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Mark Sanchez embraces Broncos' scheme, ready to be a mentor to Paxton Lynch

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. --After seven weeks in which it appeared as if the Broncos would add an experienced quarterback to compete with Mark Sanchez, the eight-year veteran returned to the UCHealth Training Center for Phase II of the offseason program as the only quarterback on the roster to have thrown a regular-season pass.

After investing a first-round pick in Paxton Lynch, Executive Vice President/General Manager John Elway said that he would not add any other quarterbacks, preferring to see Sanchez, Lynch and second-year veteran Trevor Siemian receive the repetitions.

With no other seasoned passers aboard, the Broncos' eggs could end up being in Sanchez's basket. It was a clear vote of confidence in Sanchez's ability to potentially start this season, and he saw it that way.

"Absolutely," Sanchez said Monday afternoon. "And that's been the message that I've received. I'm thrilled about this opportunity.

"Whether it was a veteran that came in, any of the names that were out there, any of these guys in the draft that are becoming pros this year -- my focus wouldn't change. And the most important thing for me was to get involved with the players here, meet these guys, develop a relationship, learn this playbook as fast as I can, and then get involved in the community and establish myself as a leader on this team. That's going to take time and it's going to take reps, no matter who was here."

Sanchez did his part to aid the process, getting together with skill-position players in Orange County, Calif. and taking the entire offensive line out to a Rockies game on April 24. Moves like those have led to unanimous praise of his leadership qualities from teammates.

"It costs a lot of money for those compliments," he joked. "No, they've been very receptive … for them to put that thing together, sure, I led the charge, but these guys were calling each other, making sure that they were going to be there, holding each other accountable."

In recent weeks, Sanchez was in the unusual spot of having the most experience, but needing the help of Siemian, the only quarterback to return from last year's roster, to get a head start on learning the playbook.

"He came out to the camp, and has been just an impressive young guy," Sanchez said. "For a young guy going into his second year, not playing as much, he's got a good grip on the system, and really helped out in California. He's almost like a player-coach on the field -- helping me out with reads and footwork and things like that."

That helped Sanchez get up to speed for Monday, in which team-organized on-field work is allowed for the first time during the eight-week offseason program.

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"We've sure got a long way to go, and it's been one day on the field, but I really am enjoying this process. I love the concepts here," Kubiak said. "I love what Coach Kubiak has done with quarterbacks in the past; everywhere he's gone, guys with different skill sets have had success, and that's due to him and his staff and the system.

And it's a flexible system that can be tailored to the strengths of its players.

"It's one thing to say, 'Okay, it's a West Coast system.' Well, in that system, there are certain things that appeal to specific talents, and that's what you see Coach Kubiak has done," Sanchez said.

"You've got to fit the scheme to your players. Obviously you draft the players you want for your perfect scheme, but at the time, you've got to figure out, 'What do we do best?' So that's very encouraging."

When Lynch arrives, Sanchez expects to resume a more typical mentor-protege role. Handling that responsibility well is simple.

"You've got to be yourself," Sanchez said. "And if you're confident in your ability, you have no problem helping a guy -- whether it's protections, reads, footwork, anything like that.

After completing the first phase of the Offseason Program, which was limited to the weight room, the Broncos began their second phase in the fieldhouse. (Photos by Ben Swanson)

"Obviously I'll defer to Coach [Greg] Knapp on anything and everything regarding our technique and footwork and reads and all that. But if you see something, whether it's on [the] field or off the field, you just help them out as much as you can."

Sanchez cited Kellen Clemens, Kevin O'Connell and Mark Brunell as some of the quarterbacks that served as his mentors when he entered the league.

"They were all confident in their ability," Sanchez recalled, "but they had no problem grabbing me and saying, 'Hey, make sure you get to these meetings early now; you're the quarterback of the Jets. You're the guy. Get in here. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Speed up that seven-step drop -- especially on this route, especially versus this defense."

But what Sanchez can bring Lynch that others can't is the background as a fellow first-round pick.

"There's a lot on your plate. It's going to be a blur, I'm sure," Sanchez said. "Going from college to New York [in 2009] was a monster jump, and I think coming here, it will be the perfect situation for [Lynch], meaning that he's going to a great team, he'll have a veteran guy in the room, there's a lot of things that will help him along the way.

"In any situation as the first pick for a team, just keep your head down and work. That's kind of what I try to do. And watch the other guys. Find a couple of veterans that have lasted in this league and been successful in this league and just follow them around until they shoo you away."

Sanchez also knows from experience it might take time for Lynch to get comfortable if he takes the field as a rookie.

"I think I could have won an Oscar that rookie year," he recalled. "There were plays in the playoffs where you're just like, 'Oh, man; I think this is right. I'm pretty sure this is [right],' and I'm talking to [Nick] Mangold on the sideline or during the play.

"I remember specific plays where you're running right or left and you're going through the cadence and you're just like, 'All right, Nick; what do you like, buddy?' right in the middle of the game. And you see Nick [turning his head in each direction] calling everything out, and then, boom, you make the check.

"I remember against the Raiders, we scored, and I'm running off the field and everybody's like, 'Great check! Great check!' and Nick is just kind of looking at me.

"You have those moments as a rookie. You learn. It's fun."

But he and the Broncos hope this season is even more fun -- starting with what they can get from whoever ends up as the starting quarterback.

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