When Trevor Siemian was appointed the Broncos’ starter Monday, he was lauded for his consistency and even temper, for his decision-making under pressure, for his ability to bounce back from errors.
Siemian on Saturday took his first snap as the starter of 2017, with the Broncos’ new-look offensive line in a 20-17 preseason win against Green Bay that was more a gauge of Vance Joseph’s offense than anything else.
The results? These Broncos need work, are still hindered by penalties (11) and have continued troubles on third downs (5-14).
But they have promise with Siemian at the helm.
“I thought Trevor was solid outside of the interception,” Joseph said. “I thought he was solid. Again, we had some good drives that were stalled with penalties. That stalled with a lack of converting third downs. Overall I was pleased with the offense, just watching the overall structure and operation of it. But penalties and third downs, we got to fix those issues.”
Joseph planned for starters on both sides of the ball to play the first half for a final game-planned tuneup ahead the regular season. For many it was one of, if not the, final chance to secure a roster spot.
BOX SCORE: Broncos 20, Packers 17
After a quick three-and-out by the Packers, Siemian and the Broncos’ took over at their own 15-yard line and converted a third-and-6 on a sharp pass to Demaryius Thomas. Veteran running Jamaal Charles took his first carry as a Bronco, a 7-yard run that showed his burst and caused one defender to miss, but the drive stalled on a miscommunication. Siemian targeted Charles on a third-and-3 — when Charles wasn’t even looking.
It had to get worse before it could get better. An overthrown pass by Siemian intended for Emmanuel Sanders on third down was picked off and nearly run back for a touchdown. Green Bay’s Ty Montgomery finished off the final 2 yards for a score on the next play. And on the subsequent drive, Siemian was sacked after Packers defenders dodged both Broncos tackles.
But as play progressed, so did Siemian’s comfort and rhythm in the pocket.
On the Broncos’ first scoring drive of the first half, Siemian showcased his mobility scrambling for 16 yards. Then he connected with receiver Jordan Taylor for 20 yards and handed it off to C.J. Anderson for a 16-yard touchdown.
Siemian saved his best for last, on a nine-play, 50-yard drive in the final 1:55 of the first half. He scrambled for 2 yards, then went 6-of-7 for 48 passing yards. The lone incompletion was a pass that bounced off the chest of Sanders in the end zone. Denver had to settle for a 28-yard field goal from Brandon McManus to even the score at 10-10 and end Siemian’s night.
“I thought obviously the pick stunk and a couple other players I’d like to do over again, but it was good to kind of get in the flow of a game. The first two games happen so fast. You’re in and out and it doesn’t even feel like you’re playing football almost.”
Siemian finished 13-of-22 in passing for 127 yards with an interception and 56.4 passer rating, and took one sack. But he gained 18 of the Broncos’ 76 first-half rushing yards. They finished with 125 on the ground.
Charles gained 27 of those yards, on four carries. In his only chance to quash any remaining doubts or raise new ones ahead of roster cuts, the veteran back achieved the former. His quickness: still there. His health: intact.
“I thought Jamaal was impressive,” Joseph said. “I mean, he hadn’t played football in almost a year and a half. To take the contact, to find the open space the way he did, he caught the ball well, his protections were good, so I was impressed with Jamaal. I was hoping he’d look like that tonight, so I was pleased.”
Despite a concussion scare that benched him temporarily, he appeared much like the Charles of old.
“It felt like normal,” Charles said. “… I just think that next I come out there I just got to get some energy. I felt heavy and everything, but next time I go out there I’ll be prepared. But I was excited to get out there.”
Vintage Von Miller returned, too. In his first start of the preseason, Miller went to work quickly, splitting two defenders with a spin move to sack Aaron Rodgers. Defensive ends Adam Gotsis added another and Shelby Harris added three more as the defense held the Packers to 152 net passing yards.
It may have been just a preseason game, but tempers flared early, between the Broncos own. Cornerback Aqib Talib and linebacker Todd Davis had to be a separated after a scuffle on the field.
And the Broncos didn’t leave without injury scares, none more concerning than the right shoulder (throwing arm) injury suffered by quarterback Paxton Lynch early in the third quarter. Lynch was expected to play the entirety of the second half, but was sacked on his first drive and headed back to the locker room for evaluation by trainers. He was ruled out immediately after but X-rays were negative. Defensive end Zach Kerr also went down with a knee injury, and Thomas left with a groin injury. Safety Will Parks was ruled out in the first half with a hip pointer and Charles was shaken up but cleared after being evaluated for a concussion.
Lynch’s injury was said to be minor, but he and Kerr and Parks are expected to undergo MRIs on Sunday.
Kyle Sloter closed out the game and will likely get another audition in the fourth preseason game Thursday as Siemian and the starters shift their focus to the regular season. For them, the preseason is a wrap, but the work has only begun.
“I like where we’re at,” Siemian said. “We got two good weeks of work before we play the Chargers.”