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Instant Reactions: Siemian emerges as clear starter for Broncos in win over Rams

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It wasn't the best performance by the second-year quarterback out of Northwestern, but Trevor Siemian showed enough to prove he is the quarterback to lead the Broncos on the field when they open the season against the Carolina Panthers on September 8.

Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Alea iacta est.

Trevor Siemian will be the Denver Broncos starting quarterback when they open up the regular season against the Carolina Panthers on September 8 — whether you like it or not.

Throughout the course of the 2016 campaign, there will be highs and lows, but that is to be expected when you have a second-year player leading the team into battle on the gridiron.

The exact same sentence above would be applicable if rookie Paxton Lynch was the starting quarterback for the squad.  It most certainly would ring true if the team would have opted for mistake-prone veteran Mark Sanchez as well.

It is what it is.  If you have extraordinary high expectations for the former Northwestern product (or any quarterback who might see significant playing time on the field this year), you might want to lessen them down a notch.  If not, any emotional roller coaster that you go through will be your own burden to bear and realize that albatross around your neck is of your own accord.

A cloud of ambiguity was an absolute certainty heading into the preseason and still exists now as the regular season draws near. Nobody at the position was ever going to blow the pants off the competition or be a world-beater performer in 2016. Clearly, this is a transitional year for the Denver Broncos, especially at the quarterback position.

You may not feel confident in Siemian’s abilities, but how confident would you be trotting out a rookie who doesn’t have a complete grasp of the Broncos’ playbook?  What would you expect the coaches to do if Lynch were to be the day one starter, but struggled immensely in his first several outings?

It is an easy decision for the coach to make to start a player, albeit a raw one, who has a full year of knowledge regarding Gary Kubiak’s system over someone who is just getting their feet wet in the NFL.  It is also a much easier PR move for the Broncos to bench such a player and then throw in a rookie if they fail to perform.

Those are simple facts that many fans seem to ignore or unable to grasp regarding the quarterback situation.  At the end of the day, all we can do is hope for the best and at times tonight against the Los Angeles Rams, you saw glimpses of what Seimian brings to the table: poise, accuracy and more often than not, sound decision making.

He struggled against the Rams' first-string defense and made a few errant throws, but looked calm in the pocket, stepping up and making a handful of quality throws as the first half rolled along.

He helped lead the Broncos down the field for several long drives that resulted in 10 points for the offense. Overall, Siemian was 10 of 17 for 122 yards with a touchdown and an interception in his one half of play against the Rams. Not a stellar performance and certainly not a terrible one.  The Broncos can win with that type of play at the position, especially if their defense plays lights out like they did a season ago.

Speaking of the defense, the Broncos’ first-team defense played the entirety of the first half against the St. Louis Rams and looked as good as ever.  They allowed less than 150 total yards and only 9 points in two quarters of play, and came up with a handful of stops on third down to limit the Rams' offensive attack and played very strong in the red zone.

Von Miller started off the game by sacking Rams quarterback Case Keenum on the game's opening drive and looked stellar and in mid-season form in the snaps he participated in.

The team's defensive line saw a lot of rotation early on with Adam Gotsis, Jared, Crick, Henry Melton and Billy Winn seeing a lot of shared time snap wise in the first half.  Derek Wolfe was absent from the game and did not participate, as he was given time away from the team this week to deal with a personal matter.

The team's second half defensive performance was just as impressive, if not better than what the first-team defense displayed in the games opening half. They got continuous pressure on the Rams' offensive line and forced them into a myriad of third and fourth down situations they could dig themselves out of. 

Denver is incredibly deep on the defensive side of the ball and there will be a lot of hard cuts to make in the near future. The players deserve a lot of credit for the fire and intensity they play with, but hats off to Defensive Coordinator Wade Phillips and the rest of his staff for continuing to create fantastic game plans week in and week out and moreover, putting their players in the best situations possible in order for them to succeed.

When it was all said and done, the team wound up beating the Rams by a score of 17-9, improving their preseason record to 2-1. The Broncos will wrap up their preseason on the road against the Arizona Cardinals next Thursday, September 1.

Hart's Quick Hits:

  • Based on what I have witnessed thus far, I believe the team's offense will be predicated on ball control, a strong rushing attack and a short-to-medium route passing game that is relatively conservative.  They will play it safe and take risks down the field on play action calls once the run is established.

    The team can win a lot of games in 2016 if the limit the amount of turnovers on the offensive side of the ball and play stellar defense.  For whatever it is worth, I find it hard to imagine that Siemian will play worse than Peyton Manning did at the quarterback position last season.
  • Paxton Lynch showed why he won't be starting for the Broncos any time soon.  He had a poor performance tonight going 6/13 for only 57 yards. He doesn't have the experience or the knowledge of the playbook necessary to lead to the team into battle right now.
  • There is an immense competition happening at the running back competition.  Many analysts have pegged veteran Ronnie Hillman as the odd man out, but he isn't ready to be dismissed from the team yet.  He performed well in the carries he was given and showed good vision and cutback ability, especially on his seven yard touchdown run that gave the Broncos a 17-9 lead early in the third quarter. 

    He finished his evening with 5 caries for 45 yards and a touchdown.  A much better performance than Kapri Bibbs, who only had 11 yards on 5 carries.  My gut tells me that the Broncos will keep Hillman on the roster as opposed to Bibbs for the third running back spot.
  • Demaryius Thomas was the team's leading receiver with 4 catches for 63 yards — 43 of which came on an incredible one handed grab.  His companion, Emmanuel Sanders hauled in 3 catches for 45 yards.
  • Virgil Green had 3 catches for 14 yards and a touchdown tonight.  In three games, Green has been targeted ten times and hauled in receptions every single time he has had the ball go his way.  He should have quite the impact for the team this year and would be a great late-round sleeper pick for all you fantasy football maniacs.
  • The Broncos starting offensive line did a solid job in pass protection and showed some grit and toughness in the run blocking department against the staunch Rams defensive front seven.  Their play helped spring C.J. Anderson (who had 11 carries for 50 yards) for several big runs, but need to be more consistent on a weekly basis. 

    However, their play was admirable and improvement over the first two games, given the numerous amount of injuries up front.  Technique and chemistry are huge components for success in the zone-blocking scheme and it may take some time for the offensive line to be firing on all cylinders.
  • On the flip side, the offensive line that played in the second half did an awful job in pass protection and failed to get much push at the line of scrimmage in the run game.  If there is any area on the team where the Broncos need better players, it is certainly the offensive line.
  • Lorenzo Doss might be making some eye-popping plays in training camp, but he is giving too much of a cushion to wide receivers during games and the feast or famine mentality he displayed at Tulane rears its ugly head.  There is no doubt the kid has incredible ball skills and a penchant for making turnovers, but his technique and discipline are in serious need of upgrading if he wants to be anything more than an occasional contributor at the NFL level.
  • Reserve linebacker Dekoda Watson should make the team's final roster.  He has the versatility to play inside and outside and came up big with several quarterback pressures and two and a half sacks in his performance tonight. Watson might just be the team's best performer on the defensive side of the ball through three games in the preseason.  Another quality free agent addition and find by John Elway.
  • Veteran punter Britton Colquitt gave way to rookie Riley Dixon tonight, who saw all of the teams action at punter. Dixon had 8 punts with an average of 41 yards per punt.
  • Wide Receiver Cody Latimer was injured early in the third quarter with an apparent knee injury and did not return.