ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The UC Health Training Center was abuzz on Monday as second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch put together what was arguably the best practice of his young NFL career. It was at least the best that the media or the public has been allowed to watch.
While working mostly with the first team offense and against Denver’s dominant first team defense, Lynch flashed elite mobility, outstanding arm talent, and showed keen understanding of the offense at times.
The latter has been difficult for the 23-year-old former first round pick. Last season, he struggled to make the adjustment into an NFL offense. During these OTAs, however, he’s shown noticeable improvement.
That is due in no small way to the installation of new offensive coordinator Mike McCoy’s scheme. That system, which relies more on throws out of the shotgun and the quick passing game, is somewhat reminiscent of what Lynch ran so successfully during his college career at Memphis. It shows.
On Monday, Lynch had two spectacular drills. First, during a “move the ball” drill, he led a long drive down the field while completing quick and intermediate throws, reading the defense, and using his mobility to escape the pocket and find open receivers downfield.
He capped off that drill by splitting two defenders in the endzone to complete a beautiful touchdown throw to Demaryius Thomas, who he then ran over to celebrate with. It was an eye-opening moment and perhaps the best single series of Lynch’s entire pro career.
Lynch looks as good today as I've seen him in any practice environment. Reminds me of that half plus he played against Tampa. #Broncos
— Jake Marsing (@JakeDMarsing) June 5, 2017
“That’s a game winning touchdown,” Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said of Lynch’s strike to Thomas. “He had a great day…it was a good day for the entire offense and he made some nice throws.”
Joseph went on to say that it was, “fair,” to call Monday Lynch’s best day of these OTAs.
Of course, whether or not Lynch looks good in an OTA practice in early June won’t mean much when it comes to deciding whether he or last season’s starter Trevor Siemian will ultimately win the Broncos’ starting quarterback job. However, it was striking to see Lynch manage the offense, make changes at the line of scrimmage, trust his eyes, make quick decisions, and lead the first team offense down the field.
If Lynch can continue to be the player he was on Monday, it’s going to be extraordinarily difficult for Siemian to keep the organization’s highly coveted thoroughbred gunslinger on the bench.
That’s a big “if.”
After his success in the “move the ball” drill, Lynch perhaps got a bit too confident.
In one red zone drill, he rolled out the pocket to his left before making an ill-advised throw across his body towards the far right corner of the endzone. It fell harmlessly to the turf, but got offensive coordinator Mike McCoy fuming. The very next play, Lynch airmailed a ball that wobbled out of the back of the endzone to end the drill.
Lynch showed veteran resilience, though. In a later drill, he launched the day’s best throw, hitting receiver Demaryius Thomas on a “go” pattern for a long touchdown.
Lynch just dropped an absolute dime TD on a go route. Just a dime. Again, this is as good as he's looked in a practice setting. #Broncos
— Jake Marsing (@JakeDMarsing) June 5, 2017
Meanwhile, Siemian struggled. While Lynch was leading the Broncos on a touchdown drive in his “move the ball” period against the first team defense, Siemian went four and out against the second team unit. He was off target and inconsistent for much of the practice session. However, that isn’t necessarily the worst thing.
Siemian has been prone to playing a risk avoidance style of football throughout OTAs. On Monday, however, he was far more aggressive than usual. The 24-year-old spent practice looking to move the ball at all times. He kept his eyes downfield and made quality throws at times, including a touchdown to Jeff Heuerman down the seam.
However, for every good moment today, it seemed Siemian followed it with a bad one. He was wildly inaccurate, going so far as to hit a cone positioned in the back corner of the endzone away from the play. Of course, without proper context or access to the play-call, it’s impossible to know exactly who was to blame for some of Siemian’s more serious struggles.
The Broncos’ quarterback competition is still months away from being decided. Ultimately, Monday’s practice was a glorified walk-through in shorts. However, for perhaps the first time, Paxton Lynch is beginning to show regular flashes of the player the Broncos believed he was capable of becoming when they selected him with the No. 26 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Both Lynch and Siemian will be back to work tomorrow, Wednesday, and Thursday of this week in practices that will be closed to the media. Next week, the Broncos will begin the mini-camp period of the offseason, the final phase of training before they’re sent away on a short summer break until training camp begins at the end of July.