When the Panthers suit up tonight to face Denver, an unfamiliar face will be under center for the Broncos. After a tough preseason battle against Mark Sanchez and rookie Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian will start at quarterback for the defending Super Bowl champs.
On the bright side, that means the Panthers will face a quarterback with no experience in their revenge match against the team that denied them the Lombardi Trophy last year. On the other side, it means they're having to prepare for an unknown quantity. Siemian has one career stat to his name: one rush for -1 yards in 2015, and honestly it's not even a real stat; he picked it up by taking the snap on a kneel-down against Pittsburgh.
Ron Rivera doesn't seem to be concerned about the Broncos' decision to start Siemian. The Panthers are focusing their preparation on Denver's offensive scheme rather than one quarterback, which is probably the best strategy considering there's not a lot of information on Siemian to work with since this is his first career start.
So what do we know about Trevor Siemian? Let's take a look.
Here's a summary of his college career, from Wikipedia:
Siemian attended Northwestern University from 2010-2014, and after redshirting his freshman year he saw action as a backup and occasional starter until 2014 when he became the team's starting QB. After starting 11 games in 2014, he suffered a torn ACL in November that prematurely ended his season. Despite only making 14 career starts, he completed college ranked fourth all-time at NU in career passing yardage (5,931), fourth in completions (550), sixth in offensive yards (5,908) and seventh in passing touchdowns (27).
His college stats are displayed in the table below:
The Broncos drafted him in the seventh round of the 2015 draft (250th overall), and other than his one kneel-down against Pittsburgh in 2015 the only information we have on Siemian against NFL defenses comes from the 2016 preseason, where he posted the following stats:
As you can see, Siemian had what can best be described as a mediocre preseason. Keep in mind, he won the job over Mark Sanchez and Paxton Lynch. So yeah, Broncos fans probably aren't very confident at the moment.
Speaking of Broncos fans...
To get a little more intel on Siemian I contacted Tim Lynch, manager at Mile High Report, and asked him a few questions about Denver's new starting quarterback.
What real expectations do you have for Siemian starting at QB this season?
Our staff attended every public training camp session and watched every game. Trevor Siemian was just good enough to beat out Mark Sanchez and knows enough of the playbook to beat out first round rookie Paxton Lynch. So as far as expectations go, they are not very high.
Well, that's certainly a point in the favor of Carolina's defense.
Obviously he's going to be a significant drop from Peyton Manning, but compared to the rest of Denver's options, what made him the coaching staff's pick for the job?
He has full command of Gary Kubiak's playbook. He is also a 2 to 3 read quarterback right now, which has given him the clear edge over the rookie who is not quite there yet.
It's no surprise the rookie isn't quite ready to start yet, but it can't inspire a lot of confidence that knowing the playbook is the main reason Siemian won the job.
What are your expectations for him against the Panthers' defense?
Siemian has got to push the ball down the field. He has shown a tendency for short, quick throws. I feel that opens the potential up for above average interception rates. He has one pick six and one that should have been a pick six in just three quarters of play in the preseason. Defenses were starting to jump those short routes and, frankly, I am having nightmares of Luke Kuechly roaming those quick slants. He did push the ball down the field more in the final preseason game, but if he makes a mistake early you will likely see him revert to his safety net of short quick throwing.
Okay, I have to admit I'm salivating at the thought of Luke Kuechly and Thomas Davis baiting him into making mistakes.
How short of a leash will he have before Kubiak hands the reigns over to Paxton Lynch?
The leash is going to be incredibly short. The Broncos are reigning Super Bowl champions with high expectations despite Manning's retirement. If Siemian begins giving points and games away to the other team the veterans will quickly turn to Lynch and the coaching staff will need to make a move.
As expected, the belief is that Siemian's leash will be incredibly short. When a team invests a draft pick on a quarterback, you can normally expect to see that quarterback take over at some point during the year.
It's really no surprise the Panthers' coaching staff decided to scout the Broncos' offense as a whole rather than focus on one quarterback, because it's quite possible we see the debut of Paxton Lynch at some point tonight. And, while Broncos fans may not be very confident in Siemian's ability to lead them to the promised land, we shouldn't get too cocky because it's also possible he throws for 500 yards and 7 touchdowns against us. That's the thing about unknown quantities, you just never know.
Okay, it's unlikely he will be that successful against the Panthers' defense, but we also have to keep in mind that Denver's defense is just as nasty as ours and are totally capable of carrying a poor starting quarterback to victory. (Too soon?) On paper, this looks like an almost-given win for the Panthers, but tonight's game could totally end up being a 9-6 slugfest. We just have to hope our offense can adjust to their defense better than their offense can adjust to ours. If we can do that, we should leave Denver with a 1-0 start to the 2016 season.