Good morning, Broncos Country!
Rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch was given the entire final preseason game to run the Broncos offense and build up some street cred as the team begins the regular season one week from today.
And thanks to two seamless connections to second-year wide receiver Jordan Taylor, aka "Sunshine," the 38-17 loss to the Cardinals still had plenty of bright spots.
The former quarterback out of Memphis fared well as he went 13 for 22, 214 yards, two touchdowns and one pick-six (which Lynch almost saved when he attempted to bump the defender out of bounds).
The kid's gonna be fine. Really liked what I saw from him throwing under pressure & escaping it at times. Fearless. https://t.co/8jHoSkP4DC— Andrew Mason (@MaseDenver) September 2, 2016
But it was the Paxton Lynch-Jordan Taylor Show in the first and third quarters that provided the Broncos' only two touchdowns on the night.
While the offensive line continued doing no one any favors (except the Cardinals' D-line), Lynch and his receivers made the best of it with several good connections - including six to fellow Memphis Tiger Mose Frazier for 79 yards - while running back Kapri Bibbs turned in a big night too.
The second-string defense held the Cardinals early but the backup squads could not keep Matt Barkley at bay as he toasted the defense on 20 of 29 passes for 262 yards and two touchdowns.
Matt Barkley postgame: "We’re not going against All-Pros, but we moved the ball and we put points on the board. That’s what our goal was."— Kyle Odegard (@Kyle_Odegard) September 2, 2016
Despite the loss, however, there were plenty of things to be excited about - and a few things to cause mild concern. So let's look at the winners and losers (which we'll call "not-so-much-winners" on the night because we don't call our guys losers):
Winner: Paxton Lynch (and the bootleg!)
He wasn't perfect, but he was pretty darn good - especially since he spent a fair amount of time running for his life thanks to a porous offensive line.
Lynch's first touchdown pass to Taylor was a quick pass in the flat on the second play of the Broncos' first drive that No. 87 turned into a 57-yard touchdown via a hefty number of "yards after catch."
After finishing the rest of the half 5 of 10 on his passes, Lynch was able to come back in the second half, settle down and move the chains. He found tight end John Phillips for a 20-yarder before scrambling five yards and then Frazier for back-to-back gains of 14 yards and 18 yards. Then he hit Taylor for a money shot on a slant-and-go that brought the Broncos to the Cardinals' 4-yard line.
With under a minute to go in the third, Lynch scrambled and then tossed a three-yard touchdown to Taylor on a beautifully executed bootleg.
"Jordan Taylor has done a great job. Paxton has done a good job," coach Gary Kubiak said before halftime. "We had a little bit of a problem protecting him here, he dropped a snap. Hopefully we can come out here in the second half and protect him a little better and let him play."
Who doesn't need some Sunshine in his/her life? Well Lynch certainly does. Taylor caught four of No. 12's passes for 109 yards and two touchdowns last night.
Fighting for a roster spot in a deep wide receiver field, Taylor did a lot to make his case for staying on the final list of 53.
Does he think it was enough?
"I have no idea. I wish I could tell you, but I gave it everything I had, left it all out there," Taylor said after the game.
Not-so-much-a-winner: Lorenzo Doss
The third-string cornerback did not have a great night as the backup Cardinals receivers consistently beat No. 37 down the sideline.
As a training camp favorite who racked up multiple pick-sixes, it seemed Doss was definitely on his way to making the roster. But his not-so-stunning play on Thursday might have made more room for his fellow Green Wave teammate Taurean Nixon to jump ahead in the cornerbacks race.
Not-so-much-a-winner: Adam Gotsis
The bear wrestler still has some work to do. But not only is Gotsis a rookie, he's also a newbie in American football, so he can have a few more weeks to get better and then it's go time. WIth Vance Walker out, Gotsis needs to be on a fast track of his own.
Not-so-much-a-winner: Riley Dixon
Since the Broncos cut their only other punter on the roster Wednesday, rookie punter Riley Dixon's job is likely not on the line (unless John Elway was on the batphone Thursday night asking Britton Colquitt not to pack up all his boxes just yet). But with an average punt over five punts being 37 yards, it's clear there is work to be done there.
But Kubiak put some of that on him and his fellow coaches as they were apparently experimenting with some things.
"Obviously got to be better than we were tonight." - Kubiak on the punting, but added "Riley's got a bright future." pic.twitter.com/67EjS7QkkX— L.Lattimore-Volkmann (@docllv) September 2, 2016
Winner: Zaire Anderson
The inside linebacker continued his campaign for a spot on the roster with a second-straight game of recovering fumbles as he scooped up one that had been forced out by undrafted rookie Dwayne Norman. Against the 49ers Anderson recovered two fumbles.
With the free agency departure of Danny Trevathan opposite of Brandon Marshall, Todd Davis has been getting the nod to fill Trevathan's spot. But if Anderson keeps playing this well, he may not only earn a spot on team but a spot as a starter.
Winner: Kapri Bibbs
The running backs competition was one of the fiercest in camp, and though Ronnie Hillman had some explosive runs against the Niners last week, it was the former CSU Ram Kapri BIbbs who seemed to take the third running back slot after his performance last night.
Bibbs tallied 10 carries for 51 yards, including one 25-yard run.
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