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With the Denver Broncos offseason quarterback competition, we used Broncos Film Room as a vehicle to give you an in-depth look at the candidates for the job. With the regular season underway, we’ve decided to focus on a few other things. But after Sunday’s game, it’s time to look at Trevor Siemian’s big day against the Cincinnati Bengals, in his first away game nonetheless.
After a slow start, Siemian turned things up when it mattered most.
His game was far from perfect, but overall he had a fine showing. Here’s what we found.
Siemian had issues with his accuracy and in particular his ball placement for most of the game, right until he exploded in the fourth quarter. He sailed passes high and was under-throwing targets in the short to intermediate. His ball placement was simply lacking the same sort of precision that he’s shown when at his best in the preseason and training camp. Young quarterbacks have issues with this, in that they’re not anticipating the play or route, though Siemian’s issue seemed more accuracy-related. He was seeing the route and getting the ball out on time but just throwing behind his guys. With experience and more comfort in the intricacies of timing with an NFL attack, those things will come around.
If there’s a true weakness in this game, it was Siemian’s ball placement. He was far too often throwing behind receivers, with even his two long touchdowns being under-thrown.
This isn’t to say he was completely inaccurate, just inconsistent. Siemian made a few impressive tight window throws, and you could see that he’s become more aware of when to lead a receiver and when to put the ball on the numbers, to avoid endangering his guys.
As the game went on, Siemian’s ability to lead receivers in the short to intermediate game began to pick up, and he was able to carve up essential first downs.
The almost interceptions: Siemian had two very close calls on plays that should have been intercepted. They both came on the same drive, with little less than five minutes left in the half. First was a tipped throw that sailed up into the air, almost like a punt, the Broncos were lucky to not have it intercepted. The other came on a bootleg to the left, where Siemian, again, threw behind tight end Jordan Phillips and right to a waiting defender who dropped it.
A major issue the Broncos upstart QB has had in his early career is not reading defenders on screens. He had a similar situation on Sunday with the defensive end reading the play to perfection, standing right into his passing lane. Instead of attempting a dangerous throw, he pump-faked, saw there was nowhere to go and took off to run. While the play was for no gain, Siemian’s awareness and decision making stood out as a real positive in this situation.
The Red Zone: Siemian’s first trip down in the red zone did not go well, as he missed two passes and had to settle for a field goal. Both throws were on the run and inaccurate.
After that, Siemian came through at the end of the half with a good drive that he finished off with a quickly delivered fireball to the sideline and into the hands of Emmanuel Sanders, giving the Broncos the all-important red-zone touchdown.
He then drove his guys down to the red zone again, and on play action delivered a timely and accurate pass to tight end John Phillips, capping off a masterful drive to start the fourth quarter.
17 points on three trips to the red zone is pretty good, especially considering the quality of the Bengals defense and lack of a run game.
Killing them with that quick release: Siemian had a couple tipped passes this game, but he was also able to get the ball out of his hands incredibly fast. Watch as he delivers some fire right past the outstretched arms of the linemen and corner to get the touchdown at the end of the half.
Another thing that stood out is how compact Siemian’s delivery is. There’s little excess or wasted motion in his delivery, making it very sound. By being so compact and close to his body, his throwing motion is rarely tipped when arms are stretched out in the pocket. Of all his skills, his release might be the most special and rare trait he possesses. You can teach good mechanics, but his compact and ultra-quick delivery make him deceivingly powerful when he has to rip one.
Footwork: Part of Trevor’s accuracy issues came when under duress in the pocket. He’s very savvy and accurate in getting out of the pocket to throw on the run, but there are times where even Mr. Cool is shuffling around and moving in the pocket with pressure bearing down as he tries to find a patch to set his feet on. Because of this, he let a few passes sail high and rushed a few throws, in turn under-throwing his targets.
That said, I’ve always been most impressed by Siemian’s footwork, and that trend continued in Sunday’s game against the Bengals. Just watch what he’s doing with his feet on the two deep bombs he had.
He knows exactly where he’s going, reads the pressure, side steps in the direction he wants, and lets it fly. His footwork is impressive if he has the slightest time to get set and go through his progressions.
Doing it with his legs: Siemian has shown his mobility and sneaky athleticism since the Broncos quarterback competition began. This continued on Sunday as he picked up a short third down on a broken play with his legs, and was also impressive with a few throws on the run.
One play, in particular, stood out: On a 1st-and-20 Siemian bought time by running out to his right and danced around just enough for Devontae Booker to get open and pick up 18 yards. He’s not an elite NFL quarterback on the run, but as a scrambler, his feet and athleticism allow him to make some important plays.
Toughness: Everyone talks about how cool and collected Siemian is. Teammates have talked about his confidence, but rarely do we talk about the guy’s toughness. Early on, the Northwestern product took some big blows, some that weren’t even legal. Every single time he popped back up like it was nothing.
Siemian, more importantly, is rarely affected by oncoming pressure and seems much more aware of reading pressure. He doesn’t hold back; his footwork isn’t affected by skittish feet with pressure bearing down on him.
Showing up in the clutch
Third-down efficiency: What matters most with any quarterback, regardless of experience, is how they play on third down.
Here’s a smattering of the big third-down moments Siemian had in the game:
- Throws a duck on 3rd-and-goal, Denver has to settle for three points on their second offensive drive.
- 3rd-and-5 in the very beginning of the 2nd quarter, Siemian goes deep to Sanders for a 41-yard touchdown.
- 3rd-and-7 in the fourth quarter, right after Demaryius Thomas is called for a false start penalty that backed the offense up 5 yards, Siemian goes to his big target and gets the conversion on a comeback route.
- 3rd-and-11, Siemian goes for the jugular, airs it out to DT in single coverage for a 55-yard TD.
Some of the biggest plays of the game came on third down, and Siemian delivered most if not all those plays.
Fourth-quarter magic: Siemian’s accuracy began to come alive in the fourth quarter after he and the offense sat on the shelf for the majority of the third. He began by quickly completing some underneath patterns to get into 2nd-and-short situations. Though his moment of truth came on 2nd-and-13 after taking a sack from his blind side: Cool as a cucumber, Siemian squeezed a pass right to Sanders in between double coverage. Siemian’s ball placement was perfect, throwing the pass right between the one and zero on Sanders’ jersey, allowing him to back into extra yardage, rather than stretching out to make the catch and taking a big shot.
Siemian again faced adversity as Demaryius Thomas was flagged for a false start, transforming 3rd-and-2 into 3rd-and-7. Unfazed, Siemian went right back to the flagged receiver and allowed him to make a play with another accurate throw on a comeback route, allowing DT to pick up extra yardage in the process. This put the Broncos in the driver seat as they’d soon score after the play.
Siemian got rolling in the final quarter, going through a stretch completing eight passes in a row. At the end of it all, the Denver QB completed 9-of-10 passes, for 159 yards, and two touchdowns in the final quarter with the Broncos down one as it began.
The rest of Siemian’s game, statistically speaking, wasn’t all that impressive; 56-percent completions, 153 yards, and the two other touchdowns. But those two drives in the fourth were something to behold. If the kid becomes a real name in the NFL, we’ll remember that final quarter as the time when Siemian made himself known to the world.