Broncos QB Battle: Do We Trust Gary Kubiak's Words or How The Reps Are Metered Out?

MHH Analyst Will Keys evaluates the Broncos current QB situation, looking ahead to project which player has the best odds to start Week 1.

With a quarterback trio that includes seventh-year veteran Mark Sanchez and this year’s No. 26 overall pick, Paxton Lynch, are we really supposed to believe that Trevor Siemian—whose NFL experience includes one second quarter kneel down at Pittsburgh last year—has a chance to emerge as the Denver Broncos starter in Week 1? Head coach Gary Kubiak thinks so. 

“I think they’re looking each other right in the eye throughout the whole course of the offseason as far who is ahead and who is one or two,” Kubiak said about Sanchez and Siemian after Tuesday’s OTA session. “I think those two guys are right there with each other.”

Lost in the minefield of annual offseason tropes that often cloud OTAs is the fact that what is visibly apparent on the practice field is typically far more indicative of reality than the words of the head coach.  Kubiak may be billing the Sanchez-Siemian quarterback battle as an even match, but the truth is that Sanchez has received the vast majority of the first-team reps this summer. Even when taking into consideration the extra year Siemian has had in Kubiak’s offense, the prospects of him beating out Sanchez seem improbable at best.  Outdated butt-fumble jokes aside, Mark Sanchez is a proven and productive vet with an overall winning record. 

If the Broncos weren’t as supremely talented as they are on both sides of the ball heading into 2016, Siemian might be worth starting come Thursday, September 8—just to take a hard look at his upside as a passer.  But the Broncos are loaded for bear and pushing to repeat as Super Bowl champions, so putting an unknown quantity behind center could potentially sink their chances of finding themselves in Houston at the end of the season. 

While Sanchez may struggle with a chronic turnover issue, he moves the ball (posting 7.6 yards-per-attempt his last two years in Philadelphia) and has proven he can win, provided he is accompanied by a steady ground game and a competent receiving corps, which the Broncos should expect to surround their quarterback with this year. 

Sanchez’s worst stretch as a pro, 2011 and 2012, was marred by a weak supporting cast that was headlined by Jeremy Kerley, late-form Plaxico Burress, post-Chargers LaDainian Tomlinson, is-he-really-still-playing-football Derrick Mason, and the often-injured Santonio Holmes

In his better days as a Jet, Sanchez was a caretaker who would let either Shonn Greene, Thomas Jones, and Tomlinson carry the load, peppering in quick throws to Dustin Keller and letting loose downfield to a healthy Holmes and Braylon Edwards.

Not to mention, Rex Ryan’s Jets featured a defense that protected Sanchez from shootouts with the likes of Brady and Manning, letting him play his own brand of football. With the Broncos, Sanchez can lean on what should be a formidable three-headed running back committee of C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, and Ronnie Hillman, while taking calculated shots to Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders on the outside.  And even if the Broncos defense regresses a few spots from where they finished last year, it would still be light-years ahead of what Sanchez has had to work with since 2011.

The formula for winning games in Denver was well-established last year; make a handful of chunk plays on offense and try not to screw things up for the defense.  Mark Sanchez is more than capable of stepping in and doing just that.  Can Siemian or even Paxton Lynch accomplish that? Possibly. The point is, we just don’t know yet, and it would be unwise to test that theory against the NFC Champions Week 1. 

Kubiak has proven he will defer to the predictable, steady influence at quarterback, as evidenced by the late switch back to Peyton Manning last year.  And while no one is mistaking Mark Sanchez for Peyton Manning, he provides a loose semblance of the leadership and experience Manning did in his second go-round quarterbacking the offense in 2015.

Though they may have big arms and high ceilings, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch are still developmental quarterbacks at this point in time.  The Broncos are not a developmental roster on the whole, though.  They are ready to repeat, and Mark Sanchez is the only candidate in this quarterback group that we can know with some modicum of certainty will not drive the offense off of a cliff. 

So while Gary Kubiak claims that Trevor Siemian and Mark Sanchez are even going into training camp, put your early money on Mark.

Will Keys is an Analyst for Mile High Huddle. You can find him on Twitter @WillKeys6.

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