On Tuesday the Super Bowl Champions took the field for the first OTAs of the year, and all eyes were on a player that wasn’t even on the championship team: rookie first-round quarterback Paxton Lynch.
With a stellar defense and a variety of talent on offense, the quarterback position will be the most interesting storyline of the offseason, especially if Lynch continues to show promise like he did in Tuesday’s practice.
During team drills, when the offense goes against the defense, all three quarterbacks circulated evenly, but the biggest play came from the rookie on a 40+ yard touchdown bomb to Jordan “Sunshine” Taylor.
Last year, Taylor received praise from Peyton Manning after working with him during his rehab. Today Lynch threw a tight spiral to Taylor down the sideline for Lynch’s first taste of what an NFL touchdown is like. In typical Lynch fashion, he sprinted to the end zone to celebrate the touchdown.
“That was the first time I ever thrown a touchdown in a practice, a game or anything in the NFL so it was pretty exciting, “said Lynch. “I got fired up.”
If Lynch is the starter this year, this would be a drastic change in emotion shown by the Denver quarterback compared to the mild-tempered Manning who most often celebrated with a small fist pump, and coach Gary Kubiak loves it.
“The thing I really like about Paxton is he loves football, he has fun playing,” Kubiak said. “He did the same thing he did on the field today me and John watched him do in college. He makes a play down field and he took off chasing. We got to make sure he stays out of harms way when he does it, but he likes to play.”
After his first practice with the team, Lynch said he’s already becoming more comfortable at the NFL level.
“I felt a lot more confident than the first time we came out here,” said Lynch. “That’s because [of] more reps.”
Since Lynch joined a team that is poised to win now, he’ll have to go the extra mile to not only be the starter, but also earn the respect of his teammates, and he is well aware of that.
“I’m trying to earn a spot on the team. If you come out here and work and show these guys that you are putting in the effort they’ll kind of see that you are doing what you need to be doing,” said Lynch. “I’ve been staying after practice with [quarterbacks] coach [Greg] Knapp.”
— Zac Stevens (@Zactionpacked) May 24, 2016
While going the extra mile will no doubt help his progression, Lynch realizes that learning the playbook and working on his fundamentals will be the most difficult task.
“The playbook in general is a lot to handle, especially coming from the offense I came from,” said Lynch. “Tying my footwork with my progressions and being on time and knowing this and that. Especially how fast we get in and out of the huddle.”
Saying that the playbook is a lot to handle may even be an understatement, especially for a player who was in a very basic college offense last season. Knowing how long it will take Lynch to learn the playbook will be the answer to when he starts.
“When we finally got through the whole playbook … I kind of like sat back and was like ‘at least we finally made it through it,’ but that was only the beginning,” said Lynch. “When I made it through the playbook for the first time I was kind of like ‘well now I’ve seen everything’; now I’ve just got to look back at it and recall it.”
After watching all three quarterbacks compete in practice, coach Kubiak talked about Lynch’s progress so far, pointing out what needs to improve.
“Footwork, you want it to be where you don’t think about it,” said Kubiak. “ He’s having to think about it right now because he hasn’t done it … it’s going to take some time.”
Other than the normal learning curve that a coach would expect in the first team practice in May, Kubiak was very pleased with the way Lynch performed. While there is still plenty of time for quarterback drama, Broncos fans can relax a bit knowing that Lynch has already shown flashes of his potential.