ENGLEWOOD, Colo. -- Denver Broncos coach Gary Kubiak, who has played a bit of quarterback and coached a few quarterbacks in his football life, has said one of the most important attributes for any quarterback can't be gauged in a tape-measure sort of way.
Kubiak often calls it "that bounce-back ability" and the Broncos got to see, at least a little of it, in rookie quarterback Paxton Lynch last weekend.
Lynch, enduring the sometimes-bumpy ride on the NFL learning curve, was on the field for 42 plays in the Broncos' 31-24 loss to the San Francisco 49ers -- about a quarter and a half of work. And the first four times he dropped back to pass, he threw two incompletions and was sacked twice.
He completed just one of his first five pass attempts, for 11 yards to DeVier Posey, to go with those two sacks against largely second- and third-teamers from the 49ers. Not exactly the results the kid was looking to have.
"When I went over to the sideline, (quarterbacks coach Greg) Knapp was talking about speeding up the tempo a little bit and going some no-huddle," Lynch said. "We started trying to do that a little bit, but we got confused on formations and lining up. We did some (shotgun) stuff, so we changed it up a little bit and it worked."
Certainly Lynch, who played out of the shotgun his entire career at the University of Memphis, would be more comfortable in that formation, and it did fuel the kind of bounce back during the game that the Broncos hoped to see from him. Most any quarterback coach will tell you that how a quarterback rebounds from mistakes, difficult moments and the scrutiny that comes with them, are the biggest benchmarks for success for players who have the physical attributes they need for the job.
After the 1-of-5 start, Lynch went 14-of-21 passing for 102 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. He was sacked one more time after the rocky start.
"Just as time goes by and the more and more I’m in the playbook and the more and more I’m getting reps out here with these guys against a live defense, it comes more naturally to me," Lynch said. "There’s still definitely a gap between us, but like I said, I’m doing everything I can, extra work off the field and getting here early to get ready for the practice we have that day."
Since the Broncos have moved toward more of a regular-season look in practice this past week as the opener approaches, Lynch has done plenty of work with the scout team against the Broncos' starting defense.
And there will be few, if any units, which are better than that defense.
"It definitely helps (Lynch), but boy is it tough," Kubiak said this week. "The kid is out here today running the Rams' offense and the Broncos' offense. It’s very difficult ... That’s what gives you a chance to get better. You have to wear a lot of hats if you’re going to play in the NFL and be a young player on a team. You have to come out here on a given day and do a lot of things. You have to work the other team’s stuff well and work your stuff well. That’s what he’s learning."
Kubiak has said many times that Lynch is behind the team’s other two quarterbacks -- Trevor Siemian and Mark Sanchez -- in the ability to digest what he’s seeing in a defense and then make the adjustments with what he knows from the Broncos' playbook. But the Broncos' offense is also vastly different than the one he played in at Memphis, when Lynch never lined up under center and never had to even call a play in a huddle.
So, he has some ground to cover, but the Broncos do like the football backbone he has shown so far. Especially against an aggressive Broncos defense that practices with the surrender-nothing approach that has made life difficult at times on all of the quarterbacks.
"There are times, whenever I can go out here, coach Knapp will read off the script and he’ll read off the formation and I can finish the play sometimes," Lynch said. "That was never happening. With guys like Trevor and Mark, it’s easy for them to know what’s going on and pick up things quickly. I’m a little behind them, but I definitely feel more comfortable when we put new stuff in. I can pick it up quicker and practice it faster as well."