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Takeaways from the Broncos' Thursday joint practice: Stevan Ridley still running hard

SANTA CLARA, Calif. --President of Football Operations/General Manager John Elway still wants the quarterback competition between Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian to be decided by one of the two young passers separating himself from the other.

"We'd like the decision made by itself," Elway said after practice Thursday. "We've talked about that decision being made by itself.

"We want one of them to take the reins and take over it would be the ideal situation. We're getting through this game and we'll go from there, see what happens."

The decision has not been made, Elway reiterated.

"That's why they'll split time this week and we'll see what happens and continue to go into it," Elway said. "I know [Head Coach] Vance [Joseph] is going to continue to look at it and we'll stay in contact and communicate on it.

"As we said, we wanted to see these guys through preseason and eventually we're going to name a starter. We just don't know when."

No matter which quarterback wins the job, Elway recognizes that he will not be a finished product.

"Whoever becomes the starter during this year, there's still going to be growing pains because they're both so young," Elway said.



While the tussle between Aqib Talib and 49ers WR Pierre Garçon drew more attention, the dust-up on the east field between the Broncos offense and the 49ers defense might have revealed more about what makes the Broncos different this year.

The trouble started with some shoving after a red-zone play, then mushroomed into a full-scale fracas two plays later after RB Juwan Thompson was tackled to the ground. Near the center of the play, guard Allan Barbre and 49ers LB Pita Taumoepenu were among the players exchanging shoves.

Approximately 15 yards away, back where players on both teams were gathered watching the action, another fight broke out. Broncos OT Menelik Watson was at the center of it, and he had to be restrained by TE Austin Traylor as cooler heads prevailed.

Tempers chilled and practice continued. But these were teachable moments for a team that appears to have found a nastier attitude.

That fire, supplied in part by newcomers such as Watson and first-round pick Garett Bolles, can burn bright. But if it crosses over to penalties, it can prove costly.

"We want to be smart bullies. We don't want to be idiots," Joseph said. "We don't want to get penalties that cost us big plays in the game.

"And [Watson] is an emotional guy, but he's also a tone-setter, so it's a fine line. Him and Bolles. Bolles is a guy with a serious edge. So we want some of that, but we want to be smart bullies, simple as that.

"We want to be aggressive, but not hurt our football team with selfish penalties. When you're fighting a guy one-on-one, and that's your battle, and you're hurting us, that's about you, and that's selfish. We don't want that."



With Jamaal Charles not making his preseason debut until next week against the Packers, Stevan Ridley will get another opportunity for extensive work Saturday against the 49ers.

During Thursday's practice, Ridley continued his outstanding work since joining the Broncos, beating their linebackers to the edge for some solid gains to the outside.

"I'm not surprised with Stevan," Joseph said. "Stevan has been an NFL back. He's rushed for 1,200 yards in a season. I'm not surprised that he's playing so well. He's healthy now. That was Stevan's issue the last couple of years."

Ridley still faces a tough fight in a deep position group for a spot on the Broncos' 53-man roster, but after posting just three carries for 7 yards last year, his determined running the past three weeks has shown that he still has value.

"Sometimes having time off at home allows you to kind of take a step back and kind of realize, 'That's a pretty good job I had,'" Joseph said.



In previous years, NFL teams had two roster deadlines in the final week of the preseason -- first to get down from 90 players to 75, then to 53 after the preseason finale. Now there is just a single, massive cut to 53 players, allowing teams more roster flexibility for the preseason finale -- but making the job of personnel evaluators more difficult.

"Our work has to be done early because we're not going to be able to look at all of those guys after the waiver day and the waiver wire comes out," Elway explained. "We have that many guys on the wire, we're not going to have that time."

In order to ensure their readiness, Elway and his staff have already begun evaluating players who they expect to potentially be available when the cuts are made Sept. 2.

"We're in the process now -- now that we're in the [preseason] games -- of evaluating those guys who think might be available and who might be able to help us," Elway said.

On the second and final day of joint practices, the intensity ramped up as tempers flared between the Broncos and 49ers. (photos by Gabriel Christus unless noted)

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