DENVER -- With a former quarterback calling the football shots in John Elway and a former quarterback as head coach in Gary Kubiak, the Denver Broncos showed once again Saturday night they are not afraid to throw deep as an organization in a 17-9 victory over the Los Angeles Rams.
In what was a true-to-form dress rehearsal for the regular season, the Broncos went with two players as their top two quarterbacks -- Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch -- who have exactly zero NFL regular-season starts between them.
But over and over again in this preseason Kubiak has said: "I believe in this team" and that experience would have "zero" impact on roster decisions. And there might be no bigger vote of confidence in a roster than putting the Broncos in the hands of a second-year quarterback in Siemian, who appears to be the starter for the defending Super Bowl champions, with a rookie in Lynch as the backup.
Siemian, who has started the past two preseason games, was 10-of-17 for 122 yards to go with a touchdown drive and an interception in the first half on Saturday. He appeared to state his case to remain the starter.
Kubiak has said he wants to make the starting quarterback call in the week ahead for the Sept. 8 regular-season opener against the Carolina Panthers.
QB depth chart: Siemian, who missed Tuesday’s practice with a sore right shoulder, looked confident and comfortable running the offense. And the Broncos will like the touchdown drive Siemian led, as well as the drive for a field goal just before halftime that featured a 43-yard completion to Demaryius Thomas. They won't be as thrilled with his near interception -- it was dropped by Rams’ safety Christian Bryant and was a far worse decision than his actual interception -- when Siemian tried to jam a pass into tight quarters to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. Overall, Siemian looked like the guy who believes he can -- and will -- be the team's starter. Lynch's entry into the game at halftime means Mark Sanchez's roster spot could be tenuous. Sanchez did not play on Saturday. On the business side, he would count $4.5 million against the salary cap and the Broncos don't have to surrender a conditional draft pick to the Philadelphia Eagles if Sanchez is not on the roster to open the season.
Maybe that player could start: While he won’t start unless there is an injury, rookie running back Devontae Booker continues to show an array of skills. He saw some spot duty in the first half and was the primary runner to open the second half. He continued to show he is a reliable receiver who will contribute in the passing game.
Who got hurt: Running back C.J. Anderson briefly left the game in the first quarter after he suffered a cut inside his helmet. He returned to the game a few plays later and finished with 50 yards on his 11 carries. Wide receiver Cody Latimer left the game early in the third quarter with a knee injury and did not return.
A surprise player who impressed: Ronnie Hillman was the team’s leading rusher in 2015, so he has performed for the Broncos. But after a preseason when he has appeared to be squarely on the roster bubble, Hillman showed some quality work in the second half on Saturday night, including a 7-yard touchdown run with 6 minutes, 57 seconds left in the third quarter. Hillman is still going to have a difficult time making this roster, but he has done his best work of the preseason in the past two weeks.
When it was starters vs. starters, the Broncos looked ... : Like the No. 1 defense-in-waiting. They forced the Rams to punt to close out their first two possessions and then held the Rams to three field goals overall in the first half. That included when the Broncos did not convert a fourth-and-1 early in the second quarter that gave the Rams the ball on the Broncos’ 44-yard line. At one point, the Rams were 1-of-10 on third down conversion attempts.
One reason to be concerned: The Broncos, who had more than their share of unnecessary roughness penalties last season -- 11 overall -- saw cornerback Aqib Talib hit Rams quarterback Case Keenum as Keenum was running out of bounds in the second quarter. Keenum was clearly not going to turn upfield. The Broncos immediately took Talib out of the game at that point, putting Kayvon Webster in at that cornerback spot.
Finally his chance: In each of his previous five seasons, tight end Virgil Green has expressed his hope to be more involved in the team’s passing game. And in each of those seasons, he never had more than 12 receptions. But as the regulars closed out their preseason work -- the starters will not play in the preseason finale on Thursday night in Arizona -- Green showed he has the potential to be the No. 3 option in the passing game. He caught a 1-yard touchdown pass from Siemian in the second quarter.
Deep cover: The Broncos used cornerback Bradley Roby at both cornerback and safety, and Webster filled in well for Talib after Talib’s penalty. The Broncos also used rookie safety Justin Simmons in their dime package when the starters were in the game. It gives defensive coordinator Wade Phillips plenty of options when trying to make life difficult on opposing quarterbacks. By the end of the third quarter, the three Rams’ quarterbacks were a combined 13 of 26 passing. And rookie Jared Goff -- the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft -- finished the night at 4 of 12 passing for 45 yards and was sacked once.