If the Denver Broncos cannot get off to a hot start Sunday against the 32nd ranked New Orleans Saints pass defense , it’s time for Paxton Lynch to take over.
Something must change. The Denver Broncos can no longer get by with the same formula that won them a Super Bowl just 9 months ago. The debate has gone on since the April draft of whether or not Paxton Lynch could help the Broncos win this year. The answer to that is unknown, but the leash on starting quarterback Trevor Siemian is shrinking with each passing performance.
Week after week it seems that the Denver Broncos get matched up with a struggling defense—a defense that the Broncos supposedly match up well against. The Chargers and Raiders defenses aren’t exactly world-beaters. They each have glaring weaknesses in defending the pass, and yet in the past four weeks, the Broncos offense has made these poor defenses look incredible.
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It would be completely unfair to pin these struggles directly on Trevor Siemian. The play-calling has been a complete atrocity. The insistence on coming out of the gate passing the ball is completely mind-boggling. Gary Kubiak states week after week a need for balance—yet the play calling directly contradicts what he says he wants to do.
The lack of a running game is very much hindering what the Broncos would like to do. A running game is a young quarterback’s best friend, so the Broncos are doing no favors to Trevor Siemian in this department. A running game would solidify the Broncos play action passing game and would open up more easy completions for Siemian to make.
The Siemian Struggles
Nov 6, 2016; Oakland, CA, USA; Denver Broncos quarterback Trevor Siemian (13) is stripped of the ball by Oakland Raiders outside linebacker Bruce Irvin (51) during the during the fourth quarter at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports
With all this said, the young quarterback is still leaving tons of plays on the field. In the past four weeks, Trevor Siemian has regressed from the quarterback he was through the first four weeks of the year. Since he made his return from injury against the Chargers in week six, his completion percentage has dropped from 60%, to 56%, to 53%, culminating with an abysmal 49% this past Sunday against the Raiders. There could be multiple factors to this, and one that we may never know about—injury. Is Siemian still struggling with his injured shoulder suffered against the Buccaneers in week four? It’s certainly possible that is affecting his play. However, as the old adage goes, if you can put on a jersey, you are expected to perform.
The more likely scenario is that teams have simply caught up to Siemian and are stopping him from doing the things he likes to do—the short passing game. Teams are just daring Siemian to throw where he doesn’t want to throw. Siemian likes to throw the ball short and outside, so teams have begun to squat on those routes. What that has lead to is a lot of throws that were being completed earlier in the year to open receivers, that now are just being intentionally overthrown because the man is covered up. This has lead to the drastic reduction in completion percentage.
Trevor has been forced to throw to different routes. Routes that he is not nearly as comfortable throwing to, and he is having to do it more often. Trevor has been completely erratic with many of these throws. When forced off of his desired route, his decision making and accuracy have come under fire. He has thrown two INT’s in the past two games, and has had another six clear INT’s dropped—all of this against defenses that are extremely poor against the pass. This is a huge problem for the Broncos offense, especially one that cannot establish a running game to take some of this pressure off of their young quarterback.
The Case For Paxton Lynch
The rookie has a very unique skill set that could easily jump-start this anemic Broncos offense. What we have seen from Lynch in his college days and brief NFL career is that the kid is not afraid to throw it all over the field. Trevor Siemian has a good NFL arm—Paxton Lynch has an unbelievable NFL arm. He has shown a willingness to push the ball down the field far more often than Trevor Siemian.
In this clip you will see Lynch push the ball down the field to Sanders. This is not a long throw by any means, but what you need to look at is who Lynch did not throw the ball to. Trevor Siemian has a tendency to lock on to the underneath route. There was a receiver that was running underneath the route to Sanders—this is where Siemian prefers to throw the football.
This type of play shows up on tape often with Siemian. He consistently opts for the underneath route who is more covered up, as opposed to the intermediate route that has a bigger cushion. In limited film on Lynch, he prefers the intermediate route to the short route—a throw he is comfortable making due to his incredible arm strength. This is not an easy throw, but Lynch makes it look effortless.
Again on this play, Bibbs was open underneath, but instead Lynch chose to throw the ball further down the field. It is easy to decipher how bigger plays will help this offense function better. Bigger plays will equal more first downs. This will also loosen things up around the line of scrimmage—something that can help a struggling running game open up.
Effect On The Ground Game
When Paxton Lynch comes into the game, the running attack will be more potent. Why? Because Lynch is threat to run the ball himself. There is a reason that the Broncos led the league in rushing during Tim Tebow’s run as the starter in Denver, despite the fact that Tebow was as bad a passer as the NFL has ever seen. When Tebow was a threat to run the ball, it opened things up for the running backs, despite the fact that the defense did little to honor the threat of a pass. Lynch is a dynamic threat as a runner with the ball in his hands, and will change the way teams are lining up against the Broncos. Bootlegs, waggles, QB Power runs; this will open up options.
Especially relevant is this play for example. This is not a designed run, but the fact that Lynch can pick up 10 yards at any time on a scramble will force teams to use a QB spy on him, or suffer the consequences. It will change opposing teams defensive formations; change coverages; it will simply loosen things up. Lynch’s ability to do this with ease will help the offense stay on the field longer, and will pump some energy into this lifeless offense.
Change In Play Calling
Perhaps the fact that Paxton Lynch is not as well versed in the playbook can actually be a positive. At this point, Gary Kubiak appears to be so stuck in his own way, he can’t think his way out. Perhaps a switch to Lynch will force his hand into calling more runs earlier. This will ignite some creative thinking to flow through Kubiak’s veins, and again spark an offense that is struggling mightily.
When is the appropriate time for Gary Kubiak to make the switch away from Trevor Siemian, and turn to Paxton Lynch? Kubiak has already declared Siemian the starter this week. Kubiak wants to stick with Trevor Siemian; this much is known. However, if the Broncos offense struggles in the first half Sunday, watch out.
Paxton Lynch. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
The New Orleans Saints defense ranks 30th in the league overall in points per game allowed. They allow 29.8 points per game. Against the rush, they rank 19th, as they allow roughly 109 yards per game. However, it is against the pass that they are dead last in the NFL. The Saints allow a whopping 300 yards per game in passing yards.
If Siemian cannot get this offense into a rhythm against this Saints defense by halftime, it is time for change. This is the time to move to Lynch. He would get a second half to come into a tough environment and try to rally his team and get a win. After the Saints, the Broncos have their bye week. Lynch would have two weeks of full-time reps with the starters in practice, and two weeks to work on the perfect script to play the Kansas City Chiefs.
Lynch the Play Maker
At the end of the day, this offense needs a spark. They need a gunslinger to come in here and take shots down the field. This offense at it’s best is running the ball effectively, and getting big chunk yards down the field. Paxton Lynch is that player.
Paxton Lynch is the player to do just that. With the defense battered and bruised, it will need the offense to pick up the slack. The most talented quarterback on the roster is going to be the guy to spark this thing.
Trevor Siemian has one last shot. Seems like two quarters against the worst pass defense in the NFL is a good final test. Quarterback is the most important position on the field; having better quarterback play can back all of the other positions more efficient. If Siemian cannot get the train rolling, play the kid.