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Breaking down the good and the bad of Trevor Siemian’s first start

Hope you are ready for a long read as I broke down fifteen separate dropbacks from Trevor Siemian’s NFL debut that prove he could be the quarterback the Denver Broncos need to repeat.

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Carolina Panthers v Denver Broncos Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images

The Denver Broncos needed all sorts of plays, along with a little luck, to overcome several critical mistakes to defeat the Carolina Panthers 21-20 on Thursday Night Football.

Denver emerged with many questions to answer in Week 2, from the interior run defense to turnovers on offense. However, the biggest question mark was how Trevor Siemian would perform in his NFL debut as the starting quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champions.

Before we dive into the tape, let’s look at what other analysts saw in Siemian in his first game. Pro Football Focus saw some really nice throws under duress from the young quarterback, which is promising.

PFF identified his best quality being good decision-making, while his biggest flaw is his speed of progression. Both of which, were clear from the film breakdown.

Right now, Siemian looks good enough to do a job for this team, and that is really all they need from their quarterback—as long as the rest of the roster maintains the high level of play exhibited thus far.

Another really good breakdown from numberFire hammered home the idea that Siemian can be efficient enough to keep the Broncos competitive all the way through. Especially if C.J. Anderson and that offensive line continues to dominate as it did against a stout Panthers defensive front-seven.

As much as I enjoy reading the analysis of others, I had my own very serious questions about Siemian that needed to be answered. My concerns were mostly obliterated by Siemian’s play, but I needed to gain a deeper understanding of how I could have been so off in my pre-first start judgement of him.

To do that, I watched the tape. I found both good and bad, but there were fifteen dropbacks that I felt really hammered home both the positive qualities I missed about Siemian and some concerns that still need to be addressed by the coaching staff.

Play 1

It’s nice when all my doubts about a player get shown up on that player’s first play from scrimmage in a real game. Siemian showed solid awareness and good decision-making when he side armed this ball to Demaryius Thomas on the first play of the game.

Best part of this play: Improvisation

Play 2

Then on the same drive, Siemian showed us that he has excellent pocket presence. His read wasn’t there at first and feeling the pressure he rolled outside to hit Virgil Green for a first down.

Best part of this play: Pocket awareness

Play 3

One of my biggest concerns about Siemian was his ability to hit on deep or intermediate throws. And although we didn’t see any deep passes, we saw a few clutch intermediate “big boy” throws and this was one of them to Emmanuel Sanders. Siemian threw the ball where only Sanders could make a play on it. Very impressive.

Best part of this play: Ball placement

Play 4

We saw this kind of play several times on Thursday. Siemian getting a throw off just a hair too slowly, but the pass still gets there despite intense pressure in Siemian’s face. He kind of side armed this throw to Anderson for a big gainer. It’s the kind of dink and dunk throwing that one could get excited about.

Best part of this play: Quick release

Play 5

This is why Siemian is starting for the Broncos and Mark Sanchez is no longer on the team. Siemian is incredibly precise with his ball placement on short throws. This is something I personally missed or just discounted from his preseason games. The last thing the Broncos need in 2016, is a high turnover rate. Not that we saw that happen in Week 1.

Best part of this play: Ball placement

Play 6

As PFF noted, Siemian’s biggest flaw right now is how quickly he reads and reacts through his progressions. He missed two things on this play and he could have gotten either if he had just pulled the trigger a hair earlier.

First, he is looking at his first read on a crossing route into the end zone. The play is there. Siemian did not have to wait for the wide receiver to break open, he should have trusted that he’d be there.

If he just didn’t want to take the risk, then Anderson was wide open in the flat for what could have been another touchdown given how shifty Anderson is in the open field.

Worst part of this play: Slow progression

Play 7

This is a play a lot of fans gave Siemian a pass on, but it was entirely on him for this interception. First, watch his feet. Why is he taking a two step drop on a screen pass? He has to know his offensive line is going to immediately block down field and the play was going to be a huge one had Siemian just turned and thrown the ball like he should have.

