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Broncos Film Room: Analyzing Paxton Lynch's growing pains

Andre Simone Avatar
December 7, 2016


As has been the tradition for Broncos Film Room all along, we’ve tracked Paxton Lynch’s development every step of the way. Meaning that we fully understand the offense he came from in college and his strengths and weaknesses as a quarterback.

We’re also well aware that this is only Paxton’s second full start in the NFL (third appearance overall) and that he was facing a pretty good defense. So with all that taken into account, we decided to revisit the rookie’s performance in Jacksonville against the Jaguars this past Sunday, to see what went wrong and how concerned we should be as it relates to his development.


Lynch got going by passing on the run as he completed his first pass of the game to Demaryius Thomas on a bootleg play action getting out to the left and firing an accurate pass, with good ball placement.


His athleticism is clearly visible in his ability to stretch the field horizontally with his legs on bootlegs or other plays that stretch defenses out. It’s a perfect example of how stretch plays with bootleg action can work with Lynch not to mention his upside in Gary Kubiak’s offense. The movement on the play gets everyone moving right while Lynch can get out and throw on the run to the left on the other perimeter. There was an obvious point of emphasis in this game with Lynch being used often on play-action bootlegs trying to take advantage of his ability to throw on the run and the problems he creates for defenses who have to respect his running ability as well.

Lynch, who’s potential as a runner with his size is tantalizing, had a few scrambles, was able to avoid pressure this way but didn’t have any truly notable scampers with his legs.

Ball placement deep

As we just mentioned, there were quite a few occasions in which Lynch was used in play action bootlegs and on several of these occasions he had big play opportunities to hit one of his star receivers deep. Throwing the ball deep on the run or from awkward platforms has always been the young signal caller’s bread and butter.

We tracked three separate instances on play action in which Paxton had a man going long but for a series of reasons wasn’t able to complete the big play.

First, he had a great opportunity with Demaryius Thomas down the right sideline. Thomas had beaten his man by a step—at least—and Lynch was able to get out on the edge quickly enough to set his feet. He simply missed the deep throw and a great opportunity for a big play and potentially a touchdown.


Lynch then missed Sanders another two times on similar type plays. Once on play action, but this time within the pocket and he simply threw an inaccurate pass that was too back-loaded with his footing. The bigger miss was on a pass to the end zone on a bootleg to the left side; the young rookie sets his feet and lets it fly with Sanders having gained inside positioning on his opponent, but the ball placement is way off, Lynch just flung the pass, and it should have been intercepted.


While none of those passes were easy, beating single coverage deep while passing on the run or in motion—at least outside the pocket—is what makes the former first-round pick’s upside so enticing. Having studied enough tape of him in college I can say that there shouldn’t be panic about these misses, these are correctable issues for the young passer. If he just completes two or three of those throws we’re talking about a much different game, so while this might be the most disappointing part of his performance huge improvements should be expected.

Limiting negative plays

This is a perfect place to transition after mentioning Lynch’s barely missed interception deep to Sanders. But outside of that one play, Lynch played a clean game, all things considered.

On the above-mentioned deep balls, he threw inaccurately but out of harm’s way. His ball security was on point, with his release seeming quick while having pressure surrounding him. On the two sacks he suffered, he was able to scramble out of and limit the damage allowing only two negative yards. Considering this is a rookie on the road against a top-ten NFL defense, I’d say that’s a pretty good performance in the limiting turnovers department.

Brock Osweiler’s biggest strength as a backup when initially starting was in limiting turnovers and taking what the defense gave him. Lynch managed to do the former now he has to be better in doing the latter.

Under pressure

Paxton was under pressure often and since it’s the dang NFL no one should be feeling bad for the kid. Add the fact that these are the 2016 Broncos and you know that pressure is just part of the job.

Lynch had to stand tough in the pocket, elude pressure and navigate through traffic, while also making on point pre-snap decisions particularly when it comes to reading oncoming blitzes. That’s a tall task to give a rookie, which is why the position is so hard to adjust to at this level, and Paxton struggled in some of those areas.

No. 12 was especially affected by the Jaguars blitzing, something that he wasn’t always reading pre-snap. He’ll find out with more reps that pre-snap reads are much more important than being able to run away from or break oncoming tacklers.

Mental game aside, his footwork within the pocket while navigating traffic remains a work in progress, though we’ve noticed improvements since the preseason. To his credit, Lynch managed to get the ball out quickly with pressure or to extend plays with his legs avoiding negative plays.

Accuracy in the short game

One of the more pleasant surprises in his transition from the college ranks to the pros has been in Paxton’s accuracy in the short to intermediate game.

Against the Jaguars, that wasn’t so true as his ball placement and accuracy was erratic early on, and he struggled with squeezing tight window throws on crucial third downs most of the day. In a stretch from the end of the first quarter through the end of the second quarter, Lynch was fairly accurate in the short game while also showing some anticipation and on point ball placement. This led to the majority of the Broncos points.

This was another area where the rookie showed glimpses of his talent but not at the levels that we’ve seen him in the past. The rookie had an opportunity at the end of the second quarter to hit Thomas over the middle and had he lead his target, DT could have taken the pass to the house. Instead, the pass was low forcing No. 88 to lay out for a tough catch that led to a field goal. A perfect example of how the placement on passes was off leaving opportunities on the table.

Aside from that, he did miss a few reads which were there. One 3rd-and-2 stood out in particular in the first quarter; the play is designed as a dump off to the running back in the flats but that route was covered. At that point, Paxton managed to buy some time with his legs and threw a high-arching pass to Virgil Green that led him almost to perfection but was incomplete.

When you watch the play live, it looks like Lynch makes a great play, but he had a target in the opposite flats that was wide open and would have almost certainly earned a first down. Being able to quickly identify coverage and make a quick decision once your first read is covered is essential, Paxton is still in the mentality of trying to make a big play on his own instead of taking what the defense gives him. A curable but important quality in a QB that the young prospect will have to work on.


When it comes down to it, Lynch looked like a rookie on Sunday in Florida more than he has in any other game. He had opportunities to show off his powerful arm and missed them, though fans can take solace in him reading the right play and getting into position to complete them, his passing was just off.

In only three games—at maybe the toughest position in all of sports—we’re far from ready to give up on Paxton’s upside or even to say that Siemian is the future, far from it.

This is one game, one growing pain from a young and extremely talented player, the book on Lynch is not ready to hit the shelves. Sunday was merely a footnote in that book, not even a chapter or a paragraph. It’s up to No. 12 to get the rising action headed in the right direction next time around.

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