The Denver Broncos claimed QB Trevor Siemian was healthy enough last week after a poor showing from rookie Paxton Lynch against the Atlanta Falcons. That game handed the Broncos their first loss, so they put Siemian back in against the Chargers on Thursday.
He didnâ€™t look like himself. This wasnâ€™t the same guy who threw for four touchdowns against the Bengals, the guy Cincinnati challenged to beat them with deep throws by taking away the short stuff and the run game.
Siemian almost exclusively threw short passes. Even on third and long, the Broncos would let him throw a short out to the sidelines or a crossing route in the middle. Maybe heâ€™d take a check-down pass to the running back.
That works sometimesÂ if the receiver can make a guy miss. But, more often than not, it meant the Broncos picked up four yards when they needed five, or six yards when they needed ten. It meant they punted a lot, the wideouts didnâ€™t really get involved in a big way â€“ Demaryius Thomas had 35 yards, Emmanuel Sanders had 40 — and the offense looked both predictable and not explosive at all.
In reality, it looked a bit like what Peyton Manning did last year. He was unable to throw deep by the end of the season because of age and injuries, and he constantly ran this short-pass offense that depends on pass-catchers making guys miss. Siemian started that way this year, when the Broncos were being careful with him, but they eventually took the handcuffs off and let him open it up deep. Heâ€™s always thrown a pretty good deep ball, and it changed what the offense could do. Suddenly, they could strike from anywhere.
Now heâ€™s regressed. As with Manning, it begs the question: Is he actually healthy?
Itâ€™s hard to imagine that he is. His injury was to his non-throwing arm, so itâ€™s not anything devastating, but he was not Â 100 percent against the Chargers. While other issues â€“ the slow start on defense, an endless string of penalties â€“ contributed to the loss, Siemianâ€™s limitations were definitely part of it. The Chargers are very banged up and werenâ€™t the best defensive team in the world to start with, but the Broncosâ€™ offense couldnâ€™t move the ball effectively because they were so one-dimensional. It led to punts and tired out the defense.
Before the game last week, Ian Rapoport didÂ make an interesting note:
â€śThat really was the plan…give Trevor Siemian a couple extra days to heal for the Chargers on Thursday night, and then let Siemian go back out there — deal with some pain, yes — and of course he does have that separated non-throwing shoulder, which can be painful, but not debilitating as it comes to being able to throw.â€ť
Not debilitating, no, but maybe the grit-your-teeth mentality isnâ€™t the best one here. Not to say Siemian isnâ€™t tough. But if he really canâ€™t make the long throws through the pain, the Broncos are going to have problems. Defenses will creep up and take away the short throws. Theyâ€™ll stack the box for the run.
An offense has to be able to attack all parts of the field on any given play to keep the defense honest. If the safeties know nothing is going deep, it makes their jobs a lot easier.
Head coach Gary Kubiak, who wasnâ€™t at the game due to health issues, did say that he even thought Siemian wasnâ€™t healthy against the Chargers. Hereâ€™s what we said:
“Watching him turn a few balls loose, he didnâ€™t rotate the way he normally does. But heâ€™s had some good time on his hands, [and] you can see a difference. …We knew it was going to take a little time for him to get back to himself. [Now] he looks like himself.”
Siemian actually claimed he wasnâ€™t throwing deep because of the Chargersâ€™ coverages, not the injury, but itâ€™s hard to imagine that eliminated all deep passes for 60 minutes. Itâ€™s more likely that Siemian doesnâ€™t want to tip his hand about the injury or give the Texans any advantages.
For the Broncosâ€™ sake, they need to hope that Kubiak is right, that the injury was the issue last Thursday and that it wonâ€™t be one on Monday. With Siemian at 100 percent, they can make short work of the Texans. If he plays like he did against the Chargers, though, that reduced offense could lead to another sloppy, tiring game.