Denver starting QB a mystery even to Broncos going into Redskins game

Denver Broncos quarterback Paxton Lynch (12) is shown on the sideline during the second half of an NFL football game against the Oakland Raiders in Oakland, Calif., Sunday, Nov. 26, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)

Their protracted quarterback competition last summer cost them cohesion as Trevor Siemian never really found a good rhythm with his receivers.

Now the Broncos aren't going to name their starting QB until later in the week, another oddity in a strange season in Denver for a franchise still reeling from Peyton Manning's retirement 21 months ago.

"Who's the starting quarterback on Sunday?" coach Vance Joseph said Wednesday, repeating the question. "We're not there yet."

Joseph said Brock Osweiler, coming off his best game as a pro, and Paxton Lynch, coming back from a sprained left ankle, split snaps Wednesday "exactly down the middle, half and half."

Joseph said Lynch "looked OK. You know he hadn't practiced in three weeks. His ankle looked OK, not perfect. But he practiced. He started and finished practice."

Joseph said the decision is a complicated one with several factors playing into it, "and I won't share most of those."

The Broncos (5-9) play Sunday at Washington (6-8), where they'll face quarterback Kirk Cousins, whom many Broncos fans would like to see sign with Denver in the offseason.

The Broncos have juggled quarterbacks all year. Siemian started the first seven games before being benched for Osweiler, who started three before getting supplanted by Lynch last month.

RELATED: Broncos aren't sure who will be their quarterback against Redskins

Lynch sprained his left ankle against Oakland and spent the fourth quarter on the bench while Siemian nearly led the Broncos back from a 21-0 deficit.

Siemian was injured last week at Indianapolis, where Osweiler led Denver to a 25-13 comeback only to have to fight for the starting gig this week.

The Broncos say they'd like to see more of Lynch, who has only played in one game after spraining his left shoulder in the preseason. But they have to make sure he's recovered sufficiently from his high ankle sprain to play.

Another factor in the mystery surrounding the decision is keeping the Redskins in the dark.

Joseph said he doesn't have to tell the media who his starter is "and I don't want to tell Washington, either. So we're going to take our time with this thing."

Joseph did say this isn't about tanking: "Whoever plays Sunday, it's going to be about winning."

And Joseph did allow it's highly unusual this time of year to be splitting snaps at quarterback.

"Absolutely it is," he said while insisting it has no impact on his game plan.

"It's going to be the same receivers, same runners, same offensive line. So, everyone else is still practicing their assignments and their duties," Joseph said.

Speaking of quarterbacks, Joseph had high praise for Cousins.

"He's a special guy," Joseph said. "He's top-10 in all the QB categories. He's poised. He's smart. He's got a strong arm. I wasn't sure about that, but as I watch more tape he can make every throw on the field. He's a tough guy, also. He's been hit a lot this year. He's got like 36 sacks and he hasn't blinked at all. He still looks down the rush and throws the ball into coverage.

"He's a special guy. It starts with him offensively. Their running game has been hot and cold. But their passing game has been efficient all year."

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