SANTA CLARA, Calif.—A bad movie is when it approaches its third hour and everyone is ready for it to end, only to have another plot twist that carries it on for another agonizing period of seat squirming.
The Great Quarterback Competition in Denver is close to becoming a bad movie.
Even if Broncos head coach Vance Joseph and general manager John Elway have not committed as to when they will decide on their season-opening starter, they must do it soon after the preseason game here Saturday night (8 p.m. start, Channel 20) against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi’s Stadium. Soon, as in within a day or two.
For two reasons. One, seven months is long enough. It’s time. It’s been time to select either the cool, incumbent Trevor Siemian, or exciting, first-round talent, Paxton Lynch.
To carry uncertainty through the fairly important third preseason game against Green Bay would send the message the bosses don’t have confidence in either quarterback. Like a bad movie, it’s becoming annoying, frustrating.
Two, the starting quarterback in the regular-season opener September 11 against the Los Angeles Chargers must get at least one tune-up week as the guy with the first-team offense.
The starters don’t play in the fourth and final preseason game. Green Bay is the final test. Leading a team takes time to earn trust. A quarterback can’t be asked to start leading if he hasn’t had time to develop relationships in the role as main man with his teammates.
With that as the backdrop, here are 9 goals for the Broncos for their second preseason game:
For the most part, Paxton Lynch has been trailing Trevor Siemian in The Great Quarterback Competition since he became the Broncos’ first-round draft choice 16 months ago. But Elway and Joseph have not declared a winner, yet, which means Lynch has one final opportunity Saturday night when he starts and plays with the first-string offense against the 49ers.
Lynch was good early in practice Wednesday against San Francisco, and was very good throughout the scrimmage-like situations Thursday.
If he plays well in the preseason game, he could pull off a late victory.
It’s been a new offense for Trevor Siemian to master, too. He hasn’t been great during training camp, although he has been more consistent than Lynch.
For the most part, Siemian has been what he is: Above-average. That might be all the Broncos need to go along with their defense that despite suffering a concerning volume of injuries, still has considerable talent.
If Siemian has his usual steady, if unspectacular performance against the 49ers, and Lynch struggles, the incumbent will keep his starting position.
Sit, Von, sit
I’m sure Joseph, defensive coordinator Joe Woods and Von Miller would like Miller to play Saturday against the 49ers. Pass rushers need to experience game-speed work, too.
But it’s simply not worth the risk. Especially with the rash of physical setbacks that have struck the defense.
Stand Miller on the sidelines one more game, have him work two or three series next week against Green Bay, and call him ready for Philip Rivers and the Los Angeles Chargers on September 11.
Pass rush without Von
San Francisco quarterback Brian Hoyer has played behind some weak offensive lines over the years, yet he’s never had high sack totals.
The Broncos need to pressure him, anyhow. It won’t be easy without Miller, Shane Ray, Shaq Barrett, Derek Wolfe, Jared Crick or DeMarcus Walker but Kasim Edebali was a disruptive force last week against Chicago.
Perhaps, Danny Mason can play earlier in the game as he was about the only Bronco who applied heat on Bears rookie quarterback Mitch Trubisky.
This goal should have been listed four spots higher. The team lost backup defensive end Billy Winn to season-ending injury last week. That’s enough.
Find backup receiver
No. 2 receiver Emmanuel Sanders (shoulder) probably won’t play and No. 4 or 5 Cody Latimer (knee) may not either. Their absences from practices Wednesday and Thursday moved Jordan Taylor and Kalif Raymond up the depth chart so that they were playing with the second unit.
It could turn out Taylor and Raymond are competing for the final roster slot on the Broncos’ 53-man roster.
Stabilize the offensive line
Recently acquired veteran Allen Barbre was moved ahead of Max Garcia at left guard in the most overlooked development of the week. Barbre, Garcia and Connor McGovern still have chances of becoming opening-day starters up front. As of now, the starting offensive line appears to be, from left to right, Garett Bolles, Barbre, Matt Paradis, Ron Leary and Menelik Watson.
Garcia, McGovern, Donald Stephenson, Billy Turner, Ty Sambrailo and Michael Schofield are the top candidates for backup spots.
Find a surprise
Undrafted rookie strong safety Jamal Carter may have earned a 53-man roster spot last week against the Bears. And Raymond may have as well with his fine performance as a returner and backup receiver.
With the defensive line banged up, the Broncos need Adam Gotsis and Zach Kerr to come on, and undrafted rookies like Shakir Soto and Tyrique Jarrett have an opportunity.
Unleash the Sloter!
Preseason game 1 hero Kyle Sloter had a terrific fourth quarter while quarterbacking the third-string offense, posting the maximum 158.3 passer rating against the Bears.
Sloter was quickly put back in his place afterwards, but if he plays well again against the 49ers, the undrafted rookie from Northern Colorado could guarantee himself in-season employment – if not with the Broncos, with someone.