ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Vance Joseph has a non-traditional quarterback on his hands, so conventional wisdom has been shunted aside in Denver along with two veteran QBs.
A six-game skid convinced the Broncos (3-7) to make major changes to their wheezing offense.
Joseph fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy and replaced him with Bill Musgrave, with orders to simplify the game plans because he was also promoting Paxton Lynch over Brock Osweiler, who had taken over from Trevor Siemian three weeks ago.
“Don’t try to be a pocket passer,” Joseph told Lynch.
That advice is the antithesis of what QBs usually hear from coaches across the NFL, where they’re told they have to be a pocket passer — or quickly become one — to preserve their health, their employer’s investment and their coaches’ sanity.
What the Broncos are doing, though, as they prepare to visit Oakland (4-6) on Sunday, is tailoring their offense to fit their new quarterback’s strengths.
“We always do,” Joseph said. “Every game plan we have for our quarterbacks is different. It was different for Trevor, different for Brock and now it’s different for Paxton.”
“It’s going to be his third NFL start. It won’t be perfect, but again, we have to coach him to the point where he can be efficient with the offense. That’s what we’re doing,” Joseph said. “Running the football is always a must for a young quarterback. And giving him a chance to have some easy completions, that’s also a must for young quarterbacks.”
At 244 pounds and 6-foot-7, Lynch isn’t as stocky as Cam Newton (6-5, 245) but the Broncos hope he can add another dimension to their ground game like Carolina’s star quarterback does.
“I’m looking forward to watching him play because he can run around. His skill set is perfect when you’re young,” Joseph said. “If it breaks down, he can run with the football. I told him, ‘Just play. Don’t try to be a pocket passer. We call a play and it’s not there, take off and run.’ That’s one of his strengths, so I’m looking forward to watching him play on Sunday.”
General manager John Elway, who used to tell Tim Tebow he’d have to learn to be a pocket passer to survive in this league, moved up in the first round of the 2016 draft to select Lynch with the 26th pick out of Memphis.
His propensity to tuck the ball and run with it rather than progressing through his reads didn’t do him any favors when he lost out to seventh-rounder Siemian two straight summers. Now it’s seen as a strength, even though he sprained his throwing shoulder while running in a preseason game against the Packers, which sidelined him for the first two months of the season.
Lynch said he’s healed and the injury won’t make him hesitant to run.
Despite his strong arm, his legs might be his best attribute as he tries to keep Elway from embarking on yet another offseason search for a quarterback with a strong draft class and intriguing group of free agents available.
“I think that makes me feel a lot better about myself that the coaches have the trust in me to take care of the football when I’m running with it and throwing it,” Lynch said. “I’m just going to use my instincts, and if I feel like the pocket is collapsing and I need to take the ball down and run, then I will.”
FIGHTING SPIRIT: A day after getting into a dustup with rookie receiver Isaiah McKenzie at practice, cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said, “I just come to play football and it’s a respect thing. You always respect the vets.”
There was also a scuffle between backup linemen, but the Broncos said the agitation wasn’t a sign the team is fractured like last year, when cornerback Aqib Talib shouted down left tackle Russell Okung after a 16-3 loss to New England.
“That was my first time experiencing that kind of practice on Thanksgiving, but that speaks to our guys wanting to win and how hard they’ve worked,” Joseph said. “It was fun to see in my opinion.”
Notes: NT Domata Peko was sent home sick Friday “but he should be fine for the ballgame,” Joseph said. … The Broncos waived DB Lorenzo Doss on Thanksgiving after his latest tardy arrival at a team meeting. Joseph said he probably wouldn’t replace him until next week.
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