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Broncos face quarterback conundrum

The Denver Broncos have one of the best defenses in the NFL. Only two years ago, it was this unit that led Peyton Manning to his second and final Super Bowl win, all while the future first-ballot Hall of Famer did little to help the effort.

Now, the Broncos are coming off a disappointing 9-7 season which saw the team miss the postseason for the first time since 2011. If nothing changes with the quarterback situation, that drought might extend to two seasons.

With the news of Tony Romo retiring for the comfort — and safety — of the CBS broadcast booth, the Broncos now turn their attention to the two men already atop the depth chart. Third-year pro Trevor Siemian looks to hold onto the starting gig, after giving an uneven performance in 2016. Siemian, a seventh-round pick in 2015 out of Northwestern, threw for 3,401 yards with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.

Siemian has the look of an NFL quarterback, but one that is more backup than starter. He had three games last season of more than 300 yards, but Denver only won one of those contests. The Broncos also have problems in front of Siemian, sporting one of the game’s weakest offensive lines. While the draft might yield a starter or two in this area, the current projected starters at tackle are Menelik Watson and Donald Stephenson. The mere sentence should terrify any quarterback.

Siemian will be pushed by Paxton Lynch, a former first-round pick who was drafted in 2016 to become the future. Lynch only played in three games last season, starting twice. Those affairs resulted in 497 yards with a paltry 5.99 yards per attempt. Lynch looked like everyone rationally expected; a young player not ready to get on the field.

If Lynch isn’t ready to take the next step, Denver could be in real trouble. The Broncos need more out of its offense, which struggled repeatedly down the stretch to score touchdowns. In December, Denver had a three-game stretch against the Titans, Patriots and Chiefs that culminated in 23 points — and three losses.

Ultimately, the AFC West is too tough for a one-dimensional team to win the crown, let alone compete. The Broncos must win at least 11 games to have a shot of beating out the Chiefs or Raiders, two teams that won 12 contests last season.

With a new coaching staff and 10 draft picks coming, Denver has a chance for a new day in the Mile High City. Yet, most of its hopes rest on having much-improved quarterback play. If that does not come to pass, the Broncos will likely have to settle for a rest with the Chargers for third place in the West.

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