ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — The preseason finale can certainly be a tense time for players with something to prove, but the man known as “Swag” plans on it being anything but.
Instead, backup quarterback Chad Kelly says he’ll be approaching it with the kind of freewheeling and energetic personality that he’s exuded ever since bursting onto the national scene during his college days at Mississippi — especially because he’ll get the start as first-teamer Case Keenum rests with the other players at the top of the depth chart.
“Go out and have fun,” Kelly said. “It’s the last preseason game. Lay it all on the line and go out there and have fun with those guys. That’s what it’s all about.”
However, that doesn’t mean he’s treated the week of preparation with any less zest or scrutiny than usual.
“I think you’ve still got to approach it like every game,” Kelly said. “Whether you’re the backup or the starter, you’ve got to prepare as hard as you can and keep on getting better each and every day. It’s going to feel fun to go out there and let it loose right away. You don’t have to sit around and wait; you’ve got to go out there and perform right away.”
There’s still quite the opportunity ahead of Kelly in this game. He can further solidify his spot on the roster as the No. 2 quarterback after being named the backup on Aug. 13 following the preseason opener.
But the second-year quarterback, who says he feels more comfortable in the offense with each rep he receives, views it as more than just an opportunity to do that.
“I’m looking at it to get better,” Kelly said. “I get to go out there, first series of the whole game, and go out there and prove myself. I think a lot of those guys in that locker room know this is the last preseason game and we have a lot to prove. And guys are fighting. Guys are fighting not only to be on this team, but other teams as well. This is the last interview you have before the regular season starts and they break it down to 53 men.”
Through three games, Kelly has shown to be a reliable passer with 340 yards, three touchdowns and one interception on 28-of-41 passing. And while he’d love to play impeccably with great stats in his final preseason game, the numbers that will matter most to him are the ones next to the team names when the clock hits all zeroes.
“Every quarterback wants to be perfect,” Kelly said. “You go out there to try to score points. You go out there to have fun. You don’t want to turn the ball over, and at the end of the day, the most [important thing] is winning. This last game, we had the most fun with all the guys because we went home winning.”
The preseason finale also holds plenty in the balance for third-stringer Paxton Lynch, who wants to perform to the level he knows he can.
“I’ve gone through some things, I’ve struggled, I haven’t played well at times, and at times I have played well,” Lynch said. “I’ve just got to find that consistency and constantly play well, and I know I can get there.”
In the third preseason game, Lynch took the field for the Broncos’ only drive in the fourth quarter, leading them to a field goal after starting the possession from their own 8-yard line. Lynch completed three of his seven passes, but each went for a first down before the drive stalled at the Washington 16.
“I felt good,” Lynch said. “I only got one drive there at the end. We were backed up, but we did a good job of getting the ball out of our own end zone and moving down the field and kicking a field goal.”
When conversation turned toward Thursday’s game, Lynch’s perspective mirrored Kelly’s in that he also wants to put an emphasis on having fun, leading successful drives and finishing the game with a win.
And though he knows his performance in the preseason hasn’t been up to his own expectations so far, he’s striving to prove he can overcome his struggles.
“I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do with the hand that’s been dealt to me, and that’s what I’m doing,” Lynch said. “I’m working my tail off.”
A day before heading to Phoenix, the Broncos took the practice field to continue to sharpen their skills and prove their worth before the final preseason game.