Now that the most fascinating storyline of the NFL preseason has been settled and little-known Trevor Siemian has been crowned the Week 1 starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champions, what’s next for the Denver Broncos?
Believe or not, more of the same.
The Broncos’ blueprint for victory and for defending their title is the same as it was last year. Comparing Siemian, a seventh-round pick last season who wasn’t known as an upper-level player at Northwestern, to Peyton Manning, one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play, seems ridiculous. But, of course, the truth is that Manning won his second Super Bowl ring at the age of 39 to end his record-shattering career by being a game manager.
The underdog Broncos dominated the Carolina Panthers to win Super Bowl 50, 24-10. Manning threw for 141 yards. He threw the ball just 23 times. Denver did not win the Super Bowl based on dynamic quarterback play. The Broncos won it with the NFL’s best defense and by running the ball.
“I think we’re going to see more of the same,” said Brandon Stokley, who played in the NFL for 14 years and who is now a radio talk show host in Denver. “We’re going to see a lot of close games like last year.”
Siemian very likely was chosen by Denver head coach Gary Kubiak to be the starter because he is the quarterback who currently best fits the type of quarterback the team needs. After Manning retired and his supposed successor Brock Osweiler surprisingly went to Houston in free agency, the Broncos turned to veteran Mark Sanchez. Then, the Broncos traded up in the first round to take quarterback Paxton Lynch out of Memphis with the No. 26 overall pick. Siemian was simply the other guy. The Broncos liked the idea of keeping Siemian around because he was smart and he fit in well in the quarterback room with Manning and Osweiler last year as a rookie.
The initial post-Manning plan was for Sanchez to start. He was the experienced quarterback Denver thought it would get by with in this time of transition. In his eighth year, Sanchez has started 72 NFL games. But as he has been throughout his career, Sanchez was mistake prone this summer in the preseason and in training camp. Denver’s offense won’t work with a quarterback who makes constant mistakes.
That is what opened the door for Siemian, who doesn’t make many mistakes, even though he is not a consistent playmaker.
Eventually, the Broncos’ offense will turn to Lynch. Denver loves the 6-foot-7 Lynch, who had his moments in the preseason. Remember, Siemian was in the program when Denver traded up in the draft and invested a first-round pick in Lynch.
Lynch is the future in Denver. But for now, the Broncos need a steadier option. Lynch is just not ready and Denver doesn’t want to rush him.
That means it’s Siemian’s time because he is not a mistake waiting to happen like Sanchez and he is not raw like Lynch.
After a preseason win Saturday night, in which Siemian completed 10 of 17 pass attempts for 122 yards, Kubiak made it clear he likes the way Siemian runs the offense.
“I’m impressed. I think he’s very calm,” Kubiak told reporters. “I can tell by the way he handles the team in the huddle, he’s got control of what’s going on. Gets a bad break on the ‘go’ ball and comes right back and goes down the field. I think what I see is a guy getting better.”
Scouts said Monday that the insertion of Siemian as the regular-season starter will not make Kubiak sway from his offensive philosophy. Kubiak, who was a successful offensive coordinator in Denver before becoming the head coach in Houston and now in Denver, is a believer in establishing the ground game.
The Broncos feel great about their ground attack featuring CJ Anderson and fourth-round pick Devontae Booker. However, Stokley said the key to the offense working – even more so than the development of Siemian – is the play of the offensive line. While the offensive line was not a strong point last season, the team personnel staff believes it will be improved. But Stokley isn’t sure.
“I’m concerned about the offensive line,” Stokley said. “I’m not sure it’s healthy and I don’t know about the depth. If Denver’s line can come through and run block, it should be OK. The defense is still going to be great, but if they can grind-it-out on offense, they should be able to win a lot of games.”
Longtime NFL scout Matt Williamson said Siemian could be effective for Denver because the Broncos are going to design their offense for him to be a similar game manager to the one they had in Manning a season ago.
“In a nutshell, Trevor Siemian is (Kansas City Chiefs quarterback) Alex Smith,” Williamson said. “He does not take risks. You will not see him make a lot of mistakes. He also will not make a lot of plays, either, and that is going to drive people crazy. But it’s going to be the same Broncos saw from last year’s playoffs. They are going to run the ball, have Siemian throw off play action and they are going to play defense We are going to see a lot of 13-10 games again until Lynch is ready. I think they can survive it, though.”
The same blue print has worked before in Denver.