CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Scrimmages demand rapid responses.
Even in a controlled environment, they allow for deeper evaluation of the sport's most important position. Trevor Siemian pulled no punches in the quarterback derby, remaining consistent. He completed 3-of-5 passes for 31 yards. He threaded the needle on a 22-yard completion over the middle to Bennie Fowler. Siemian went 2-for-4 with the first team, his third consecutive solid day.
"Nobody is more critical of myself than me," Siemian said. "Looking back, I am doing some good things. There are some things I want to brush up on. But I think as we get going and the more live reps I get, I am getting more comfortable in this scheme."
Paxton Lynch, needing to make up ground, looked young. He went 0-for-4 and held onto the ball too long against pressure, baited into an interception by Chris Harris Jr. on a pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders. Lynch also experienced bad luck. His best play -- roughly a 15-yard completion to receiver Kalif Raymond -- was nullified when left tackle Donald Stephenson shoved defensive end Adam Gotsis in back for a penalty. Coach Vance Joseph reacted swiftly, pulling Stephenson from the unit and replacing him with Garett Bolles.
"I view it as an even playing-field," Lynch said. "I am progressing."
Lynch's Saturday provided a Cliffs Notes version of his week: He shows athleticism but as the playbook expands he struggles with reads. Harris worked him over on the pick.
"That's called route recognition. I am at that level," Harris said. "It's smart to let my man go and jump routes. Like I have said, we are trying to drown them everyday (in attempt to make them better). Y’all can say they are struggling, but they’re going against the best. It’s tough going against us."
Coach Vance Joseph remained diplomatic in his assessment of the quarterbacks, recognizing the preseason game at Chicago on Thursday will carry more weight.
"I saw from Trevor that he was very consistent with his ball placement. He had one ball knocked down (by Gotsis), not his fault, but very solid," Joseph said. "Paxton, outside the interception, was very solid. Again, his best play of the day was called back. That would have been a pretty good drive for him. Very solid for both guys."
Receiver Demaryius Thomas insisted he has not seen separation in the quarterbacks because of his focus on his job. But the end of his week was revealing. As the concepts become more complex, Siemian appears more relaxed, poised. It sits in contrast to Lynch, who took off early in camp has become uneven since.
McKenzie wins job
The Broncos narrowed their focus on former Georgia star Isaiah McKenzie in the draft. They loved the 'Human Joystick," and were desperate to add a special teams weapon. He has turned the hope into hype. McKenzie won the punt return job after a strong scrimmage, according to Joseph.
"I trust him. And I will trust him (in the season opener against the Los Angeles Chargers)," Joseph said. "He is as even-headed as any rookie I have ever coached."
Von Miller told Denver7 in June that McKenzie is the type of player the Broncos have been missing. He draws loose comparisons to Kansas City's Tyreek Hill, who clobbered the Broncos last season. McKenzie will also be used in the offense, lining up in a variety of spots.
Right tackle Menelik Watson represented a surprise scratch from Saturday's scrimmage. An exam revealed tightness in hip/abdominal area, leaving Watson a spectator. Following Sunday's team off day, Watson is expected to practice Monday. Ty Sambrailo started in his place on the right side. Miller beat him for a sack. Sambrailo is scrambling to secure a roster spot. ... Safety T.J. Ward told Denver7 his right hamstring "will be OK." Ward will miss the Chicago game, and could return to practice soon after. Second-year player Will Parks started in his place. ... Vontarrius Dora continues to open eyes. He started opposite of Miller at outside linebacker. Dora started because of his recent practice work. He is battling Kasim Edebali and DeMarcus Walker for playing time. ... Joseph talked with Stephenson after practice about his penalty. "It was just a nonsense penalty. We have to be smarter. He knows that," Joseph said. ... The offensive line included center Matt Paradis, who is progressing quickly following offseason hip surgeries. The Oline starters Saturday: left tackle Garett Bolles, left guard Max Garcia, Paradis, right guard Billy Turner (Ron Leary has dealt with a groin injury) and right tackle Sambrailo. ... Demaryius Thomas told Denver7 he has dropped 14 pounds -- from 232 to 218 -- after three-plus weeks on the vegan diet. He plans to continue it for now, saying he feels strong. He liked my comparison of his body type to an NBA player, either a stretch forward or two guard. "A shooting guard? I'll take that," he said.