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CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Where adjectives fail, numbers succeed in explaining the Broncos' historic nose dive. Ten games into the season, the Broncos own a six-game losing streak and will start their third quarterback and use their second offensive coordinator.
The Paxton Lynch experience, Take 2, begins Sunday at Oakland. The former first-round pick makes his season debut, playing for the first time since spraining his right shoulder on Aug. 26. Lynch brings intrigue, but must prove doubters wrong. Given the chance to win the starting job in training camp, he failed, easily bested by Trevor Siemian, who moves into a backup role with Brock Osweiler inactive.
For the Broncos, this move makes sense. Since 1990 no NFL team has started a season 3-7 and reached the playoffs. Clarity is required at the quarterback position. If Lynch performs, it allows the team to move forward and address multiple other needs in the offseason (see offensive line). If he flops, quarterback becomes top priority in the draft (Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield and Josh Allen are among the intriguing names) or free agency (Kirk Cousins).
Lynch began throwing the deep ball without pain last week, while getting first-team reps in practice. He told Denver7 he has made significant progress, though how he will hold up to contact remains uncertain.
The bar remains low for Lynch on the road. Denver is winless in visiting parks in four games as Siemian and Osweiler combined for eight interceptions, two touchdowns and one lost fumble. It goes beyond improvement. Lynch needs to provide hope.
Can he be the man?
It starts with a game plan that suits his skill set. Part of the reason offensive coordinator Mike McCoy became a fall guy is that his call sheet featured as many as 250 plays on game day. It became cumbersome and ineffective, the three-wide sets not matching the personnel. The Broncos are 24th in points per game (18.3), their turnover margin (-16) ranks 31st and only the Browns have thrown more interceptions than Denver's 14.
Given these sobering statistics, look for Musgrave to use an offense that suits Lynch. That should mean quick slants, shotgun formations, passes to the running backs (Devontae Booker has 18 catches as Jamaal Charles apparently gets phased out) and run-pass options. Vance Joseph indicated the offense would be tilted toward Lynch as the coach "looks for a more efficient passing game." Lynch is a decent runner, and would be well-served to tuck it under rather than risk throwing picks. However, he hurt his shoulder scrambling so there might be some reluctance to run.
The key for Lynch is simple: Can his software match his hardware? He looked terrific in the spring and summer -- until the pads came on and the defense schemed against him. The fog must lift in the middle of the field so he understands what he's seeing, and makes decisions quickly.
Lynch went 1-1 as a starter last season, winning Denver's last road game at Jacksonville in a cringe-worthy conservative performance that featured no first downs in the second half. In two games, he completed 49 of 83 passes for 497 yards with two touchdowns and one interception with 25 yards rushing.
He finds a favorable opponent in the Raiders. Oakland, which fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. on Tuesday, is allowing quarterbacks to complete 72.3 percent of their pass attempts with a 112.3 rating and zero interceptions.