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Why the Broncos claim they aren’t concerned about their backup quarterback position

Zac Stevens Avatar
August 7, 2018

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The Denver Broncos have a quarterback.

A starting quarterback, that is.

“We have a starter, and that’s Case Keenum,” head coach Vance Joseph stated adamantly after Tuesday’s practice. “We’re pushing Paxton [Lynch], and we’re pushing Chad [Kelly] to be better quarterbacks, but Case is the starter, and he should be the starter.”

Vance is right; there’s no question Keenum should, and will, be the team’s starting quarterback for a myriad of reasons.

But the question phrased to the head coach wasn’t about their starting quarterback, it was about if he’s seen enough from the backup quarterback position.

“We need more from those guys, obviously, as far as being consistent,” Joseph stated. “I’m assuming every team in the league, with their backup, needs more consistency—except for the Eagles, probably.”

Time to panic? Time to bring in a veteran—whether via free agency or trade—to backup Keenum?

It appears not.

When pressed if the team is confident in the backup quarterback spot right now, Joseph responded, “Yeah, it’s early,” before diving into why panic hasn’t quite yet set in.

“Obviously, when you’re playing with a QB that’s not your starter, you’re doing things differently on offense,” the head coach said.

“You’re playing a different gameplan, so I am not concerned right now about that. We’ll cross that bridge when we get there, and if we have to do that, it will take all of us to help that guy play well. The gameplan, the defense, how we play that game, how we win that game, will be important. I’m not concerned right now.”

Until Keenum’s not on the field, in Joseph’s perspective, the Broncos have more to worry about than a backup position, such as getting Keenum and the first-team offense on the same page.

But once that time comes, if it does, being ready at the backup position will be key to weathering the Keenum-less storm.

Despite growing outside speculation about the team going and picking up another quarterback, Joseph said the Broncos’ backup is on their roster as Lynch and Kelly are “competing their butts off to be the [number] two” quarterback on the roster.

“He’s healthy, he can move and his strength is playmaking. He’s a playmaker,” Joseph said, talking about Kelly. “It doesn’t look clean all the time, he’s kind of moving around and scrambling off his back leg, but he does make plays. He is fearless.”

Conversely, when Joseph most recently talked about Lynch on Sunday, he talked about the third-year quarterbacks learning curve.

“He’s following him like a little puppy, which is good,” Joseph said, talking about Lynch learning from Keenum. “He needs that as a young quarterback, and he’s gotten better from that. Half of his job is between the ears, so the better he gets there, the better he’s going to play quarterback for us.”

Last season, 20 different teams turned to their backup quarterback at some point in the season. On top of that, look no further than the past three Super Bowl champions and the Broncos’ own current starting quarterback to understand the importance of the backup position.

The biggest problem a week and a half into camp is the team still doesn’t know who that quarterback will be.

On Tuesday, with the release of their first depth chart, Lynch was listed as the No. 2 quarterback and Kelly the No. 3. But Joseph said releasing the depth chart was league mandated and not necessarily an indication of how the final depth chart will look like entering the regular season.

As for what to expect in the first preseason game on Saturday night, that’s still up in the air outside of a heavy dose of backups.

“I’m not sure yet,” Joseph stated. “It’s been standard, the starters probably play max two series. After that, we’ve got to figure out what’s best for our football team.”

For now, though, the head coach has had enough backup talk.

“Case is the starter, and he should be the story.”

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