ENGLEWOOD—Buckle up your Brock straps, Broncos.
All signs point to the Denver Broncos starting Brock Osweiler at quarterback Sunday at Washington.
Osweiler is expected to start not because he deserved the promotion after he came off the bench and led the Broncos to a 25-13, come-from-behind win last week at Indianapolis. He is expected to start because Paxton Lynch doesn't appear quite healthy enough to play the bulk of a 60-minute game.
Osweiler and Lynch split the team reps 50-50 this week, although it's worth noting Osweiler took the first set of reps.
Broncos' general manager John Elway and head coach Vance Joseph wanted Lynch to start in the season's final two games – at Washington on Christmas Eve and the following week against the Kansas City Chiefs on New Year's Eve -- if he was able.
But because Lynch was still favoring his sprained right ankle through the week, he is not expected to start against Washington. There is a really good chance Lynch will start next week against the Chiefs.
“I said on Monday or Tuesday that part of his game is his legs,'' Joseph said following practice Friday morning – and before the final decision was to be made during an afternoon staff meeting. “We don't want to put him out there if he can't use his one of his best attributes. That's being considered.”
Although the Broncos' coaching staff in collaboration with Elway were to make their decision on their starting quarterback during a staff meeting Friday afternoon, no announcement was made as the players had already been dismissed for the day.
Joseph has always told his team first who that week's starting quarterback would be – an all-too-common occurrence this season – before going public with his decision.
The Broncos will practice Saturday morning, then fly out to the nation's capital. The game starts at 11 a.m. MST Sunday.
Joseph said Lynch's ankle is “about 90 percent” healed. That may be generous considering just about all NFL players are about 80 percent this time of year.
Lynch is healthy enough to serve as Osweiler's backup. Broncos offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said Lynch had done a nice job working through his high ankle sprain from Wednesday, when he was first forced to adjust to the pain, to Friday, when he limped less.
“He had some plays (Friday) that I don't know if he could have made on Wednesday with his balance or his footwork—working through an ankle injury,'' Musgrave said. “I think we're just looking for him to get more and more healthy and working through it. It's tougher to throw with a lower-body injury then it is an upper-body injury for quarterbacks. Really if you have a (dent) in your foundation, that affects you more than just being able to buddy tape a finger or getting a shot for a cracked rib or something.
“When your footwork is affected, whether it's stride length, left foot placement or balance, that's tougher on QBs. Paxton's working through those challenges.”
Osweiler was 0-3 during a three-start audition earlier this season. After losing at home to the lowly Cincinnati Bengals, 20-17, Osweiler was demoted all the way to No. 3 as the Broncos gave Lynch, a first-round draft pick last year, his first chance to play against the Oakland Raiders.
Lynch suffered a high ankle sprain late in the third quarter of that game with the Broncos down, 21-0. The injury forced Lynch to miss practice the next three weeks.
Meanwhile, Osweiler replaced the injured Trevor Siemian, who suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury, late in the first quarter of the game last week at Indy. Osweiler scrambled for an 18-yard touchdown and threw scoring passes for 22 yards to receiver Cody Latimer and 54 yards to tight end Jeff Heuerman.
“He just got scraps out there, walkthrough reps or osmosis—mental reps,'' Musgrave said. “That's just a credit to him. He came in and was on fire. The accuracy, the timing and the leadership. It was incredible and fun to watch.”