ENGLEWOOD – Unless the Denver Broncos can regain control of a season skidding out of control, Paxton Lynch could get the starting quarterback job he’s never been able to earn outright.
Ideally, the Broncos (3-6) would like to head into their offseason knowing if Lynch is a bust or a late-bloomer, although it’s unlikely they’d put the former first-round draft pick out of Memphis into the lineup unless they’re erased from the playoff picture.
Lynch lost out to former seventh-rounder Trevor Siemian for the second straight summer, then bruised his throwing shoulder in the third preseason game. That necessitated the return of Peyton Manning’s longtime backup, Brock Osweiler, who supplanted the turnover-prone Siemian two weeks ago.
Osweiler will get his third straight start when the Broncos try to snap a five-game skid Sunday against the Bengals (3-6), who are seeking their first win in Denver since 1975, when franchise founder Paul Brown was their head coach.
Lynch has seen his workload gradually increase over the last month as he made his way back onto the field, and on Wednesday he even took first-team snaps on passing plays while Osweiler was limited to hand-offs with a sore throwing shoulder himself.
Osweiler resumed taking all of the snaps with the starters Thursday.
“He went full today and he had zip on the football, so no issues there,” coach Vance Joseph said.
The Broncos aren’t down on Osweiler by any means.
Even Tom Brady would find it difficult to outscore his defense if it surrendered 46 points a game like Denver’s has the last two weeks against the Eagles and Patriots.
On Thursday, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy spoke glowingly of Osweiler, as did his teammates.
“I love his leadership,” McCoy said, “and the way he runs practice out here, the way he demands certain things, the way we prepare outside, in here, always interacting with the entire offense, not just a certain group, bringing up things in the film study. He’s a great communicator with the entire offense and I’m really pleased with the way he’s played.”
So are his receivers.
“My comfort level has been sky-high with Brock,” Demaryius Thomas said. “He left for a year, but the years I had with him before he left, the connection just stayed.”
Emmanuel Sanders, who is coming off a six-catch, 137-yard performance, said Osweiler brings energy and experience to the equation.
“Brock, he’s been there before, he’s been groomed by Peyton, so he understands the ins and outs of how to play quarterback,” Sanders said.
What Lynch brings is potential, Sanders said, echoing a familiar refrain that’s hovered over Lynch throughout his 19 months in Denver.
“Paxton has a big-time arm, big-time talent. He has all the intangibles” Sanders said. “It’s all about going out and getting more and more comfortable with the playbook, learning and growing as a player, becoming a pro.”
Although Lynch’s time could be coming if the Broncos fall out of contention, Osweiler said he’s not worried about his job security.
“Really, at the end of the day, you could boil it down to everybody is kind of looking over their shoulder. Every single year, regardless of how long you’ve been in this league or how successful you’ve been, teams are always try to find someone better and cheaper to replace you,” Osweiler said. “That’s how this business works, and if you’re going to let those little things affect you, you probably won’t be around too long.”
Lynch and Osweiler both represent the prototype QB that general manager John Elway likes: tall, athletic. Both are 6-foot-7.
Osweiler, however, doesn’t see any apparent similarities in their style.
“I’ve been here a short time and the majority of the time I’ve been here Paxton’s been hurt, so I haven’t really been able to see him do a lot of things on the football field,” Osweiler said. “I do know that he’s extremely talented and athletic. He has a lot of speed and he has a big arm. So I would expect that he’ll do some great things in the future.”
He’s just intent on not letting Lynch get that chance anytime soon.