CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- The next big game could hinge on the Next Big Thing.
From the moment the Broncos moved up in the first round to select quarterback Paxton Lynch, the imagination wandered. He boasted Brock Osweiler's size with a better arm and superior running ability. In some ways, dare we say it, he compared favorably to John Elway in a singular aspect. At Memphis, Lynch excelled at making plays with alarms blaring, capable of improvising when the teleprompter went down.
It appears more likely with each passing day that Lynch will be needed Sunday as starter Trevor Siemian continues to sit out with his sore left foot in a walking boot. Siemian took a complete rest day Thursday, trying to accelerate the healing of an injury that occurred during the overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. No one questions Siemian's toughness. The trait helped him earn a captain's designation for the season's second half. However, a compromised Siemian -- one not capable of making plays with his feet as he did against the Chiefs -- might not be a better option than Lynch this week at Jacksonville.
Coach Gary Kubiak has not ruled Siemian out. He indicated Thursday that Lynch is more comfortable with the offense than he was during the Oct. 9 loss to Atlanta. Teammates expressed confidence in the former Memphis star if he's needed at Jacksonville, where Lynch will have family and friends making the trip from the Orlando-area.
"He has shown signs of greatness. But it's about consistency with all of us," said outside linebacker Von Miller, who remains in the running for Defensive Player of the Year honors as the NFL sacks leader.
Lynch's presence might, if not should, require an adjustment. In Jacksonville's Gus Bradley, Lynch would face another defense from the Seattle coaching tree. Lynch struggled mightily in his loss to Atlanta, led by Bradley's replacement in Seattle, Dan Quinn. Lynch completed 23 of 35 passes for 223 yards, one touchdown and one interception, his stats filled with helium when Atlanta switched to a prevent defense.
"I am definitely upset that I have a zero in the win column," said Lynch, whose backup would be veteran Austin Davis. "I know Trevor is working hard to get back out there. And I am just taking the reps as I get them."
With the Broncos approaching win-or-else mode, Lynch might need the offense tweaked. It would fall on the coaching staff -- and he has quarterback experts in Kubiak and position coach Greg Knapp -- to make him comfortable and maximize his skillset. Would that mean more shotgun and first-read options? It's fair speculation if the kid is required to keep the season on track to the playoffs.
Defensive coordinator Wade Phillips told stories at his press conference. It's as if he's on the front porch sipping lemonade. But he turned serious at points Thursday, especially when asked about his defense's inability to finish the past two games.
"We didn't play prevent (against Kansas City)," Phillips said. "We played our normal third down defense." He reminded everyone that it's difficult to stop teams in the passing game when they have four downs at their disposable. But he said there was no excuse for allowing conversions, particularly on fourth-and-10.
In Jacksonville, the Broncos will face Blake Bortles, a former Colorado State recruit, who is enduring a disappointing season. Jacksonville shows prowess on the ground, though.
"That's the kind of challenge we need," Phillips said.
Von Miller said he helped design his shoes for "My Cause, My Cleats." The NFL granted an exemption for players to wear the shoes in the game this week to promote awareness. Miller's cleats include the eye chart, a nod to his Von's Vision campaign.
... The Broncos have yet to decide how they will fill the roster spot created by fullback Andy Janovich's placement on season-ending IR.
... Running back C.J. Anderson remains ahead of scheduled in his recovery from knee surgery.
... Miller had fun on Snapchat on Thursday, keeping the locker room loose and positive. He filmed DeMarcus Ware singing "Lean on Me," and he danced with Demaryius Thomas.
... Lost in the talk of last week's letdown is the bigger picture. The Broncos are 3-4 since beginning the season 4-0. They haven't won back-to-back games since October.