It would be easy to assume that Trevor Siemian is a placeholder, the stopgap quarterback biding his time until Paxton Lynch is ready, but the Broncos aren’t treating him that way.

Last offseason, when Denver drafted Siemian in the seventh round of the NFL draft, it was called a reach. Even Siemian didn’t expect to get drafted; he was ready to begin a career in real estate. But Gary Kubiak saw something in the young kid from Northwestern, and he’s seeing it now, too.

Poise. Leadership. Confidence.

Siemian has been thrust into an impossible situation, tasked with leading the defending champions on their quest towards a repeat. And it started against one of the most fearsome foes in the league, the Carolina Panthers.

The Broncos didn’t come out frightened.

On Denver’s first drive, Kubiak dialed up five straight passes to begin Siemian’s career, surprising fans and likely the Panthers defense, too.

“I trust the kid,” Kubiak said after the game. “I was trying to get him in a rhythm, get some touches for D.T. and Emmanuel [Sanders]. I let the kid know I have confidence in him. I think if you would have picked up the game plan in the first 15 and saw six runs to start the game, I don’t know what message I’m sending him. I want him to know I believe in him. The only way you get better as a player is for your coach to trust you and put you in those situations. I thought he handled them well.”

And that feeling resonates throughout the team. They’re behind him. They trust him. And when he made mistakes, they didn’t condemn him. In fact, they blamed themselves.

On the first drive of the third quarter, the Broncos, once again, were moving down the field at will, and Siemian had Sanders breaking free on a corner route in Panthers territory. It was a sure touchdown. But the offense missed a blitz pickup, Siemian was forced to throw off his back foot and the ball fell into the defender’s hands.

An errant throw, no doubt, but a team mistake.

“We missed a blitz pickup or else he throws a touchdown to Emmanuel on that interception,” C.J. Anderson said. “If we pick up that blitz, he can project that ball out there further. We love that our offense is going in the right direction. It takes all of us to do our job and I think we did that tonight.”

Siemian finished with 178 yards on 18-26 passing (69%). He was sacked twice, threw two interceptions and had Anderson gift him his first passing touchdown on a 25-yard catch and run.

It was a special moment for the seventh-round quarterback.

“I think I was obviously really excited and really focused going into the week of the season, and it’s quite an honor to play on a Thursday night to open the year,” Siemian said. “We’ve got a heck of a team, a resilient team, and I think you saw that tonight. We played for four quarters, and I’m really proud to be a part of this group.”

If the Broncos keep it up, he won’t just be a part of the group; he’ll be the face of the group.