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What more can Chad Kelly do to earn the backup job? Vance Joseph weighs in

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 21, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Chad Kelly is the Denver Broncos’ backup quarterback.

Right now, that is.

That’s been the dialogue from head coach Vance Joseph and John Elway from the moment Kelly got the bump from third-string to backup two days after the team’s first preseason game.

“Right now, he’s our backup, so I can’t speak for two weeks down the road here,” Joseph said, after Kelly was highly impressive in game action for a second-straight week Saturday night. “But right now, he’s our backup quarterback.”

Compound the fact that Kelly was Mr. Irrelevant—aka the last pick in the entire draft—in 2017 and made his NFL debut just a matter of weeks ago—after spending his entire rookie season on the injured reserve—and it’s understandable why the Broncos’ brass wants to see more from Kelly before they anoint him as the permanent backup and forgo the idea of adding a veteran.

So, the natural question that arises after all of this is, well, what can the second-year quarterback do to prove to Elway and Joseph that he can be their backup for the regular season.

“I can’t say what more he can do,” Joseph said on Tuesday. “So far, he’s doing a great job… Obviously, we’ve got two more games, so continue to play well.”

If it’s that easy, Kelly shouldn’t change a thing.

In his two preseason games, the 24-year-old quarterback has gone 21-for-30 with 267 passing yards to go along with three touchdowns to only one interception for a passer rating well over 100. That was all done in less than four quarters of play, too.

Elway said the “key thing” he looks for in a backup quarterback is “somebody that can win football games.”

Well, again, so far through the first two preseason games, there’s been no question who the winningest quarterback on the roster has been as Kelly has led his units to 24 points, while Case Keenum’s squads have 11 and Paxton Lynch’s have seven.

“The chief job of a backup QB is he’s got to be ready at a moments notice, and he’s got to be ready with minimal preparation, especially with us being a first-year system, first-year QB—our backup isn’t going to get a lot of practice plays,” offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave said after Tuesday’s practice.

“[The backup quarterback is] going to have to be ready to go in and have the offense continue to click along even when he doesn’t get a fair share of reps.”

Kelly’s had no problem with that task coming off the bench during the preseason.

During Tuesday’s practice, Joseph’s actions were telling as there was a period when Kelly wasn’t running with the twos. He was working with the first-team unit.

“It’s good work for him, but it’s really card team. It’s really versus Washington’s defense, but that’s always good to be in that huddle with Matt Paradis, D.T. and those guys because it could happen,” Joseph said, explaining why Kelly was getting first-team reps.

“As the backup quarterback, you’re one play away from being the starter. That’s always good reps for him to be in the huddle with those players.”

If the Broncos do go a different direction and bring in a veteran quarterback, one name they’ve been tied to is the New York Jets’ third-string quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. On Tuesday, Joseph shut that idea down, saying the rumored interest between the two was news to him.

That, once again, brings all of the attention to No. 6 and what he can possibly do to win the job.

“Things do change in this league, but right now he’s our backup quarterback, and he’s done a fine job for us,” Joseph stated.

There’s that phrase again, “right now.”

“He’s been really competitive, he’s played fast, he’s played with confidence, and he’s moved the ball,” the head coach said, voicing his support for Kelly again on Tuesday. “What more can you ask from a player? Our thought is always you earn your job on the field. He’s doing that, so kudos to Chad.”

What more can the kid do? It appears not even the Broncos know.

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