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Fourteen takeaways from the first OTA: Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch and more

Posted May 24, 2016

Updates on the QBs, the status of O-linemen Russell Okung and Ty Sambrailo, good days for Derek Wolfe and Kapri Bibbs and much more are in Tuesday's takeaways.

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- It's time to turn the page.

The Lombardi Trophy and gold "5" and "0" presented to the Broncos for their Super Bowl 50 win over the Carolina Panthers won't lose their luster, not for a long time. The ring ceremony and visit to the White House are still yet to come.

But as the 2016 edition of the Broncos put on helmets for the first time Tuesday, Head Coach Gary Kubiak had a simple message: Last year is done. The moment is over.

"That's the first thing we put on -- that 2015 is over. We're just going to move on," C.J. Anderson said.

"Kubes said it this morning: We've got 42 new faces on this football team. Let's go give those 42 people the experience of trying to win a championship -- what it takes and what it means to sacrifice of things that you love to do to go win a championship.

"That was our goal last year, and that panned out, and that's our goal this year."

But first, there are matters that must be settled -- starting with the quarterback situation, and what's where the takeaways from the first OTA session begin.

Mark Sanchez, Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch


Mark Sanchez was the first quarterback up during the individual and seven-on-seven periods in which he participated.

Trevor Siemian was the first quarterback up ahead of Paxton Lynch during the team period, but Lynch also saw a handful of work with the first team as they alternated bursts of work, with each player taking three snaps.

"It'll be very competitive for all of them," Kubiak said. "Rep-wise, we'll probably be right down the middle with all of them."

But Kubiak added that he expected Lynch to get "a ton" of work.

"[That is] because I'm going to work our young guys more than I work the rest of the team when it's all said and done," Kubiak said. "There are going to be plenty of reps to go around."


The cast on his thumb and left wrist did not prevent him from throwing, but it did keep him from taking snaps, which left the work in the team periods to Lynch and Siemian.

The work Sanchez did in individual and seven-on-seven periods was a pleasant surprise to many.

"They told us 10 days to two weeks before he could take a snap, so we knew he was going to do something, and he probably actually did more than we thought," Kubiak said.

It came as no surprise to the quarterback himself, but he wanted more.

"If it was up to me, I'd be going right now," Sanchez said. "We'll keep pushing it, but at the right pace."

But on May 24, it was important for Sanchez to be "really smart" about his recovery and not risk aggravation and a delayed recovery.

"It's no big deal," he said. "We'll just take it week to week and hopefully I will be ready to go next week."

Kubiak concurred.

"Hopefully we get a good week out of him this week with the seven-on-seven and those type of things, and then next week, hopefully he's full go," he said.

Mark Sanchez


Inside linebacker Corey Nelson intercepted Sanchez on the second play of the seven-on-seven period when the quarterback tried to complete a short pass across the middle.

But after an incompletion on the next series, Sanchez rebounded in his subsequent seven-on-seven repetitions, completing five of his final six passes -- with the incompletion being nullified by a defensive holding penalty.

"The most important thing today: You just get as many completions as you can, and see how guys move, start to learn your receivers and your personnel, your tight ends, your running backs, understand how guys are moving around, what kind of chemistry we're going to have," Sanchez said.

The classroom work and on-field work of the previous two phases of the offseason program could only take Sanchez so far.

"It's one thing in the classroom to say, 'Oh, yeah, here's my read, here's who I'm looking at,' and now you've got to put it all together on the field," Sanchez said. "I thought we did a good job of that today and had a heck of a start."

Trevor Siemian


When practice ended, Kubiak clearly wanted to talk about the second-year quarterback.

"That's a great question," Kubiak said when asked about Siemian's progress from last year to now.

"Not many guys are asking about him, but I'm really excited about Trevor. He's got a chance to be a really good player. He knows exactly what he's doing."

His teammates can see it.

