ENGLEWOOD — At 3-6, the Broncos have morphed into a team more interesting for their issues than games. They must answer multiple questions over the next seven weeks, and none remains bigger than the quarterback position.
This much is known: the Broncos are on their sixth starter since Peyton Manning retired following Super Bowl 50.
Is Brandon Allen the solution, or is he a good athlete with a high football IQ keeping the seat warm for a top prospect? Is that top prospect Drew Lock? Or is it one of the highly-rated quarterbacks in the upcoming draft: Tua Tavovailoa, Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, Jake Fromm or Jacob Eason? What about another veteran for the third straight year, like Teddy Bridgewater or, less likely, Colin Kaepernick, whom the Broncos will watch Saturday with most teams in an NFL-created workout and interview for the former star who has been unemployed for 32 months since he inspired a league-wide movement to kneel during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustices and police brutality?
Wednesday worlds collided again: Allen worked with urgency and rolled up sleeves. He is the present. Lock was thrilled to be playing football again. He's the future, and coach Vic Fangio admitted that he will "probably not" be the backup this week.
For starters, let's talk about the starter. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail is a motto that guides Allen. He showed up from the Rams well-versed in the Broncos offensive scheme.
"This league is so competitive, and there are so many good players waiting for an opportunity you have to be on top of your game and if you are not, that next guy behind you is ready to get in there," said Allen, who spent last week in Arkansas with family, keeping a low profile. "I am focused on what I can control."
Allen has impressed teammates with his professionalism. It's hard to get ready for a game knowing you might never play. Allen, however, has been waiting for this chance for four years. I asked Courtland Sutton what he learned about Allen in his start against the Browns.
"Seeing how prepared he was and calm he was calling plays, he just had so much composure," said Sutton, who is becoming a star in his second season. "You couldn't tell that was his first start."
Allen completed 12 of 20 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns. That's one more than Joe Flacco posted in October. However, the Broncos will need more if they are to pull off the upset of the Vikings as 10-point underdogs.
"I think he can play better than he played in the last game," coach Vic Fangio said. "He missed some throws I think he can make. And when you are playing a team as good as the Vikings, all-around, we can't be missing throws that he's gotta make."
As for Drew Lock he took his first baby steps toward rejoining the active roster by practicing the past two days, his first with the team since injuring his right thumb in mid August. Lock needs reps. And to impress on scout team and his limited reps with the first team. No plan is outlined, but it's not hard to see him being an option to start in December once the Broncos reach eight losses.
"It was a like dream come true coming back out here. It's like I am starting my journey back into the NFL all over again," said Lock, who showed confidence in himself and patience with the process during his presser. "It feels good to finally be back out there with the guys. It doesn't feel the same when you are not out there actually doing it with them. To be able to be out there, and toss the ball around a little bit felt really good."
The Broncos are doing their due diligence by sending a pro scout to his hastily NFL-arranged workout, but it would represent a change of course for them to show interest. Broncos general manager John Elway met with Kaepernick prior to the 2016 season, making a push to acquire him in a trade from San Francisco. It hinged on Kaepernick agreeing to reduce his $11.9 million salary. The Broncos wanted him at $7 million through a pay cut, restructured deal or with the 49ers absorbing part of his money. Kaepernick balked at a reduced guarantee -- he had no incentive for taking less money -- and San Francisco was unwilling to eat any of the contract. As as a result, the Broncos drafted Paxton Lynch, pitting him a competition against Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian, won the by the latter.
On Aug. 16, 2018, with the Broncos again sifting through quarterback choices, Elway ruled out bringing in Kaepernick.
"Well, you know what, and I said this a while ago, Colin had his chance to be here. We offered him a contract," Elway said. "He didn't take it. And as I said at my deposition (Kaepernick's collusion case against the NFL that resulted in a paid settlement to Kaepernick and Eric Reid), and I don't know if I am legally able to say this, but he had his chance to be here. He passed it."
Right tackle Ja'Wuan James returned to practice, but it would still be a surprise if he plays this week after re-injuring his left knee against the Colts. ... Cornerback Bryce Callahan did not practice Wednesday. There's no deadline to make a decision, but Callahan is candidate to land on the injured reserve. ... The Broncos claimed returner/cornerback Cyrus Jones off waivers from the Ravens and cut cornerback Coty Sensabaugh to make room, per source. ... Few believe the Broncos will win Sunday. But Phillip Lindsay remains confident. He respects the Vikings, but “I wouldn’t say they’re the greatest on earth. They’re beatable. I don’t fear no one.”