Daily Focus: Denver's 'wide-open' QB battle should still lead to Mark Sanchez
Editor’s note: Every weekday in “Daily Focus,” PFF analysts take the latest NFL news and translate what it really means for each team involved.
Why Denver’s ‘wide-open’ QB competition should still lead to Mark Sanchez winning the job: Broncos head coach Gary Kubiak told Denver reporters yesterday that he is currently splitting practice reps evenly among all three quarterbacks on the roster: free-agent veteran Mark Sanchez, first-round rookie Paxton Lynch and second-year pro Trevor Siemian.
While this may be true for voluntary offseason practices, don’t expect this to continue into August training camp.
The position is certainly the biggest question on the roster, but the fact of the matter is much of last year’s Broncos Super Bowl roster is still intact, and Sanchez’s ample NFL experience should go a long way toward helping him winning the starting job.
Peyton Manning threw just 11 touchdowns to 18 interceptions last year, with a career-low 69.5 QB rating. In 2014 Sanchez threw 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while starting nine games for Philadelphia (he started just two games for the Eagles last season), with a QB rating of 88.3. While none of Sanchez’s numbers are overwhelming, if he can duplicate this “average” season (a task unlikely to be accomplished by Trevor Siemian or Paxton Lynch, as neither has taken an NFL snap), the Broncos will likely be playing meaningful games in January for the sixth consecutive season.
Sanchez has never been one of the league’s best quarterbacks, but the Broncos just won a Super Bowl with subpar play at the position from Manning and Brock Osweiler (now with the Texans). That gives him an inside track over the two younger passers in the mix.
Walter Thurmond retired after grading out as PFF’s No. 18 safety in 2016: Looking at the prospect of his fourth straight year of playing with a different team, defensive back Walter Thurmond, most recently with the Philadelphia Eagles, opted to retire Tuesday. While no public reason has yet to be given, he did previously express a desire to transition back to cornerback after playing safety for the first time in his career last season.
Thurmond played 1219 snaps as a first-time full-time starter last year with the Eagles, almost matching his total number of snaps played the first five years of his career combined (1297 snaps from 2010-2014). While he graded positively against the run and on pass rushes for the first time in his career, he was inconsistent in coverage, giving up 27 receptions on 37 targets, while opposing QBs enjoyed a passer rating of 104.8 when targeting him.
While his play last year wasn’t spectacular, he was relatively solid, as he yielded just three passes of longer than 20 yards all season. He finished graded 18th in our safety rankings, and considering his youth to the position and his background as a cornerback, he likely could have started for a number of NFL teams had he opted to stay in football (and at safety).
How Lions will replace Tim Wright at tight end: Last week the Lions waived injured TE Tim Wright, who tore an ACL during offseason training activities, and yesterday he cleared waivers and was placed on injured reserve by the club.
In his place, the team has signed Warren, Mich. native and Central Michigan alum Ben McCord. Last season he caught 39 balls for 612 yards (260 yards after the catch) and five touchdowns for the Chippewas, but struggled significantly on run blocks. His negative grade in that area ranked him 93rd of 95 qualifying FBS TEs in 2015.
Considering Detroit’s struggles last season with poor tight end blocking (all four Lions TEs graded negatively last year), McCord will need to show rapid improvement in this area if he is to make the team.
With starters Eric Ebron and Brandon Pettigrew currently not practicing due to their own injuries, McCord will see significant reps this offseason, along with Matthew Mulligan, Cole Wick and Adam Fuehne, all of whom will be competing for the third tight end spot on Detroit’s final game day roster.
Here’s a look at how McCord performed the last two years at Central Michigan: