-mak­ing with­out a script.

“I know that dur­ing camp, they kind of throw a lot at you to see what we can do and see what we’re good at,” Lynch said. “Now that we’re about to play a team and ac­tu­ally game-plan a lit­tle bit

for them, it cuts it down and you can kind of fo­cus in on a lit­tle more spe­cific stuff.”

McCoy’s sys­tem, which will re­sem­ble the one he ran in Denver when he was co­or­di­na­tor from 2009-12, will change — quite of­ten, he said — and is de­signed to be “ex­plo­sive” and “up­tempo” and put points on the board early and of­ten.

“We want to put pres­sure on the de­fense ev­ery snap and ev­ery play,” Siemian said. “That’s a com­mon theme all over the place; it’s just how well can you do it. I think with the guys we have, re­ceivers, run­ning backs and the way our of­fen­sive line is com­ing to­gether, I think we have a good chance to do that.”

Mas­tery of the play­book has yet to come for most, but the first pre­sea­son game changes the tenor and ex­pec­ta­tions. It should also pro­vide clar­ity in the quar­ter­back race.

“You want to see how guys re­act when they’re tired, when they’re hurt and ob­vi­ously against a dif­fer­ent op­po­nent,” Joseph said. “I’m ex­cited about Thurs­day to see how the young guys go out and play foot­ball so we can find out the best guys for our foot­ball team.”

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