Lynch to start, but Siemian has edge in job battle

Sports Xchange

August 12, 2017 at 9:35 pm.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Paxton Lynch will start in the second preseason game against the 49ers. Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said that before the preseason opener against the Bears, and reiterated it after the 24-17 win at Soldier Field on Thursday night.

But the 2016 first-round pick appears to have some ground to make up if he is to avoid being on the bench behind Trevor Siemian when the regular season begins.

Siemian wasn’t flashy in the preseason opener, but he was solid. After being sacked by Leonard Floyd on the first offensive snap, he got back up and kept the offense moving, finding wide receiver Demaryius Thomas in front of double coverage for an 11-yard gain on third-and-11 to move the chains and start a drive toward a Brandon McManus field goal.

“Trevor was solid,” Joseph said.

Lynch entered in the second quarter, and struggled early. Bogged down by offensive penalties and pressure from Chicago’s pass rush, he couldn’t escape the pocket early enough to move the chains when he scrambled, and the offense went three-and-out on his first two possessions before it got moving in the third quarter thanks to a series of short, quick, first-read passes.

“Paxton had some nice plays, but we had so many penalties during his time of play that it hurt his drives. That’s why he played more than we thought,” Joseph said.

Indeed, Lynch didn’t cede the reins until the end of the third quarter, having failed to guide the Broncos to a score. Siemian only directed the offense to a field goal. Only third-teamer Kyle Sloter found much success, capitalizing off some lapses in the Bears secondary to guide a pair of touchdown drives to lead the Broncos to a comeback win.

Still, Siemian appears to have the lead with perhaps just one week remaining in the summer-long quarterback derby. He completed 6 of his 7 passes for 51 yards, and squeezed the football into tight windows on completions to Thomas and wide receiver Cody Latimer.

Lynch hit 6 of 9 passes for 42 yards. Neither threw an interception, but Lynch’s four drives generated just 62 net yards and three first downs, while Siemian’s three series produced 105 net yards and six first downs.

Siemian said before the game that he felt the offense had begun “clicking” for him, and the results have shown; his interceptions are down in the past week. But the competition will remain open — at least one more week.

“It’s a competition,” Joseph said. “It’s fair to allow each guy to have a chance to play with the ones in the actual game. This week it’s Paxton’s turn and we’ll figure it out from there. Right now it’s an open competition.”

It’s open, but if Siemian stays steady and Lynch can’t improve his play, it may not be open much longer.

Notes: Defensive end Derek Wolfe was carted off the field Saturday because of an ankle injury suffered during a practice-field collision. “Dodged bullet,” he tweeted later that afternoon. He is expected to miss the rest of the preseason, but could return by the regular-season opener. The injury is a lower ankle injury. … Safety T.J. Ward has not practiced since Aug. 4 because of a hamstring injury. The injury is not considered serious. … Inside linebacker Todd Davis returned to individual and 7-on-7 work Saturday after missing a week because of a sprained shoulder. … Rookie wide receiver Carlos Henderson will be out indefinitely because of a thumb injury. He is expected to undergo surgery Sunday to determine the extent of the damage. Henderson tried to play through the injury Thursday in Chicago and muffed a pair of kickoffs.

Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. took a blow to the face during practice Saturday as he dived for an interception, but came up fine and should be back at practice when the Broncos return to work Monday. Harris opened the scoring in Chicago with a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown. … Running back Bernard Pierce has not practiced in two weeks because of a hamstring injury suffered early in training camp. … Safety Jamal Carter could be a sleeper to earn a roster spot as a fifth safety. The undrafted rookie played extensively against the Bears, recovering a first-quarter fumble.