"He has maturity to him," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "He's kind of the sleeper, I would say. Of course Mark and Paxton are going to be the headliners, but Trevor, he knows the offense, and he's very comfortable and he can throw the ball, too -- and we've also seen him make big plays in the preseason games under the lights.

"I wouldn't sleep on Trevor winning the job, either.

His footwork was more consistent. He didn't try to force the football into traffic; he comfortably took the checkdown when it was there and moved on to the next play. He also looked comfortable on the playaction bootleg, twice executing it successfully.

"I'm light years ahead of where I was last year," Siemian said. "I've still got a lot of work to do, but I feel pretty confident."

Paxton Lynch


Lynch also saw some work with the No. 1 offense -- and against the No. 1 defense -- during the team period, and although he misfired on a deep pass to Demaryius Thomas, the work was encouraging.

But the defense will throw more at him.

"I thought he looked good," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "He still has some things to process a little bit faster. We were very vanilla; everything's very vanilla. Everything will turn up as OTAs go on. But for the first day, coming out against us, I think he did a great job."

The first thing you noticed about Lynch on Tuesday was his arm strength. One pass after another zoomed through his hands, hitting the receivers with a thwack that echoed throughout the fields.

Making Lynch's zip more impressive was that he maintained his velocity and accuracy despite breezes that gusted over 20 miles per hour. He located Henry Krieger Coble and Khalif Raymond deep down the seam for long receptions in the seven-on-seven period.

Lynch later hit Jordan Taylor up the left sideline for a 50-yard touchdown.

Jordan Taylor

That deep strike to Taylor was perfect; he led him as he neared the goal line, and the receiver did not have to shorten his stride.

Taylor then bobbled the ball three times before hauling it in to beat rookie John Tidwell, leading to an exuberant moment for the first-round pick.

"He did the same thing that he did in college; he makes a play downfield and then he takes off chasing," Kubiak said, smiling.

But there is work to do. Lynch continues to adjust to being under center, and refinement of his footwork will "take some time," Kubiak said.

"Footwork, you want it to be where you don't think about it. He's having to think about it right now, because he hasn't done it," Kubiak said. "But boy, he's made a lot of ground up since we got him."

Lynch also moved the offense into field-goal range during the lone move-the-ball period of practice, although the clock was not running.

There was also one play where Lynch showed his vision and ability to quickly adapt: a pass in the flat to Manasseh Garner. Lynch went through his progressions and then quickly spotted Garner open thanks to a mistake in coverage. He adapted and fired a strike to Garner.

Quickly taking what the defense gives him will help Lynch as he adjusts to the pro game.


Neither Russell Okung nor Ty Sambrailo took part in the team periods as they worked their way back from shoulder and labrum surgeries, respectively, leaving work to returning backups Sam Brenner and Michael Schofield.

"We've got a lot of good competition," Kubiak said. "We've got three or four guys that can play center and guard."

Sambrailo will participate in everything but the team-period work this week, but is "pretty close" to doing more work, Kubiak said. As expected, he was working at guard when he was on the field.

"I think if we lined up today with our perfect five, the way we think, then Ty would go inside," Kubiak said. "But we are unhealthy at some spots. We'll probably work him at both [guard and tackle] once we turn him loose to go with the team."

Okung will work in individual periods and the walk-through sessions. The projected left tackle is not expected to see any team-period repetitions during OTAs.


Kubiak said he's emphasizing walk-through work this week so he can involve all of the injured players in as much work as possible.

Those players include Okung, Sambrailo, defensive ends Adam Gotsis (ACL) and Kenny Anunike (knee), running back Devontae Booker (meniscus) and tight end Virgil Green (finger).


With Green expected to miss most of OTAs following finger surgery, Jeff Heuerman, Garrett Graham, Henry Krieger Coble and Manasseh Garner will see extensive work.

Krieger Coble and Garner each had long gains, but the focus was on Heuerman. In effect, this was his first practice as a pro; he only made it through two days of rookie minicamp last year before he tore his ACL.

