Saturday’s preseason contest between the Denver Broncos and San Francisco 49ers will feature the league’s top defense (Denver), the defending Super Bowl champions (also Denver) and another glimpse at one of the league’s most controversial coach’s fit with his new team (San Francisco).
None of these headlines have anything to do with the true story of this game, though. On Saturday, Trevor Siemian has a chance to solidify himself as the starting quarterback of the Denver Broncos.
But really, NFL story of the week (and maybe of all camp) is Trevor Siemian having a real chance to succeed Peyton Manning in Denver. Wild.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) August 18, 2016
Unthinkably, he’s almost there already. Siemian entered camp with an outside chance of winning the starting job, set to compete with the recently-signed Mark Sanchez and recently-drafted Paxton Lynch. While the job may ultimately wind up being Lynch’s in the long-term, the race for playing time, at least for the beginning of the 2016 season, has narrowed to Siemian vs. Sanchez for the time being.
The future of football in Denver hangs in the balance.
Not long ago, Siemian was named the Broncos’ co-starting quarterback (along with Sanchez), a sign of his meteoric rise from third-string afterthought to legitimate option at starter between last season and this one. Sanchez started Denver’s first preseason game against Chicago and fared pretty well, completing 10 of 13 passes for 99 yards along with one touchdown and one interception apiece.
Siemian completed 7 of 12 passes for 88 yards without a touchdown or interception in the game, but his performance garnered high praise across the interwebs:
Starting to see what people see in Trevor Siemian. Zippy release with natural velocity and good mobility. Seems comfortable out there.— Doug Farrar (@BR_DougFarrar) August 12, 2016
It’s strange that Siemian, the second-year 7th-rounder, feels like the safer Broncos QB option.— Gregg Rosenthal (@greggrosenthal) August 12, 2016
Whether he ends up starting or not Trevor Siemian looked like a heck of a 7th Rd pick by Elway last night.— Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) August 12, 2016
And with good reason. Sanchez represents the Broncos’ most experienced option at QB and Lynch the highest upside, but Siemian has been steady throughout camp, culminating in an especially strong day in practice August 15.
It’s been Touchdown Trev’s confidence and command that has head coach Gary Kubiak “excited” about the Northwestern product.
Kubiak says Siemian has the best command out of the QBs. Most experience with the team, playbook— Nicki Jhabvala (@NickiJhabvala) August 12, 2016
Kubiak tentatively told the Denver Post that he’d “ideally” like to know his starter after Saturday’s matchup with San Francisco, which, if true, provides a unique opportunity for Siemian, who has already been tabbed to start for Denver in the game. He could be a few more throws like this away from being handed the reigns to the league’s defending champions on the spot:
Nice 5 step drop by siemian hitting Latimer accurately on the skinny post. pic.twitter.com/oi8eC2ZYOR— Chris (@_UziChris) August 13, 2016
According to Kubiak, Denver’s plan involves starting Siemian for the first quarter and a half of the game, playing Sanchez for the next quarter and a half (both running with the first-stringers on offense) and then closing the game with Lynch.
Regardless of the outcome Saturday, though, some Broncos players have already made their opinions known on the team’s quarterback battle.
On Siemian’s biggest strengths:
Ian Henson: His intelligence level has to be off the charts. Trevor is a competitor, he's not let his competition between veteran Mark Sanchez and rookie 1st round draft pick Paxton Lynch get the best of him.
If Sanchez throws 4 touchdowns in goal line during camp, Siemian throws 4 touchdowns in goal line during camp. If Lynch hits a receiver for and 80-yard touchdown, Siemian hits a receiver for an 80-yard touchdown.
What separates Siemian from Sanchez is that Siemian does not have the mental lapses that Sanchez has about once per day it seems. However, when Siemian has a bad day, it seems like everyone has a bad day, so he's been able to tread water thus far through the bad days that way.
On Siemian’s biggest weaknesses:
IH: In practice you're not allowed to hit the quarterback, Siemian takes advantage of this, there will be plays where he holds on to the ball far longer than he would ever manage to be able to during the game.
As far as fundamentals and how a quarterback 'looks' Siemian has it, his drops are precise, his arm is booming, and he knows the offense as well as anyone on the team.
