By Craig Leddington
The Broncos offensive line is not good, few can argue against that. Ranked 24th overall defence for last season, 22nd in total points, 21st in yards gained, 27th in rushing, and 9th worst in sacks. All grim reading and far below what is expected for a defending Super Bowl champion still in a supposed Super Bowl window.
Injuries aside, Ty Sambrailo has been disappointing as a second round pick, and along with Donald Stephenson competed in a game of hot potato with the starting tackle position being the potato that neither wanted. Russell Okung started okay but struggled after the concussion received against the Chargers. All offering little protection to the two young quarterbacks.
With the additions of Watson and Leary in free agency, Elway has started to address this weakness, which apart from the shining light of centre Matt Paradis, still offers cause for concern for all Broncos fans, especially with a limited draft class and most of Broncos Country wanting Christian McCaffrey in the first round. But does the poor offensive line have any affect on the quarterback battle?
Paxton arrived back in Denver chomping at the bit to be the franchise quarterback, keen to impress the new coaching staff and Elway. After working with QB guru Charlie Taaffe he wants to repay the first round pick faith shown in him and step up to be starter. After replacing Trevor in the Tampa game, he showed some promise, however, he failed to progress from this in his two starts when teams had chance to scheme against him. There is no doubt the raw talent is there, and having Mike McCoy’s ability to adapt his approach to fit his personal, Lynch must really be excited about the season ahead. He still has a lot to learn, but for the man who wouldn’t look out of place on a pirate ship, there is much hope that he can be the spark to ignite this stuttering offence.
Siemian offers a different approach, he’s the calm, controlled and measured quarterback. He’s the cautious man’s QB in comparison to the maverick of Paxton. He won the starting gig last season by being able to do the basic things and learn what Kubiak wanted him to. The season started well but the injury picked up in Tampa Bay hampered him for the rest of the season and ended up with him requiring surgery. Maybe the story would have a happier ending without that shoulder problem. His ability to take hits and remain calm on the field won him respect in the locker room and lead to captaincy in the second half of the season. But being the 27th best QB in the league is not what anyone associates to the Broncos and what they would have wanted, or find good enough.
He isn’t flashy by any stretch of the imagination, a 7th round pick out of Northwestern highlights what the rest of the NFL thought of him, but Kubiak saw something in him, and there could still be potential despite his inconsistencies and limited passing abilities. Who knows what his future holds, but his first season as a starter in his second year has surely guaranteed him at least the job of back up for his career?
So how does the offensive line fit into this? Looking at what arguably the best line in the NFL did in Dallas for Dak Prescott, most QB’s will be productive with that level of protection. And it’s the level of protection in Denver that could give this contest to Siemian over Lynch. Paxton may offer a bigger upside, but Siemian is the safe pair of hands able to manage the ball, dink and dunk down field and also make use of an improved running game (couldn’t really be much worse after Anderson went down could it?). A crumbling O-line offers little for QBs, even an extra half second can make a big difference, that crucial time to read the defence and coverages and look further than the first read. Does the raw ability of Paxton work with a sub-standard O-line? Is Siemian the better option because of this?
Even though he was one of the best centres in the league, two hip surgeries in the off-season leaves Matt Paradis with a long road back for the only nailed on starter from last seasons line. Ty needs to step up to the plate and prove his worth as a second round pick, Leary needs to justify the money he has earned in free agency. The rest need to improve too, and new line coach Jeff Davidson has a big job ahead to coach them up to an acceptable standard, along with whoever they can bring in during the draft.
If Trevor can offer better ball protection behind an ailing line, then it may be his contest to lose. Paxton may offer more going forward, but he needs time to develop and understand the new system, so going with Trevor allows him another year to develop. With this line in front of them, I’d expect Siemian to be the better choice right now.