Broncos Europe columnist Andrew Lewis gives us his second preview for the upcoming 2017 season, where he looks at the competition.
Trevor Siemian This should not be a competition on pedigree alone. Trevor Siemian is a 7th round draft pick, now in his third year: Would anyone outside of Denver known of him had he not have gotten the start last year? Siemian was the surprise of last years camp, beating out veteran passer, Mark Sanchez. Although not an all-star, Siemian proved himself to be capable starter, displaying flashes of promise that were, dare I say, Elway esque! A more modern comparison might be Tony Romo, who himself rose up from obscurity in Dallas. As well as Siemian played at times last year, the offence he led finished a lowly 27th in total yards: 22nd in scoring: and 31st in third down efficiency.
Still, Siemian’s fans will defend him, perhaps fairly so; he played the majority of the season with a shoulder injury, undergoing shoulder surgery this offseason for a grade 3 tear. The worst kind. Furthermore, he was playing behind one of the leagues worst offensive lines, and as a knock on effect, a non-existent run game, forcing the Broncos into passing situations.
Paxton Lynch is John Elway’s chosen successor to Peyton Manning. This is not up for debate. Despite trading up for the Memphis product in the 1st round of the 2016 draft, a red shirt year was planned: this was not unexpected in the build up to the draft. Most analysts declared that Lynch would need a year to sit and develop in the league, before he could become a starter.
Despite this, the Broncos obviously had high hopes. In a perfect world, Paxton would have come in and made the job his own; unfortunately this didn’t happen and Siemian broke out. Don’t get me wrong, Paxton made some nice throws in 16′ and displayed clear arm talent, but there’s very few *WOW* plays.
His first opportunity to play came in Week 3 when TS when down with an injury. Despite Denver hanging on for the win, Paxton did not look anywhere near ready to play. His two starts also came as a result of injury to TS. His last start of the season came against the Jags ever-improving defence, and it was also his least productive, completing just 50% of his passes for 104 yards: woeful. He didn’t look like an NFL starter. He didn’t look like a first round pick. He didn’t look ready.
But 2017 is a new year. There is a new coaching staff and a new scheme. Ex-Chargers head coach, and former Bronco, Mike McCoy is back: McCoy led a high flying offence in 2012, alongside Manning ,before moving to San Diego. He was also OC during Tebow Mania 2010-2011, where he led the Broncos to a playoff berth, and an unlikely victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Early reports state that many of the spread principles from this era will be back. The word from training camp is that Paxton looks “loose & comfortable” in the new scheme, which is far similar to what he would have played in college. McCoy isn’t the only AFC West coach joining the Broncos in 17′, Bill Musgrave has migrated from the Raiders. Musgrave coached a Raiders unit which was one of the most explosive units in the league last year: one which run all over Denver. Musgrave was the mind that shepherded Derek Carr away from a disastrous rookie year, in which pundits already declared him a bust, and into a top 10 quarterback. He was a sure fire MVP candidate before he went down with an injury in Week 16.
Finally, the Broncos will NOT be signing Colin Kaepernick. You heard it here first.
CJ Anderson, Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, De’Angelo Henderson, Andy Janovich
WR 3/ TE
Jake Butt, Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Jordan Taylor, Carlos Henderson, Isaiah McKenzie.
In 2017, the NFL is about match-ups. Can you create a mismatch on the field? What is the best way to get the ball into your playmakers hand? In recent years, players have blurred the positional lines like never before. Le’Veon Bell & David Johnson are cowbell running backs, with the ability to split outside, and dominate in the passing game, staying on the field on all 3 downs. This is the future of the running back position. Let’s not forget how Carolina broke our hearts drafting prodigal son Christian McCaffery back in April. He’s going to be a stud. Look at the TE position: Jordan Reed is an athletic freak. Big bodied, highly athletic and dominant at the catch point: he snags the ball out the air with ease. All these players are too physical to be covered by your average CB, but too agile to be covered by your average linebacker. Last year saw the emergence of Tyreek Hill, something the Broncos unfortunately know all too much about. It didn’t matter how the Chiefs got him the ball, whether it was a screen, out the backfield, a jet sweep or even just a slant route; Hill was electric after the catch.
With all this considered, it’s important that you think of this as less of a straight positional battle, and more of fight over target share. Sanders and Thomas have dominated target share in recent memory, and though this is excellent for your fantasy football team, it doesn’t always translate into a winning formula on gridiron. Nobody cares about your fantasy team. Last year they combined for 49.29% of all targets, and for the Broncos to be better on offence, this needs to change. A clear number 3 and even number 4 needs to assert themselves and whether these targets go to a WR, TE or RB doesn’t really matter in 17′ it’s playmakers that matter. Going into the draft, the Broncos knew that they needed to add juice, and boy did they! De’Angelo and Carlos Henderson are dual threat playmakers, so don’t be surprised if you see these guys used in some creative formations. Isiah McKenzie has been a star in camp to date: How much he’ll play on offence is unknown, but the Broncos appear to have added a dynamic punt and kick returner, something we have been sorely missing for several years. Now, you may have noticed some well known names omitted here. No Bennie Fowler. No Cody Latimer. No Marlon Brown. No Kalif Raymond. As far as I’m concerned, these guys are known commodities. They may have a role to play in the rotation or on special teams, but as we know them now, none of them are the long (or even short) term answer to the position. My message to any of these players is prove me wrong. Embed from Getty Images
We’re less than a week into camp and who know’s what the rest of pre-season will bring. You’ll read plenty more hype pieces like this, breaking down the battles and every snap of camp, but does any of it really matter? The competition will be decided on the field during pre season games, not at Dove Valley. But rest assured, we’ll keep writing and you’ll keep reading because football is back!
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