Notes, Quotes

The Sports Xchange

September 05, 2018 at 1:08 am.

–The Paxton Lynch Experiment officially ended Sunday when the Broncos claimed third-year veteran Kevin Hogan off waivers. That move necessitated the release of the Broncos’ 2016 first-round pick, who declined from projected future starter to struggling third-teamer over the course of three seasons.

But based on what general manager John Elway said a day earlier, the era had already ended. At a press conference, Elway told media that the team had contacted some veteran quarterbacks about joining the Broncos, but that they “didn’t want to come in right now.”

“We’ve talked to several and had discussions there, but they all want to wait — the ones we were interested in,” Elway said.

So the die was cast. The Broncos were looking, and when Hogan was available after the Redskins waived him, Denver pounced, using its No. 5 waiver-claim priority to add the third-year Stanford product.

And that was all for Lynch in Denver after over two years of struggling to learn the offense and failing to gain traction in any of his battles for playing time.

One of the issues for Lynch is that he consistently failed to adapt and change for the pro game. Even as he was struggling, he rarely stayed on the practice field for extra work after each on-field session. Day after day during training camp, Chad Kelly was among the last two or three players on the field, while Lynch had long since retreated to the locker room.

The struggles to adapt continued into the huddle.

“I had several talks with him. ‘Hey, man, when you get in the huddle you gotta do this, you gotta do that, you gotta do that,'” wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders told NFL Network on Sunday. “But he got kind of stuck in his ways.”

In the end, the Broncos — and their fans — had just had enough. In the Broncos’ second preseason game this summer, the home crowd booed Lynch when he took the field with the third team.

The fans were done with Lynch that night. Two weeks later, the Broncos were, too.

–The reason why Royce Freeman is the Broncos’ starting running back heading into Week 1 is simple: He was just better than Devontae Booker.

Freeman was more explosive, displayed better vision and made more decisive bursts to the hole throughout the summer than Booker. The final piece of the puzzle for Freeman was mastering pass protection to the point that he could be trusted on an every-down basis.

“He was really good in pass pro(tection), so that’s your biggest worry about having a young halfback playing with a veteran quarterback — it’s the pass-pro issues,” Broncos head coach Vance Joseph said. “He’s shown the I.Q. and the maturity to be a great pass-pro guy — on third downs especially.”

Booker will likely play on third downs, Joseph said, which fits into his skill set as a pass catcher out of the backfield. Booker has just one run of 20 or more yards in two NFL seasons, but has seven receptions covering that much ground.

Still, his role will be limited, as he’s not a 1a runner with Freeman; he’s the No. 2 back in the Broncos’ mix.

–Outside linebacker Von Miller: He’s still the straw that stirs the Broncos’ defensive drink, and with the addition of Bradley Chubb and the return of Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett to keep him fresh, the defense will go as far as Miller takes it.

–Running back Royce Freeman: While big things are expected of Bradley Chubb and Courtland Sutton, Freeman’s ability to win the No. 1 running back job thanks to a strong preseason puts him in position to have a profound impact on the team’s fortunes. Freeman’s vision and explosiveness helped lead to a team-leading three preseason touchdowns, and if he can make his college durability translate to the NFL, he should ensure that the Broncos don’t miss C.J. Anderson.