CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Trevor Siemian will start Thursday night against the Chicago Bears in the Broncos preseason opener. But he's not the starter. Paxton Lynch starts the following week at San Francisco, but is not No. 1 on the depth chart.
Confused? Don't be. Broncos coach Vance Joseph promised an open and fair competition. It is impossible to stage a derby without giving each quarterback a chance to hold the reins once in the preseason.
"Games matter. The games start Thursday," Joseph said after Monday's workout in the Pat Bowlen Fieldhouse. "I want to get to the games so we can get to the bottom of this.
It remains difficult to recall NFL teams who have played well and reached the postseason with uncertainty at the most important position. The Broncos are setting the stage to declare a winner following the Aug. 19 game at Levi's Stadium.
Siemian settled down over the past four practices, showing comfort as the playbook expanded. He has audibled and played with the type of confidence expected over the spring. The plan is to play Siemian with the No. 1s longer than normal against the Bears. Typically, starters go two possessions, which suggests Siemian could receive a quarter. Another wrinkle involved. When Lynch enters the game, familiar faces will stick around.
"Some 1's will stay in when Lynch comes in," Joseph said.
Lynch makes terrific plays down field, but must show he can protect the ball in the middle of the field.
Having an opportunity to face a new defense will help both quarterbacks. That is certain. The Broncos' No Fly Zone has operated as the No Fun Zone every day, making life difficult for the quarterbacks. Going against the Bears creates freedom and unpredictability not afforded at practice.
Depth and context
The Broncos released a depth chart Monday because, well, they had to. A few positions opened eyes, though Joseph cautioned little is permanent. To no one's surprise rookie first-rounder Garett Bolles occupies the left tackle spot. He has effectively beaten out the competition -- Donald Stephenson is the current backup followed by Ty Sambrailo -- at this point. Virgil Green is listed tops at tight end, a reflection of his camp, but not a deep read into anything else. Joseph stressed the Broncos will play with two tight ends, "so who is the starter then?" Green ranked ahead of Jeff Heuerman, who is reaching a crossroads in his career, and A.J. Derby, viewed as a receiving threat on seam routes.
Defensively, Brendan Langley has created a strong impression over the last several months. The third-round pick is listed second behind Chris Harris, a notch above Lorenzo Doss. He's competing for the fourth cornerback spot, a position which can see playing time during the season in sub packages.
Kasim Edebali and Vontarrius Dora share the top spot at outside linebacker opposite of Von Miller with Shane Ray and Shaquil Barrett injured. Dora started in Saturday's scrimmage. Joseph explained injured players were listed at where they stood before they got hurt. That's why Devontae Booker (wrist) sits No. 2 at running back (And he was pushing to start before the injury, Joseph admitted). Booker is expected back in either the first or second week of the regular season. Jamaal Charles, who will play in the preseason but not necessarily Thursday, Stevan Ridley, who is a sleeper candidate to make the team as a reserve because of his ability to play special teams, and rookie De'Angelo Henderson, whose bowling ball running style continues to draw praise, are competing for spots.
Right tackle Menelik Watson (hip) is expected to practice Tuesday and play in the exhibition opener. ... Right guard Ron Leary took significant reps Monday as he moves forward from his groin injury. ... Safety T.J. Ward (right hamstring) and inside linebacker Todd Davis (shoulder) will not play vs. Chicago. Will Parks and Corey Nelson are projected to start in their place. ... Von Miller provided a brief scare, heading off the field during a drill. A trainer re-taped his ankle and he returned. Miller appears poised to produce a career year, though be warned his playing time in the preseason will be minimal. ... Former Broncos special team captain David Bruton was presented a framed jersey after practice, and he addressed the team. He told me receiving the jersey "meant more than the Super Bowl" to him because it showed how much the Broncos' valued his contributions to the organization.