28 Nov

The Lede: Can Siemian Take the Broncos to the Playoffs?

For the second straight year, Trevor Siemian has won the preseason QB battle for the Denver Broncos. The seventh-round pick was up against 2016 first-rounder Paxton Lynch, whom management hoped would seize the job. However, Lynch has been incapable of leading the offense in the preseason, and even showed signs of regression from his uninspiring rookie year, when he posted a 59% completion percentage and 79.2 passer rating over (parts of) three games. Meanwhile, Siemian looked confident, made all the right throws, and showed off his accuracy in the Broncos two preseason games.

The issue is that many believe we have already seen Siemian’s ceiling: an average (at best) starting QB. With Denver’s current defense less dominant than its Super Bowl 50-winning unit, the Broncos are going to need more than just a game manager to avoid missing out on the playoffs for a second straight season. Are the critics correct about the Northwestern product? If so, can the Bronco defense carry them through a tough AFC West, or at least to a Wild Card berth? Takeaway: It’s tempting to look at Siemian’s pedigree as a seventh-round pick and subscribe to the narrative that he’ll never be a game-changer. In truth, forming concrete conclusions on a 25-year-old QB who was forced to play behind one of the worst offensive lines in the league (24th according to PFF) in his first season as a starter is simply irresponsible. Yes, Siemian often took the safe, underneath throw. But the play of Donald Stephenson and Ty Sambrailo at right tackle largely dictated that. Neither could block anyone coming off the edge and they were directly to blame for many of the 31 sacks Siemian took last year. Siemian is never going to be Aaron Rodgers or Tom Brady — few are, regardless of draft position — but he is a smart, accurate QB who can get the job done. The QB spot is not Denver’s biggest concern. That designation goes to the the two offensive tackle positions, again. Both Garett Bolles and Menelik Watson have struggled in pass protection during the preseason. The saving grace is that both have excelled when pushing forward in the run game. After averaging a pitiful 3.6 yards per carry last season (28th), Denver’s offense is going to have the assistance of a ground game this year. That alone will help the two tackles in pass-protection, resulting in more time for Siemian to utilize his talented receiver duo of Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders.

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Matt McEwan

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