Lynch will almost certainly preside over a game plan that is more streamlined than what the Broncos have done in previous weeks and that will likely support Lynch with a bigger commitment to the run game Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Lynch, who has not played in a game since Dec. 4, 2016, when he start against the Jacksonville Jaguars, will be the third quarterback to start for the Broncos this season after Trevor Siemian and Brock Osweiler.
Coach Vance Joseph said Monday he had not decided who would start at quarterback, but he did say the quarterback who will play against the Raiders would have an offensive game plan that would be more “efficient.’’ Joseph fired Mike McCoy on Monday and quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave will serve as the interim offensive coordinator for the remainder of the season.
“I thought at this moment for our football team moving forward, that a change was needed -- going from Mike to Bill Musgrave simply because I want to have a more efficient pass game,’’ Joseph said Monday. “You have to have that. Our running game has been good, but our passing game has not been good, in my opinion. We have to find ways to have a pass game where it’s more [completions] and we can call them with more confidence. We can call them in hard parts of the game and execute. That hasn’t happened, so that’s why the change was ultimately made.’’
Lynch, who injured his right shoulder injury in the Broncos’ Aug. 26 preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, was the team’s No. 2 quarterback, behind Osweiler, in Sunday’s 20-17 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. It was the first time he had been in uniform for a game in 2017.
Joseph had said earlier this month it “wouldn’t be fair’’ to play Lynch when Lynch had just returned to the practice field. Lynch has worked the past three weeks and Joseph declared Lynch “completely healthy’’ this week and the expected changes in the offense's approach likely tipped the scales to give Lynch his chance to show the Broncos what he can do.
Lynch, whom the Broncos traded up to the No. 26 spot to select in the 2016 draft, has lost back-to-back training-camp battles, with two different coaching staffs, with Siemian to be the starter. He has struggled with confidence issues, especially after mistakes in practice and in games, but last week declared himself far more ready to play than at this point last season as a rookie.
Lynch said he had tried to make the most of his time as his shoulder healed.
“That was kind of a big emphasis with the coaches and myself since I couldn’t be out there practicing,’’ Lynch said last week. “While I was in the training room watching from the inside out, it was just a big emphasis for me being on my iPad the whole time since I couldn’t be out there getting the reps. I feel like mentally I’ve taken a step forward. ... I’m pleased with how I’ve progressed mentally and physically up until this point. I’m excited for the opportunity whenever it presents itself.’’
The Broncos will likely put Lynch in a similar approach Sunday as they did in December against the Jaguars, who finished 2016 at 3-13. The Broncos ran the ball 28 times in the game as Lynch finished 12-of-24 passing for 104 yards without a touchdown or interception.
The Broncos had limited opportunities to push the ball down the field against the Jaguars' coverages. Lynch’s longest completion on the day was 18 yards to wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Lynch had just three completions longer than 10 yards.
The Broncos, having started Osweiler against the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots, will also send Lynch out against a Raiders defense that has struggled. Also of note, Oakland fired defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. on Tuesday.
The Raiders are ranked 26th in overall defense (allowing 367 yards per game). They are 27th against the pass (253.2 yards allowed per game) and 17th in run defense (113.8 yards allowed per game). The Raiders also are tied for last in the league in sacks with 14. Khalil Mack, last season’s defensive player of the year, has 5.5.
Lynch was asked last week if he believed he was ready, physically and from a study standpoint, to be the starter.
“Obviously, if you ask me if I can play, I’m going to say yes,’’ Lynch said. “I would have said that right when I got hurt. But, I talked to the trainers and the coaches, and like I said, they’ve done a good job so far and I feel great. I’m just going to continue to leave it up to them. ... I’d just been focusing on myself and worrying about how I can make myself better day in and day out.’’