Paxton Lynch won’t be in the starting lineup for the final exhibition Thursday night.
The Broncos’ No. 1 draft choice of 2016 won’t be in a backup role for the opening regular-season game on Sept. 11.
Lynch won’t be in uniform for several games.
Pax could be in limbo until the Broncos’ bye in October.
It wasn’t a good week for Paxton. First, he lost "The Duel" with Trevor Siemian. Then, he injured his throwing shoulder (right) early in the second quarter Saturday night and was taken from the game and the field, and didn’t return.
Afterward, coach Vance Joseph said X-rays of Lynch’s arm were negative, and the injury was considered "minor." However, on Monday, an MRI determined that Lynch had suffered a shoulder strain, which, a prominent team doctor in Denver told me, won’t require surgery, but will force several weeks of rest and treatment. The ligament in the right shoulder has been stretched, if not partially torn.
Lynch definitely won’t be available for the Thursday night exhibition against the Cardinals at Mile High stadium, and won’t dress for the Chargers and the Cowboys, and could miss Games 3 and 4 at Buffalo and home against the Raiders.
The Broncos’ schedule has the bye on Oct. 8.
It certainly would have been strange if Lynch had been named the starter over Siemian before getting hurt. As it was, Lynch had been beaten out decisively, although both Lynch, Broncos’ president of football operations John Elway and offensive coordinator Mike McCoy had agreed that Lynch had a "great" camp.
They were being too kind.
Lynch is not ready, and now he can’t play. The worthless exhibition with Arizona would have given him one more opportunity to learn and train before the season. Instead, he will be a bystander for a while.
There are some other problems here.
Siemian is a quarterback who has been what is known in the business as "oft-injured" himself. He tore his ACL as a senior at Northwestern, survived his rookie season with the Broncos because he never played in a real game and played hurt and in pain for many games last season, as a result of a shoulder separation in his non-throwing shoulder. He probably should have sat out more than two games, especially because the injury forced him to undergo surgery during the off-season.
What if he is injured again early this season?
Lynch and Chad Kelly can’t help. Kelly, the last pick of the draft, is coming off knee and wrist surgery, and has been slow to recover, and, in all likelihood, will experience a "redshirt" season.
So, Kyle Sloter is the Lone Quarterback Standing for Thursday night. The Broncos aren’t about to risk playing Siemian.
Actually, everyone who can hear the sound of my voice knows that Sloter, the undrafted free agent from Northern Colorado, was superior in the three exhibitions.
Of course, he was pitted against third- and fourth-string players, street free agents and scrubs and shrubs that won’t stick in the NFL. But Sloter did throw two impressive touchdown passes and looked like a professional quarterback – interesting since he started college football as a wide receiver.
Sloter’s quarterback passer rating was 140.2, compared to Siemian’s 84.5 and Lynch’s 73.3. He completed 80 percent, while Siemian was at 67.5 and Lynch 66.7.
It’s a small sample, but it’s the only sample
What happens Thursday night if Sloter is knocked out of the game or, as Joseph said after practice Monday, "has to tie his shoe" and sit out a play?
Joseph said that Siemian could be inserted at QB and hand off the ball on every play – given that the game’s outcome has no value. And the coach said that during workouts wide receiver Jordan "Sunshine" Taylor will take some snaps.
Taylor did start 19 games at quarterback for Denison (Texas) High School in 2008-2010 and threw for 2,901 yards and 33 touchdowns. He was a wide receiver at Rice, but Taylor was moved to quarterback in one game and threw a 49-yard completion.
But he’s only an emergency, much as former Broncos’ cornerback-safety Steve Foley was. Foley was drafted out of Tulane, where he was a quarterback. He always wanted to get into a game as a QB, but ended up as the Broncos’ all-time interception leader.
What do the Broncos do for the regular season? Joseph said Sloter is the backup moving forward, but admitted the front office will consider every option. Every option?
Colin Kaepernick? Robert Griffin III?
Don’t plan on it – even though Elway wanted to trade for Kaepernick before the 2016 season, and quietly pondered RGIII when he backed off a Kaepernick deal.
Speaking of Ponder, the Broncos did have Christian Ponder, a former Vikings’ starter, on the roster for a short time in 2015 when Peyton Manning was injured. But Ponder didn’t play and was released when Manning was (relatively) healthy.
Ponder is an unsigned free agent. So are Shaun Hill, Charlie Whitehurst and Zach Mettenberger, who have been starters in the league. But if the Broncos sign a veteran and he’s on the roster for the first game, his salary (approximately $1 million) would be guaranteed for the entire season.
The Broncos cut wait for the wholesale cuts of about 1,100 players on Sept. 3 and see a veteran or young quarterback they like, and add one. Luke McCown, Mark Sanchez (yes, him) and Connor Shaw could be up for grabs.
But, most important, Paxton Lynch is out, not in.