Denver Broncos head coach can train and fix a quarterback and he's worked directly with some of the best to ever play: Steve Young, John Elway, in Denver, Houston and Baltimore you've seen career highs from players that really never were able to do much else without Kubiak's tutelage and guidance: Brian Griese, Jake Plummer, Matt Schaub and on and on.
Now Trevor's a Kubiak guy and you're seeing a similar situation (to Denver) playing out in Los Angeles with another Kubiak guy in Case Keenum. Keenum is giving 1st overall pick Jared Goff a run for his starting position.
On how reps have been split:
IH: This is something that has gone overlooked throughout camp in all of Siemian's success. Siemian has played through three weeks predominantly against the 2nd team defense, even when he's with the 1st team offense. Sanchez usually gets the 1st team defense no matter which team he is on and Lynch has seen the 1st team defense for about 6 plays all camp.
Saturday against the San Francisco 49ers will be an interesting game, because yesterday (Thursday) practice was nearly called off by Kubiak due to the amount of fights and late hitting, et cetera that was going on when Siemian's 1st team offense went head-to-head against the 49ers 1st team defense.
These two teams are out to hurt each other at this point and Saturday evening's game should reflect that.
Oh, and guess who is starting for the Broncos? Trevor Siemian of course.
On what has surprised him most about Siemian:
IH: He hasn't okie-doked through camp, I'm not even sure that he's capable of that. I felt last season (2015) Siemian had a better camp than Brock Osweiler and should have been given a shot when Osweiler started to run out of gas down the stretch.
So, that's two strong camps from Siemian. It isn't a surprise to me that he is able to be neck-and-neck with Sanchez at this point. However, I am surprised that Trevor hasn't been able to gain more separation from Mark, especially given the amount of reps Siemian has taken with the 1st team offense against the 2nd team defense.
Now, I'm not saying that is a bad thing about Siemian, there are a lot of factors involved. Denver's defense is good, historically good. The current preseason leader sack leader (Broncos outside linebacker Vontarrius Dora) is a 3rd team guy that will really have to have luck go his way to make the team. So, saying Siemian has faced a 2nd team defense isn't an insult. The Denver 2nd team defense over the previous two days had 3 interceptions on 6 red zone attempts against Blaine Gabbert and San Francisco's offense. That's who has been sharpening Siemian.
On who starts Week 1 for Denver:
IH: I maintain that this is all a facad and Denver will start Paxton Lynch in week one.
Just don't ask me how anymore, because I am willing to admit that I may be wrong.
On who spends the most time as the starter by season’s end:
IH: Durability is going to have to come into play. I don't feel that I am exerting maximum hubris by saying that the Broncos defense will probably win most of the games this season (as we saw last week when Denver played the Chicago Bears or in Super Bowl 50 against the Carolina Panthers), but this is an offense that through three weeks of training camp has not been able to line up their starting offensive line as a whole once in a live-action play.
That's not good for Siemian, Sanchez nor Lynch. The weakest point on the Broncos is their offensive line in pass protection and as an evaluator, I can't say with certainty what their pass protection is even capable of as a unit. With Siemian making slow decisions and Sanchez sometimes letting his thinking get in the way of his playing, it seems like the most agile quarterback of the three (Lynch) will probably be the one to seize the job at some point during the season. If not immediately.
Inside Denver, fans have endorsed Siemian due to media compliments and some really outstanding days that have been strung together by Trevor. No one is going to be upset if Siemian plays quarterback the entire season and people will support their 7th round quarterback.
Hey, put it this way, people are finally pronouncing his last name correctly on a consistent basis.
With praise pouring in from teammates, coaches and analysts alike, Siemian’s momentum is at an all-time high. Tune in Saturday night and see if Touchdown Trev can close the door on Sanchez once and for all and shift his focus to a title defense for Denver in 2016.
Game time: 8 p.m. CT
TV: KTVD in Denver, KPIX 5 in San Francisco
Radio: KOA (850 AM) or The Fox (133.5 FM) in Colorado, KNBR (680 AM) or KGO (810 AM) or KSAN (107.7 FM) in San Francisco
Betting line: Even