The good news is that this is something that is entirely coachable. I would expect Siemian not to make this error the next time the play is called.

Worst part of this play: Footwork (too many steps)

Play 8

Siemian’s best throw of the day and it was a “big boy” throw too, was this intermediate crossing route to Thomas that hit a spot right in the middle of the zone. It’s this kind of throw that will keep a defense from spying those “dink and dunk” routes that Siemian really excels at.

I actually cheered when this play happened and that was when I decided I needed to breakdown his entire game.

Best part of this play: NFL-caliber throw

Play 9

Again, this interception is entirely on Siemian. Yes he was pressured, but his slow read and progression is the reason he was hit when he threw this ball. If he was just a hair quicker this would have been a first and goal for the Broncos.

You can see him hesitate as he tries to process if Sanders is going to be open. A veteran quarterback would have known instantly, so this is something that we’re just going to have to deal with while Siemian goes through the same growing pains any young quarterback will go through. The good news is, the game will slow down for him over time.

Worst part of this play: Slow progression

Play 10

Siemian is billed as a safe quarterback who takes care of the ball. That will end with him losing his job if true. This throw shows that he has it within him to fit the ball into tight windows, which is absolutely necessary for a quarterback to succeed long-term in the NFL.

Best part of this play: Willingness to throw into tight coverage

Play 11

This was the prettiest five-yard throw I’ve ever seen. I mean, it cut through the air like butter and landed right where Kapri Bibbs was headed at full speed. No real film breakdown, I just loved the throw.

Best part of this play: Hit the back in full stride

Play 12

A little bit of good and a little bit of bad on this play. Siemian took way too long to sell the fake the other way and by the time he turned for the actual screen pass he was nearly being sacked.

The good is that his quick release got the ball off accurately to Anderson who would then take it to the house for the touchdown.

Please ignore the linemen who were way illegally downfield on this one.

Best part of this play: Quick release

Play 13

And finally we get to the dropback that formally shattered my belief that Siemian was not an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. It took Siemian two weeks to learn from and not make the same mistake twice. Most quarterbacks, looking at you Jay Cutler, will never change their bad habits.

Let’s rewind back to the preseason game against the San Francisco 49ers. Siemian gets the playcall to hit Thomas on a slant and does what he is ordered to do. The result was a pick six interception.

Bad read. Bad play.

Now he gets a very similar playcall against the Panthers. Instead of doing as ordered, he sees that the Panthers are all over this slant and tucks the ball and runs for the first down.

Good read. Good play.

Best part of this play: Learns from mistakes

Play 14

NFL players make great plays. What I hope Siemian learns from this one is that a pump fake goes a long way. Green was so wide open that Siemian could have pump faked twice and still could have gotten the ball to Green for the touchdown. All that was needed, however, was one pump fake to get Kony Ealy to leave his feet.

Again, this is a bad play that is coachable. Not overly worried about it.

Worst part of this play: No pump fake

Play 15

Siemian was not very clutch once the Broncos took the lead. In the context of him being in his first start, it makes sense. He didn’t want to make a bad decision to cost the team the game.

The issue with this play was his slow progression through his reads. If the play isn’t there he shouldn’t be waiting on it. Move to the next read more quickly.

This is something he is likely going to hear from his coaches in the coming week and is something for us all to keep an eye on through each game.

Worst part of this play: Slow progression

Final Grade

As far as first starts in the NFL go, I feel like Siemian was above average on that front. His final stat line was a pedestrian 18/26 for 178 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions. His completion rate was good, but a 6.85 yards per attempt rate is definitely unimpressive.

That all said, when you break down the film, the throws and the decision-making you will come to the conclusion that Siemian’s first start had far more positives than negatives.

There were no egregious red flags and his miscues are all coachable. The biggest question now is how NFL defenses adjust to him now that he has significant tape on hand for them to study.

So far, I like what I see. You can move me from doubter to cautiously optimistic and ready to see more!