Raise your hand if you had Touchdown Trevor Siemian as the clubhouse leader in touchdown passes after two weeks? Put your hands down Broncos fans, you didn’t believe it either. But here we are.
The former seventh-round pick from 2015 in his second year as a starter is tied with Matt Stafford as the league leader in touchdowns after two weeks with six total.
How is Siemian succeeding early in the season?
The Broncos are 2-0. In fact, it’s the Broncos fifth straight season starting 2-0 and they haven’t lost a September game since 2014. That’s partly because of the Peyton Manning years, the defense, and, now, Siemian.
Not much was expected from Siemian. He somehow managed to make the roster as the third-string quarterback behind Manning and Brock Osweiler. That should have been a sign there that the Broncos thought highly of him. Most teams don’t carry three quarterbacks. Too many other needs on the roster. But the Broncos liked Siemian’s talent, and more importantly, they saw his attitude and leadership abilities right away. He wasn’t intimidated being in the room with Manning. That goes a long way
The Broncos want to win, like every team, with a great defense and an unknown to average quarterback, relying on the defense, turnovers, field position, run game, and efficient quarterback play. Last season, the Broncos had the defense, sort of got the turnovers (+2), but no run game and a sporadically efficient passing game.
In 2016, Siemian completed 59 percent of his passes, had an 18-10 TD/INT ratio and averaged a low seven yards per pass attempt. Also telling, Siemian completed only 57 percent of passes on third down. The better quarterbacks completion rate in that situation ranges from the high 60s to low 70s. Now not all of those result in a first downs; however, the higher the quarterback completion rate is on third down, the more likely the success.
Entering the 2017 Broncos season, there was a competition at the quarterback spot between Siemian and 2016 first-round pick, Paxton Lynch. It was a competition in name only. This was Siemian’s job, and through two weeks, the Broncos have been rewarded by sticking with Siemian.
As I started to study Siemian, two things stood out. First, he’s got a little swagger in the offense now. Second, he shows that swagger on third downs.
Through two games, Siemian has completed 14 of 20 passes on third down, good for 70 percent. All 14 of those completed passes have resulted in a first down or touchdown (four touchdowns). That’s extremely efficient. If you break it down further, he’s 6-of-7 on third downs with 4-6 yards to go and 3-of-4 on with 7-10 yards. So while there aren’t many third-and-long sitautions — because the run game is back and averaging 159 yards a game so far — it’s still impressive.
Now not only is Siemian completing more passes on third down, he’s also taking control of the offense with protection changes, and command of the routes.
Here is Siemian in Week 1 against the Chargers. It’s early in the game, third down with medium. He hard counts the Chargers, makes sure the line is blocking it correctly, and rifles the ball for a first down.
Quarterbacks whose minds are cluttered don’t run up to the line to double check the pass pro.
Same game and Siemian showing his toughness. The left guard gets beat clean, but Siemian stands tall and throws for the first down. And he puts the ball in a spot where only the receiver can catch it.
I like this play because it shows a young quarterback isn’t going to panic. Watch Siemian just slowly drift to the left, no panic, and fire the ball on the move for a first down. It’s very subtle how he’s moving in the pocket, but he’s keeping his eyes downfield and isn’t looking to escape, reset his feet, and find someone.
Here’s my FAVORITE third down play by Siemian so far this season. Watch Siemian pump fake the safety like a big dog, and throw this beautiful ball for a long first down completion.
Moving on to last Sunday against the Cowboys. This play isn’t that special from Siemian, I just wanted to highlight it because it showcases one of my favorite routes.
It’s a Texas route by the running back out of the backfield. It’s basically a route where the back looks like he’s running to the sideline, then cuts back inside on an angle like a slant. This route is a killer against man coverage. Here, C.J. Anderson adds a little twirl to this thing. Credit Siemian for recognizing the coverage and mismatch.
As you view all these third down passes, the Broncos staff deserves credit. They are scheming guys open. Very rarely is Siemian having to get to his third or fourth read and hitting a man in who’s covered closely.
I’d feel like I’d left y’all hanging if I don’t show one last clip. This isn’t a third down, but it’s a heck of a throw from Siemian. It’s his first-quarter touchdown pass to Emmanuel Sanders off a play-action fake.
The fake isn’t any good, which is even more impressive. The mesh isn’t timed up correctly, but that doesn’t matter. Look at the safeties and linebackers suck up and watch this beautiful ball placement by Siemian, over two guys and between the other high safety. No hesitation to throw the rock.
Is Siemian the next Manning? No. But the Broncos don’t need another Manning. They need this version of Siemian to go along with their excellent defense and emerging run game. When the AFC West is discussed, it’s been the Chiefs and Raiders. Now, it’s time to include the Broncos.