The Denver Broncos have some intriguing position battles they’ll need to sort out if they want to get back to the playoffs. They will likely carry into the early part of the season. There’s a battle at offensive tackle. There’s guard as well. There’s a battle for the third receiver. A couple of positions may be up for grabs along the defensive line. Quarterback looms large, of course. The battle of who can stay healthy at running back is important. This team has options. That’s not even getting into the returners or the third tight end or safety positions. Let’s start with the elephant in the room.
You have a guy that started the majority of last year, Trevor Siemian. You have last year’s first-round pick who played sparingly, Paxton Lynch. Then there are two new faces: seventh-round pick Chad Kelly and undrafted free agent Kyle Sloter. Bronco fans know about Sloter, but not many outsiders do.
Siemian was able to beat out Lynch last year. He was mobile, had a quick release and knowledge of the offense. Siemian struggled with ball placement and the offense never really took off. You could see it on the receivers’ faces in games. They were frustrated. For a rookie, you’d like to see signs of progress, that there’s a ceiling with room for a lot of growth. Siemian got a chance to play the majority of the season and one never got a feeling that “this is the guy” moving forward.
Lynch was (is) supposed to be the franchise. I still believe he’ll have every opportunity to start, mainly because of the investment the team has made in his abilities. He was able to start one game and there were nine sacks in that game. They were not all on the offensive line. Lynch needs to speed up things this year. He needs to be better under pressure. That should come with reps, but Lynch has a long way to go if he wants to be the starter.
Then there’s Chad Kelly. As a seventh-rounder, he is more talented than where he was taken in the draft. Kelly has plenty of arm strength. It’s the whole decision making thing that gets him in trouble. Kelly is kind of a bonehead. There were people in the draft community that thought he was one of the three best quarterbacks in the entire draft. I’m not one of those people. I imagine Kelly will flash but fade, and the lack of consistency will hurt him.
Now, Kyle Sloter. There’s an intriguing option. He’s 23, but the tools are, in my opinion, the best on the team. The other quarterbacks are “fine” athletes, but Sloter is a good athlete. He can maneuver around the pocket and keep the pocket alive. He can scramble for 20 yards and outrun second-level defenders. As far as “arm talent” goes he has no issue throwing a 50-yard post for a strike. He has accuracy to the deep levels and ball placement to complement that. There will be an adjustment to the level of competition but Sloter should be, at worst, the backup. Mike McCoy should love him.
While left tackle will be a more popular topic, right guard should have a bigger immediate impact on the success of the Broncos’ offense. Based on McCoy’s offense, the winner should be clear. Michael Schofield struggled last year, largely due to his lack of play strength. While he played left guard last year, Max Garcia should be better suited in this power-based offense McCoy likes. Garcia will have to switch sides. He’ll also have to be more consistent. He already wins with power and has flashed the ability to finish. This offense should hide some of his deficiencies.
Last year across from Derek Wolfe was Jared Crick. He wasn’t bad in his first year as a Bronco. He had three sacks. As a pass-rusher he was opportunistic. He was quite good as a run defender, though. At this point Crick seems strictly a player in Denver’s base defense. That’s exactly why there’s competition here. Second-round 2016 pick Adam Gostis averaged about only 13-14 snaps a game as a rookie. The flashes weren’t there like Denver wanted, and that’s exactly why the team brought in more bodies.
Zach Kerr has been a solid reserve player in his days with the Colts. He has quickness and power to play, but again he’s more of an opportunistic pass rusher. This opens the door for second-round pick from this year’s draft, Demarcus Walker. He is exactly what the team needs as a nickel pass rusher. He was extremely productive when he kicked inside at Florida State. He won’t wow you with athleticism. He just wins. That’s what Broncos need. I imagine he’ll end up manning this spot in the middle of the season.
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