ENGLEWOOD – If it’s been asked once, it’s been asked at least nine times.
What’s the difference between how the Broncos look in OTAs [organized team activities] this year compared to last year?
The answer is easy. Last year, the Broncos were trying to force Paxton Lynch to become their starting quarterback. No one – not the coaches, not the players, not the media witnessing the occasional OTA practice – thought he was ready.
This year, everyone knows Case Keenum is the quarterback. And he’s looked good.
That doesn’t mean the Broncos will be different this year. It just means it feels different.
“Case is getting exclusively all the reps with the ones,’’ Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said last week. “We're not splitting them like you would if you didn't have an established starter. So, he's getting more concentrated work and it’s paying dividends.’’
“Yeah, he’s a great leader,’’ receiver Emmanuel Sanders said Wednesday of Keenum. “Every day, the majority of the days, he’ll come in and ask me and D.T. (Demaryius Thomas) to go and watch practices and we’ll sit in the back room and watch film and go over what he’s thinking and what we’re thinking.
“I’ve been a part of two Super Bowl teams and that’s what it takes. That extra work that’s not mandatory, where guys are in there working out or working on their mental game. That right there, when it’s the fourth quarter or when it’s fourth-and-5 or third-and-8, that’s the stuff that gets you over the hill.”
Last year, it really wasn’t a quarterback competition between Trevor Siemian and Lynch. It was Lynch the first-round talent with great upside vs. Lynch the second-year quarterback who was struggling to figure out how to read, process, throw it accurately and do it all quickly.
Siemian, the capable if not extraordinarily skilled quarterback with experience, sat back and waited for the Broncos to come around to decide Lynch needed more time.
Lynch is still around, but this year it’s universally agreed upon he’s not ready to start. Keenum is the unquestioned No. 1.
“He wants it,’’ said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. “It’s good when you have a quarterback that’s hungry. Just like any other player out there on the field, he wants it. He wants to be the best. He wants to prove to Minnesota, ‘You all should have never let me go.’ He’s hungry out there, I like that chip that he has on his shoulder and it’s good to have a quarterback that really wants it and really wants to be the best.”
The Broncos finished their 10th and final OTA session Thursday at UCHealth Training Center. All they have left to their 2018 offseason is a three-day minicamp next week.
The difference OTAs and minicamp? In OTAs, the players have meetings, then one practice, then one weight-lifting session, and that’s pretty much it.
In minicamp there are morning meetings, a practice, a lift, then more meetings and a walkthrough. Players get 1 ½ more hours on the practice field (thus the walkthrough) and another 2 and a half hours of meetings.
Minicamp more closely resembles training camp – which will begin in the final days of July, after the players get a five- or six-week break.
The Broncos wound up 5-11 last year, in part because they never did decide on their quarterback. How they’ll finish this year is subject to conjecture, but not at quarterback. That position is known. And it belongs to a guy who led Minnesota to the NFC Championship Game last season.