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Woody Paige: No answers come from uninspiring Broncos 'scrimmage'

August 6, 2017 Updated: August 7, 2017 at 9:03 am
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Denver Broncos defensive back Dontrell Nelson (46) during an NFL football training camp Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017, in Englewood, Colo. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Englewood - If you're keeping score at home, Trevor Siemian is leading Paxton Lynch 5-2, with two ties, and Kyle Sloter is 1.

Late in the Broncos' official "scrimmage" Saturday morning before a record crowd of 7,035 loyalists at Dove Valley - which, with temperatures in the 70s and a Club Med all-inclusive atmosphere, wouldn't be confused with Death Valley - Sloter, in the No. 1 jersey, ran onto the field.

"What - they're putting a punter under center?" one of two dozen Broncos alumni, invited to the session, asked, and I explained that Sloter is an undrafted free agent from Northern Colorado who will be the practice squad-scout team QB. In Broncos history, only punters and kickers have worn the first natural number.

After a couple of complete passes, another former Broncos' player said: "This kid was the best one out there." Sloter was the only 1.

In actuality, Trevor prevailed for another day in the competition against Lynch, who threw an ugly pick-six (to cornerback Chris Harris Jr.) and looked rather grainy.

However, coach Vance Joseph characterized the performances of Siemian and Lynch as "very solid" in the scrimmage.

I use the term "scrimmage" very loosely. The game simulation had little stimulation and not much to write home about. The audience on the grassy knoll was subdued except when rookie Isaiah "Speeds" McKenzie returned a punt untouched for a touchdown. (He was untouched because of a no-tackle rule throughout.)

Joseph did make an important announcement about the competition ... at punt returner. McKenzie will be the guy, the coach emphasized emphatically, in the season opener. "That's what we drafted him for." At Georgia, the 5-foot-7, 173-pounder scored six touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns.

Last season's punt returner for four games, Kalif Raymond (who had no TDs), may not be ecstatic.

Team Trevor managed just a field goal, but would have scored on a Siemian-to-Bennie Fowler pass over the middle if play hadn't been halted. Fowler is ahead in the starting slot receiver race over third-round selection Carlos Henderson, who has been erratic.

Team Paxton looked uneven, especially when not in the shotgun, although he views his duel with Trevor as a "level playing field ... I'm confident I can make every throw.''

Siemian said afterward that the "last couple of days I've started to get more confident and feeling the rhythm and understanding the big picture" of the offense.

Some camp hangers-on have declared The Clash of the Quarterbacks over, and Siemian the winner, but we heard similar conviction at this juncture during Dove Valley Days a year ago and before an election last fall, and look what happened to Mark Sanchez and Hillary Clinton.

Paxton isn't a proficient practice player, but claims he has running ability and athleticism "in my back pocket," which he'll have to take out during the upcoming exhibitions Thursday night in Chicago and in Santa Clara, Calif., on Aug. 19.

Trevor is more poised, precise and prepared than Paxton, but people love The Long Ball.

The run game sincerely seems advanced because of new offensive linemen, schemes and a strong assistant in Jeff Davidson. Joseph didn't specifically study first-round draft pick Garett Bolles on Saturday, but I did. Bolles is on a mission, as he once was in Colorado Springs with the Mormon Church. He knocks defenders down, then picks them up and knocks them down again. Matt Paradis, Ron Leary and Bolles make that center and left side potentially potent for the array of running backs. Rookie De'Angelo "De'Gnat" Henderson has got game.

The "scrimmage" showed that rookie corner Brendan Langley is real raw, but real fast. Vontarrius Dora and Kasim Edebali are contenders at outside linebacker because of injuries to Shane Ray and Shaq Barrett. "We need," Joseph said, "to find someone to start opposite Von" (Miller, aka The Chinese Dragon).

We hoped for a 31-30 O.K. Corral shootout Saturday, but there's more action and contact in beach volleyball.

A Broncos star of yesteryear in gritty Greeley camps said: "You mean that's it? I guess they're headed to the pool. I hope they're great this season, but I couldn't tell from this."

Scrimmage or Cribbage?

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