The Broncos suffered their worst loss of an already painful season in Week 3 against the Buccaneers. With Drew Lock out of the lineup, the Broncos were forced to turn to Jeff Driskel, but before the game was over, they chose to bench him. Now they have a short week in front of them, and a looming question; Who will start on Thursday night against the New York Jets?
How did Jeff Driskel play in his first game starting for Denver?
Jeff Driskel’s debut as a starting quarterback for the Broncos was disappointing, to say the very least. The team lost 28-10 and was outgained 353 yards to 226, but even that doesn’t fully paint the picture of how poorly Driskel played. On the day, Driskel dropped back 35 times, completing 17 of his 30 attempts for 176 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and was sacked five times.
Of the Broncos’ first seven drives they had only two drives where they gained more than 20 yards, and they had another two other drives in which they either didn’t move the ball at all or moved backward.
Worse than the offense being entirely anemic and unable to move the ball (outside of two of Driskel’s drives) was the fact that Denver’s backup quarterback appeared downright scared whenever a sideline camera caught a shot of his face. He certainly didn’t look the part of a quarterback worthy of being on a roster in the National Football League.
He held the ball too long on almost every single drop back, which you can’t do against a Todd Bowles’ defense that is built and schemed to overwhelm your offensive line every play. They’re a defense that needs to be dismantled by quick, surgical strikes, like Drew Brees utilized in Week 1. Driskel is by no means Brees, and the Broncos’ offensive line is much worse than that of the Saints, but still, it should not have looked as bad as it did on Sunday.
Jerry Jeudy has already shown enough that Broncos Country should be confident in him being on the roster for at least the next five seasons, and K.J. Hamler isn’t far behind him. Noah Fant looks like a rising superstar at tight end, and while he did have some drops today, there were other targets where Driskel didn’t even give him a chance at making the catch.
All that goes without even mentioning Tim Patrick, who might have been the Broncos best pass catcher in their game against the Buccaneers.
It doesn’t matter that the team is without their best pass-catcher in Courtland Sutton, with the recent upgrades they have made to their skill positions, there’s no excuse for the offense to be that impotent.
Even a functioning backup should be able to put up more than 10 points with that amount of surrounding talent, which was proven once former practice squad quarterback Brett Rypien entered the lineup.
Should the Broncos rip it with Rypien in Week 4?
The short answer is yes.
The long answer is that they absolutely should roll with Rypien over Jeff Driskel in their game against the Jets because in the limited action Rypien saw against Tampa Bay, Rypien looked more prepared, comfortable, and just flat out better than Driskel.
Where Driskel’s Week 3 performance brought on flashbacks of Sam Darnold ‘seeing ghosts’ while facing the Patriots’ defense last season, Rypien looked like he belonged. He knew where to go with the ball on his dropbacks and arguably did a better job than Lock has in the past in regards to working through his progressions.
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That’s incredibly impressive considering that Rypien has never played in a non-preseason NFL game, hasn’t taken a rep in a game since last year’s preseason, and hasn’t taken a snap in a game that mattered since his Boise State Broncos had their bowl game canceled at the end of the 2018 season. Meanwhile, Driskel started multiple NFL games in each of the past two seasons.
The Jets game is one the Broncos just can’t afford to lose, so they have to start the quarterback that gives them the best chance to win. We may not yet know whether that quarterback is Rypien or Blake Bortles, but one thing we do know is that quarterback isn’t Driskel.
What about Blake Bortles?
New quarterback acquisition Blake Bortles was listed as inactive for Sunday’s game as he hadn’t been on the team long enough for the coaching staff to feel comfortable with making him the backup quarterback, but the Fox broadcast caught him talking with Driskel on the sidelines a few times.
If the Broncos had a regular week of preparation ahead of them, starting Bortles or at least having him in the starting conversation would be a no-brainer, but they don’t have a regular week ahead of them as they play on Thursday night.
That means Bortles will have been on the team’s roster for only a week when the Broncos kick off their game in New York, which is still probably not enough time for him to start.
With that said, the Broncos should consider making Bortles the backup to Rypien ahead of Driskel. Bortles was a draft bust, but he has still achieved much more in his career than Rypien has and likely ever will. Bortles also knows how to be a game manager because it’s how he got the Jaguars to the AFC Championship game in 2017, and a game manager is exactly what the Broncos need right now.