SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Paxton Lynch now gets his chance to seize the starting quarterback job for the Denver Broncos.
Lynch has gotten the bulk of the work with the first-team offense this week and will start Saturday’s exhibition game against the San Francisco 49ers, as the Broncos look for either Lynch or last year’s starter Trevor Siemian to emerge in the competition.
“We’d like the decision made by itself,” Broncos general manager John Elway said Thursday. “We want one of them to take the reins and take over. That would be the ideal situation. We’ll get through this game and see what happens.”
After a somewhat shaky performance in the first day of joint practices with San Francisco, Lynch was much sharper on day two with more familiarity with the 49ers defense.
He was on target with almost all his passes and had particularly sharp throws on a deep pass to Hunter Sharp and then a deep out to Jordan Taylor. Coach Vance Joseph said Lynch made three of four “big-time” throws.
“Hands down one of his best days,” receiver Demaryius Thomas said. “That’s good for him. That will give him more confidence and maybe he’ll be himself more often.”
The Broncos have hoped for Lynch to be that guy after drafting him in the first round in 2016. But 2015 seventh-rounder Siemian won the job to be Peyton Manning’s successor last summer and started 14 games last season.
Elway liked the potential of both quarterbacks to make more progress this offseason and didn’t make a move to add a veteran quarterback to the roster. Neither quarterback shined in the opener as the two led the offense to three points on seven drives.
Now this might be Lynch’s best shot to win the job.
“I don’t know if it’s last chance or make or break,” he said. “Right now, I know the coaches are just expecting the quarterbacks to go out there and move the ball and score points. So that’s what I’m really focused on and that’s what I’ve been focused on since I’ve had the opportunity to play quarterback here. It’s just getting better and progressing, then seeing the progression in me.”
The shuffling at quarterback has prevented either passer from getting extensive time with the other starters. But Joseph doesn’t feel that is holding the offense back this summer and he believes the team will be at full speed when the season begins no matter who is taking the snaps.
“With the two quarterbacks competing, the wide receivers, the running backs, the offensive lines, those guys’ jobs don’t change,” Joseph said. “They’re blocking their guys. They’re running the right routes. That doesn’t change other guys getting better. Obviously, the QB talk is a big deal, but outside of that, guys doing their job, that’s part of it.”
The 49ers have already determined their starting quarterback, giving Brian Hoyer the position when he signed as a free agent in March. They are giving third-round pick C.J. Beathard a chance to work with the second team this week after Matt Barkley got that opportunity in the exhibition opener against Kansas City.
Hoyer did little in the preseason opener, failing to lead the offense to a first down on either drive he played. He finished 1 for 4 for 3 yards.
Hoyer is hoping to get more time this week with the first-team offense.
“When it comes to games, obviously, you want to play and get a rhythm,” he said. “So, when you go out there the first week of the regular season it’s not something that hasn’t been done yet.”
The Niners have been very pleased with what they’ve seen from Hoyer on the practice field as both a team leader and a passer. Hoyer has experience in coach Kyle Shanahan’s offense and has developed good chemistry with speedy receiver Marquise Goodwin.
While most outside experts figure San Francisco is biding time until adding a big-time quarterback next year either in the draft or in free agency, general manager John Lynch said Hoyer is more than just a bridge.
“Our response to Brian and to everybody is he’s got the first crack of being that guy,” Lynch said. “I love the way he’s embracing that opportunity each and every day and really has been a tremendous leader for our group. I think, probably exceeded my expectations of how I thought he could play. And, I think the same for Kyle. It’s been very, very good.”