Good morning, Broncos Country!
In the grand scheme of things, the play won't matter. But for the here and now, it's the most important in the early stages of Paxton Lynch's career.
In Saturday's practice at the UCHealth Training Center, the Denver Broncos rookie was struggling. And it showed. His body language told you the story of a quarterback who was frustrated and losing confidence by the second. There were moments after frustrating plays where his shoulders and head dropped.
Lynch needed something to go his way.
On the first move-the-ball drive of training camp, he started to get his timing. His footwork improved and passes started to hit his receivers in the hands. The offense started to move the ball.
You could see the confidence start to creep back to Lynch. It was as if his mind was telling himself, "OK.That's all we needed. Now stop thinking so much."
The throw that showed Lynch he could trust himself came on third-and-9.
He hit Kalif Raymond on a beautiful 39-yard touchdown pass to end the practice.
To Gary Kubiak's credit, he made sure that was the final play of the morning session. That allowed the young quarterback's confidence to build.
Lynch hits Raymond on a beautiful touch pass in the west endzone. Lynch needed that. Was having a tough day & his body language showed it.— Ian St. Clair (@IanStClair) July 30, 2016
Lynch followed that up with his, at the time, best practice of camp. It was highlighted by two consecutive deep touchdown passes to Raymond and Mose Frazier.
Lynch proceeded to top Sunday's showing with an even better one on Monday. The session was capped by a 17-yard touchdown to Jordan Taylor on a corner fade. The play drew the loudest ovation from the crowd and served as the second time in three days Lynch ended a practice with a touchdown pass.
As Andrew Mason points out, that touchdown was just the start to Lynch's great day.
"But another example of Lynch's progress is his timing with his receivers, on one late-practice pass to Durron Neal, he timed his throw to where the pass was released as Neal began his break outside; the ball arrived in perfect time and in a spot where it could not be defended. Lynch is also improving at trusting his ability to throw the ball into tight windows, as he did on one pass to Garrett Graham during a team period."
All of this is a sign that he's getting comfortable. He's confident again - in his mind but also his arm. Lynch has been slinging it the last two days. Above all, he trusts himself.
That also shows his teammates and coaches there is reason to have confidence in Lynch.
The coaches may start to think "we need to give him some more reps with the twos and maybe even a few with the ones." That forces Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian to up their games as well.
"I look at (Monday), I thought offensively we were practicing really good," Kubiak said. "Then we hit these lull periods. Our quarterback put the ball on the ground. Mark threw a pick in the redzone; we can't do that. I think the competition is excellent.
"I think one of the things for sure, is number 12 (Lynch) is really stepping up. He's making some progress. I think they are all doing a good job. I would say the young kid has just gotten better each and every day."
With the Broncos off today, Lynch has more time to digest the good and bad from his first five days (with the whole team). All with the hope it makes him more comfortable and confident as he improves.
None of this is to say he'll start for the Broncos. Or even become the backup.
It's all about consistency, especially at quarterback. If Lynch improves each day, as he has since Saturday, both Sanchez and Siemian will start to look over their shoulders. They may start to press to match what the rookie is pulling.
He was never a "project" like some made it seem. He'll be starting much sooner than people have anticipated. https://t.co/SJUINPStHc— Eric Galko (@OptimumScouting) August 1, 2016
If Lynch remains this consistent, the coaches have to continue his development against better competition. If he shines at that point, all bets are off, as Eric Galko points out in the tweet above.
Obviously most of this is based on "ifs." As Denver's camp moves along, we'll get more answers and clarity when it comes to who takes the lead.
Covering camp this weekend, there is no doubt Lynch brings the biggest "wow" factor of the three quarterbacks on the roster. His arm is off the charts. He's athletic. He's mobile. He's cool under pressure. Now he's getting comfortable and confident and his accuracy is improving. The biggest development of all: He believes in himself. And we're only five days into training camp.
Whether Lynch builds on the last few days remains to be seen. That's obviously the hope for his teammates and coaches. What will be the best indicator is the first preseason game against the Chicago Bears on Aug. 11.
For the here and now, this was all made possible by the most important play at this point in Lynch's career.
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