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Broncos Film Room: The Rise of Paxton Lynch

Andre Simone Avatar
June 3, 2016

 

Welcome to the first edition of our Broncos offseason film study, in which we’ll take an in-depth look at some of the big contenders for open positions in OTAs and throughout training camp. First off, we’ll start with the quarterbacks, what better place to start than the newly minted first-round signal caller with the hopes of the city and franchise on his shoulders, Paxton Lynch.

This isn’t your typical scouting report, we’re going in-depth for you here and, for Paxton, we’re going to do it in two parts. I’ve watched every running and passing play of Lynch’s in 14 games, three from the 2014 season and 11 of 13 games in 2015.

In this first part, we’ll analyze Lynch’s progression from 2014 (in which he was used a few more times under center) to a bonafide star in 2015, up until Week 9. To this point Lynch was considered by many to be the top quarterback in the class and a potential top pick in the draft, what happened in the last four weeks to change that will be looked at in part two.

Going back and watching tape was especially important for this piece, especially the 2014 tape. So much has been made of Lynch and the spread offense he played in, but Memphis’s coaches have explained that’s not entirely true. From the Denver Post  “Brad Cornelsen, the Tigers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, noted that especially in Lynch’s first two years in the program, he took direct snaps often and that even the past two years, the Tigers had goal-line and other short-yardage packages that had Lynch under center.” So I had to see for myself.

So many insights beyond what you’re looking for can come out of studying film and many will show in this analysis. For example, I found out that Lynch’s preferred big play target wasn’t new Broncos undrafted receiver Mose Frazier but rather No. 3 Anthony Miller, the diminutive speedster who’s just a sophomore.

So with this new lens and even more tape to watch of Paxton’s, here’s what we found:

Scouting Report

Pros

  • Lynch is phenomenal throwing on the run, an easy mover with impressive shake for a man his size. He ran tons of bootleg type plays where he’s throwing outside the pocket and has potential to be special in this aspect of the game (and in Kubiak’s offense).
  • He’s a dangerous scrambler when he gets outside the pocket, given his size and athleticism, defenses have to respect him as a runner on the backside.

    Lynch shows off his running ability from under-center
    Lynch shows off his running ability from under-center
  • Lynch is not afraid to gas a few passes over the middle, he has easy arm strength and stands tough in the pocket. He’s not afraid to squeeze throws into traffic or tight windows (both a blessing and a curse, he has the arm to make these throws, and he’ll be asked to do so in the NFL as well, especially when games are on the line.)
  • The timing on his passes is excellent, has tons of potential when it comes to leading his receivers (one of the most important traits in an NFL QB). Very underrated (probably by myself included) in this aspect of his game. Accuracy and ball placement showed major promise both towards the end of 2014 and in the first nine weeks of 2015.
  • Lynch is the rare quarterback that can still put high-level zip on the ball even if throwing off balance, off his back foot, on the run, while in mid-jump or other awkward throwing platforms where his body isn’t squared up or his feet aren’t set. With better fundamentals the sky is the limit for his arm and his ability to throw from different angles.
    Lynch throws an accurate pass while running and not having his feet set
    Lynch throws an accurate pass on the run

     

  • Memphis’s offense featured lots of play action and misdirection plays, as well as bootlegs to the outside. All very translatable plays to Kubiak’s offensive system.

    Lynch running a classic play-action bootleg from under center
    Lynch running a classic play-action bootleg from under center
  • Paxton’s arm strength and accuracy are especially impressive in situations in which he’s asked to throw over a defender and underneath the deep defender. Is able to squeeze the ball into these tight windows.
  • Possesses a lethally quick release. Often with quick, spread offense’s the speed with which the QB reads the play and releases the ball is ignored, Lynch’s skills made the Memphis offense as explosive as it was. The traits to release quickly and make a quick read pre-snap, or as the play unfolds, is a very translatable skill set despite the system in which he played.
  • Lynch showcases some impressive skills as a scrambler which, combined with his ability to throw accurately and with power when off balance, make him a lethal playmaker in pressure situations or when the play breaks down. Per PFF, Lynch was the most accurate quarterback of the 2016 class in pressure situations, completing 70-percent of his passes in these instances.
  • While Lynch needs to get better about starting games off slow, he’s also lead his team to several comeback wins throughout his career. He showed lots of poise in these situations and seemed to relish taking the offensive load on his shoulders.
  • Lynch also showed some clutch abilities on third downs, his ability to improvise is huge in these situations as was his ability to run and convert third and short with his feet. This won’t be a weapon the Broncos will exploit as much as Memphis did, but it will be nice for them to have a QB sneak as an option in short yardage.
  • As good as Lynch is throwing on the run, or improvising in the backfield he has tons of tape of big time throws being made while he stands tough in the pocket (very important trait when projecting to the NFL).