"Now it's time for the football stuff. This will be a big month for Jeff," Kubiak said. "Let's see. In a lot of ways, he's a first-year player, so you don't want to put too much pressure on him. I think he'll do that himself, because he's very competitive."

Heuerman did make nice plays in his first practice against an opposing defense since he tore his ACL at rookie minicamp in May 2015. One of them came on a catch from Sieman as the quarterback rolled out. Heuerman found a gap in between two defenders, and Siemian placed the ball perfectly.

"Now it's time for the football stuff. This will be a big month for Jeff," Kubiak said. "Let's see. In a lot of ways, he's a first-year player, so you don't want to put too much pressure on him. I think he'll do that himself, because he's very competitive."


Non-contact work isn't going to reveal everything for players in the trenches, but Wolfe brought regular-season energy and intensity to his work, consistently bursting into the backfield.

If anything, Wolfe looked quicker than he was during last year's postseason, when he earned his contract extension by posting 2.5 sacks.


In addition to sixth-round pick Andy Janovich, third-year veteran Juwan Thompson is also in the mix at fullback, receiving some snaps there during Tuesday's practice.

This isn't the first time the Broncos have experimented with the 225-pounder at fullback. In the last two seasons, he's shown his blocking skills when asked to protect the passer, and has dealt with larger opponents in one-on-one battles on special teams.

But in a crowded backfield, Thompson's ability to play two positions and handle multiple special-teams roles could be crucial to snatching a roster spot.


After two years spent mostly on the practice squad, Bibbs has no time to waste; if he is to claim a place in the Broncos' long-term plans, he needs an outstanding offseason and camp.

He got off to a good start Tuesday, ripping off multiple runs by reading the developing blocks perfectly and hitting the hole before it closed.

Bibbs' familiarity with zone-blocking based schemes from his Colorado State days gives him a leg up, but he wasn't able to capitalize on that last year.

He needs more days like the one he had Tuesday. If not, it will be difficult for him to take that next step forward, since by the third training camp, a player is usually at the move-up-or-move-out fork in the road.

So far, so good.

"It was obvious today that Kapri is a different player than the one I had last year -- and we told him he needed to be," Kubiak said. "So he's answered that challenge."


DeMarcus Ware was at the UCHealth Training Center on Tuesday, but was held out of practice because of a back issue.

Ware's absence was precautionary in nature, but with Von Miller still absent, left the outside linebacking chores to Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett.

“His back is bothering him a little bit, but I would tell you it’s probably more preventative than anything," Kubiak said. "He’s going to be a day-to-day participant. I’m going to have about 10 guys that are going to go every other day. We’ll probably make decisions on DeMarcus day to day on how he’s feeling."


Eastern Washington offensive lineman Adam Neary, Oregon wide receiver Bralon Addison and Oregon State defensive lineman Kyle Peko were not at practice, and aside from the mandatory minicamp, will not be eligible to practice until after the spring terms at their schools end.

"They can't be here. There's nothing they can do," Kubiak said. "It's really sad. I think a lot of people have spoken up on their behalf, that they should have an opportunity to get here, but those three guys are caught in their [academic calendars]."

All three attended universities that use the quarter system, which means spring commencement does not take place until June. NFL rules prohibit players from taking part in offseason work (other than rookie minicamp and the mandatory minicamp) until the spring terms end.

"They're going to miss out on everything," Kubiak said. "It's unfortunate. We're kind of having to coach them long-distance. It's going to be their job to get ready and come in here and be ready to compete."


Low-contact work usually favors the offense, but there was particularly impressive work from targets like Taylor, Krieger Coble and rookie wide receiver Khalif Raymond, who was one of the players handling punt returns.

On offense, Raymond displayed a knack for plucking Lynch's passes; he did a good job getting up, catching with his hands -- not his body -- and stopping the passes. He also displayed an ability to make plays in traffic, playing much bigger than his 5-foot-9, 163-pound frame.