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Broncos face uphill battle without quarterback

The Denver Broncos won the Super Bowl two years ago, largely on the back of one of the greatest defenses we’ve seen in the past 25 years. Denver was tremendous on all three levels, stifling the New England Patriots and Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC playoffs before crunching Cam Newton in Super Bowl 50.

Because of that legendary run, many in the Mile High City and those who root for its team believe the Broncos can consistently win without top-end quarterback back. It’s a lie. Denver missed the postseason last year with Trevor Siemian under center, despite Siemian putting up better numbers than Peyton Manning did in 2015. The cast around him was virtually the same.

So why did the offense drop off, and why did Denver go from winning the Lombardi Trophy to missing the playoffs for the first time since 2010? Because although Manning couldn’t throw the ball worth a damn, he remaining the smartest quarterback to ever play the game. He constantly had the offense in the right play, taking advantage of any mistake — mental or physical — by the defense. Siemian can’t do that, and the difference in performance was stark.

This year, the Broncos come in with a new head coach and a renewed hope of getting former first-round pick Paxton Lynch under center. Lynch, who sat last season save for two starts when Siemian was hurt, is supposed to be taking over this year. This is his time, except it doesn’t appear he’s capable of doing so.

Lynch has been hideous throughout most of training camp, throwing interceptions on a daily basis while failing to lead the offense on many meaningful drives. Siemian hasn’t been much better, but certainly the better of the two.

On Thursday night, Denver had its first preseason game of the year, visiting the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field. The Bears are one of the three worst teams in the league, and yet the Broncos managed to score three offensive points in the first three quarters. Siemian went 6-of-7 for 51 yards, most of his throws being short and safe. Lynch was 6-of-9 for 42 yards, being less effective and safer than Siemian. The problem with Lynch is evident; he looks lost. Whether that’s the speed of the NFL, learning a new offense or both, it isn’t pretty.

Next week, Denver takes on another bad NFC team in the San Francisco 49ers. Lynch is slated to get the start, and has one big chance to prove to both head coach Vance Joseph and the fans that he deserves to be under center come Week 1 against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Unless he shows something wildly different than we’ve seen in his 16 months in the league, don’t count on it.

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