    Lynch unleashes his arm with pressure in his face in the pocket
    Lynch unleashes his arm with pressure in the pocket
  • Not taking snaps under center might be overrated, as Lynch was used some under center, on play-action bootlegs, and naked-bootleg runs. All plays that Kubiak uses in his playbook or has in the past even with the Broncos (we all remember Elway’s naked boot touchdown in Super Bowl XXXII).

Cons

  • Even with Lynch operating a bit more under center in 2014 (still was rare, though I haven’t had a chance to see 2013 tape) he needs more experience under center and especially with his footwork on his drops.
  • Because of Memphis’s offensive system, he’s never been in a huddle or called a play. He operated out of a fast-paced spread attack with signals from the sideline, simplifying things.
  • Lynch wasn’t given any (or close to) pre-snap responsibilities (audibles or line adjustments at Memphis), Memphis assistant head coach Darrell Dickey in an MMQB story explained, “We didn’t do a whole lot of checking at the line of scrimmage, no reading blitzes and making protection adjustments, but he’s very capable of doing that.” Dickey explained that Lynch “could give a receiver a different route, but he didn’t have the freedom to do whatever he wanted [as far as calling audibles or line adjustments].”
  • Lynch needs some work on manipulating defenses with his eyes. He often goes to his first or second read, doesn’t always go through his progressions. Will need to learn to take the check down and take the easy completions when they’re there. Likes to use the pump fake, and will look off defenders on screen passes and fakes, needs to simply develop this aspect of his game more, he’s not completely raw.
  • Especially in 2014, he was guilty of making a few too many back footed passes with pressure arriving, these often lead to turnovers or big mistakes. In 2014, he had his fair share of INT’s, most of which were off of his back foot or due to him trying to rifle the ball into a tight window.
  • Paxton will throw low at times when trying to throw in traffic to a moving target (almost as if his high release point makes some balls duck a bit low on some throws which Brock did at times). He will also sail a few passes on comeback routes when the target is sitting on a route (or not moving), needs to smooth out his footwork and mechanics.
  • Lynch was a bit of a slow starter (the entire Memphis offense was for that matter). Several games I watched he played his worst football early on and got better and more comfortable as the game progressed (both a blessing and a curse). In general, needs to be more consistent.
  • Lynch will take a few sacks as a result of him holding onto the ball too long, to try and make a play when the pocket breaks down. In college, he could get away with this and produced many more positive plays than negatives, but he’ll need to clean up this area of his game for the NFL.
  • Started forcing passes as the game wore on against Navy, threw a bad interception (had at least another pass that should have been picked), and his accuracy in addition to his decision making suffered as a result. Not just turnovers, but he forced a few passes in traffic over the middle when he had single coverage on the outside, just tried to do too much instead of just playing his game (needs to eliminate that in the NFL, that’s a great way to fail).

To summarize:

After watching this tape, it is easy to see why Lynch was so highly regarded as a quarterback prospect in the first two-thirds of the past college football season. His weaknesses are almost entirely coachable or simply related to him lacking experience.

His upside is impressive, he’s made throws that will blow your mind, and has some pretty unique physical/athletic traits. There isn’t a single limitation to Lynch’s game that he can’t learn in time. Of course, that’s the case for several QB’s who have busted in the past (think Ryan Leaf or Jamarcus Russell), just having the talent and skill set doesn’t mean anything.

The way and speed in which Lynch learns and improves his weak points will be crucial in him developing like so many Broncos fans hope.

Stay tuned for part two.

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