CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Trevor Siemian looked across the jubilant locker room on Sunday afternoon and posed a question to rookie running back Devontae Booker.
"How's that shoulder feeling?" Siemian said.
"Man, it's sore," the running back answered.
Siemian knows the feeling. He took a beat down in Sunday's improbable 25-23 victory over New Orleans. Siemian absorbed double digit hits and six sacks. His reward for the win? He kept his starting job and received a second pain injection in his left shoulder which he first injured on Oct. 2 at Tampa Bay.
Multiple teammates told Denver7 they respect Siemian's toughness and poise. Kubiak remains encouraged by the former Northwestern product's development. However, Kubiak wants more from him, even though he admitted he is not considering a change to rookie Paxton Lynch.
"No not at all. I think every player should be driven to be at their best all the time. Trevor is no different. What I have seen from Trevor is some really good, and I have seen some inconsistencies. And I am trying to get him to be more consistent," Kubiak said Monday as the Broncos entered their bye week. "I don't like the fact that he's turned the ball over the last two weeks. I want Trevor to play big, not just OK. I want him to play big. If he can get the ball to the right spots and protect it with the formula we had going yesterday some really good things can happen for this football team."
Under siege on Sunday, Siemian reverted to bad habits. He drifted in the pocket, something the Broncos have been trying to break him of over the last month. And he held onto the ball too long given the struggles of tackle Donald Stephenson, who was benched in favor of Ty Sambrailo. It is interesting how one game -- and in this case one play on a dramatic blocked extra point and two-point conversion -- can change the optics of the season. Had Denver fallen to 6-4 with a banged up quarterback and its AFC West title hopes shrinking, the external calls for Lynch would have grown to a roar.
But the Broncos sit at 7-3 with a starter who is 7-2. If Siemian is healthy, he is the quarterback. He told Denver7 the pain in his left shoulder is "manageable." He is expected to receive treatment for before leaving town for a well-deserved break.
The statistics suggest he must improve. He's on pace to finish with 3,245 passing yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has been sacked 19 times. Siemian acknowledged making his "fair share of mistakes" in Sunday's win, including an inexplicable interception late in the second quarter. Siemian ranks 13th in fourth-quarter passer rating (101.2, six touchdowns, two picks). He has struggled against pressure, posting an 89.2 rating against the blitz, 25th overall.
"He has to get better. We need him to lead better and better," Kubiak emphasized.
This offense features a design for a complementary quarterback. The Broncos require a rushing attack and better protection. To that end, the offensive line remains a gnawing concern. Stephenson might not have a starting job after the bye week with Kubiak admitting he "has to play better." He graded out as one of the league's worst players last Sunday, worked over by Saints' menace Cameron Jordan. Sambrailo wasn't much better, landing in the top 10 poor performances by Pro Football Focus.
Kubiak said the line will undergo serious evaluation this week. It is possible some parts could be shuffled. Guard Billy Turner will receive consideration for more playing time, and Stephenson has played left guard in the past, creating alternatives to the current arrangement. Most perplexing is the uneven ground attack. The Broncos rank 24th in rushing yards per game (97.4) and 27th in yards per carry (3.69).
Is Kubiak frustrated?
"I am driven. I have seen us do some good stuff. Three weeks ago against Houston I watched us get off the ball as well as we have in two years. Then, I watched us struggle for a couple of weeks," Kubiak said. "There are a lot of people involved. It starts with coaching. We have to coach it better. I am driven to get it there."
- Cornerback Aqib Talib (back) said he plans to play against Kansas City, and Derek Wolfe (elbow) remains hopeful. The bye week should help Siemian, Booker, Brandon Marshall (hamstring) and Kayvon Webster (hamstring) heal.
- Kubiak expects DeMarcus Ware to be available for 50 snaps against the Chiefs.
- Tight end A.J. Derby played 45 of 84 snaps on Sunday compared to just six plays for Jeff Heuerman. Derby figures to be critical to the passing game going forward.