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Mason's Mailbag: Season-opening expectations

Posted Sep 10, 2017

Prognosticators might not like the Broncos' chances, but those predictions don't mean much.

You can tweet questions to me with the hashtag #AskMase or use the submission form to your right (if you're viewing on a standard browser) or at the bottom of the page if you're on the mobile site.

I've heard that some coaches prefer being on the sideline versus the box upstairs. What are the pros and cons to each decision?

-- Jordan Brantley

The pros of being upstairs involve being able to see the plays better as they happen; you see the alignments and movements in real time. The cons are that you lose all face-to-face communication with players during games, with the exception of halftime.

Offensive Coordinator Mike McCoy opted to call plays from the sideline this year. On Aug. 8, he explained his reasoning:

"One year I was [upstairs in the coaches' booth] and I didn’t like it. I prefer to be down on the field just to be involved in everything when the players come in.

"I like to interact with all of the players; you can look in their eyes sometimes if you’re struggling as an offense or something, or you have someone like [former guard] Chris Kuper back in the day who’s always coming saying, ‘Hey, I flat-out whiffed, call it again’ -- things like that. Really kind of let them know first-hand what the start of the series is going to be, possibly what we might do in the red area and really just interacting with the players the entire game."

Many are picking the Broncos to finish way down on the list. They don't like our quarterbacks. They are OK, I think, but we need great. What do you think?

-- Ricky Lebsack

Every team wants a great quarterback, but there are only so many to go around. You don't just go out to the quarterback orchard and pick one off the tree. Development is involved. The Broncos got Peyton Manning in free agency, but that's rare; you usually need to either a) have a lousy season and a high draft pick or b) hit on a draft pick from the mid-first round or later and be patient, living with bumps along the way. The Broncos are in the second category with Trevor Siemian -- remember, he has just 14 career starts! He is still in the process of growing, improving and developing.

You expect Siemian to be better in his second season. You expect him to be more comfortable in his role. You expect this offense to provide more options and quicker reads. He has established himself as a locker-room leader, evidenced by the fact that his teammates voted him as one of the two offensive captains. Maybe he's not yet "great," a term I throw around with caution, but why can't he be a good quarterback right now? If his rating is in the 90s, you're talking about a good quarterback in this scheme. If the running game is improved, the defense remains elite and the special teams do well, that should be an equation for a very successful season.

From what most people have not seen, as of yet, as a loyal fan, I believe that the Broncos are way underrated, I believe that the Broncos have a very good chance of winning the AFC West, what do you think?

-- Michael Pack

I think Week 1's results served as a reminder of the challenge the Broncos face in AFC West play; the Chiefs and Raiders both got quality road wins against the Patriots and Titans, respectively. That said, as I've mentioned several times on Orange and Blue 760, I think the AFC West will be a division where the four teams beat each other up, and it would not surprise me to see all four teams finish .500 or better. The quality from top to bottom is outstanding, easily the best in the AFC, and perhaps the entire NFL.

This remains a team with the weaponry and experience to cause problems for foes. But a good start is crucial. If the Broncos open with four wins in their first five games, you should feel good about their chances to contend and be standing in January, fighting into the winter's cold as they have five times this decade.

Why did Kyle Sloter get waived? If you look stat-wise, he was doing better than the other two quarterbacks.

-- Mr. Man Jay Shah

The evaluation and potential success of quarterbacks is not just about raw stats in preseason games, particularly late in the first three games or in the entire fourth game. If it was, Thad Lewis -- who had a 104.9 quarterback rating in his first two preseasons -- would be more than just a journeyman who has been on eight teams in the last eight seasons. You must weigh competition into that. Sloter's struggles against the No. 1 defense in the last week of the preseason during practice were more indicative of how things would have gone if he'd been thrown out there in the regular season, and given the unique nature of quarterback development, you have to be careful with players at that position. Sometimes, the worst thing you can do is throw a quarterback into action too soon; that does him a disservice.

Remember this with Sloter: Thirty-one other teams passed on adding him to their 53-man roster before he became practice-squad eligible. And as President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway noted, there's a significant gap between play in the preseason and the regular season.

Everyone who came across Sloter will be rooting for his success down the line. But he wasn't going to be kept ahead of the quarterbacks the Broncos had, and with Paxton Lynch injured, he isn't a better backup option for now than Brock Osweiler, who has 21 regular-season and two postseason starts under his belt and a baseline knowledge of the scheme.

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The analysis, opinion and speculation in this story represents that of the author, gathered through research and reporting, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Denver Broncos organization.

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