ENGLEWOOD, Colorado: Forgive Paxton Lynch if he allowed himself to get caught up in the moment.
The Denver Broncos’ rookie quarterback heaved a pass deep downfield during a full team drill Tuesday morning, placing the ball right into the hands of receiver Jordan Taylor in the end zone for the first practice touchdown of his young career. Lynch celebrated as if the touchdown happened in the Super Bowl and not during the Broncos’ first full real practice of spring.
“I mean, I love football, and we finally got a chance to put on the helmet and jersey and go against each other. It felt like real football again,” Lynch said. “That was the first time I’ve ever thrown a touchdown in practice or a game in the NFL so it was pretty exciting. I just get fired up.”
That pass made an impression on his new teammates, too, many of whom are watching this three-man quarterback competition among Lynch, veteran Mark Sanchez and Trevor Siemian with as much curiosity as the rest of the NFL world.
Cornerback Aqib Talib, whose first-team defense was watching from the sideline when Lynch launched his touchdown pass to Taylor, called out to the rookie several times during the practice, praising Lynch after a couple strong throws by the quarterback.
“He threw some great passes. He was impressive to me. I’ve seen a lot of rookie quarterbacks come out and not look that good on their first day,” Talib told USA TODAY Sports. “But he came out and threw the ball with confidence and he showed off that strong arm one time to [Taylor]. I definitely liked what I saw.”
The competition to fill the massive quarterback void left by Peyton Manning’s retirement and Brock Osweiler’s departure in free agency began earlier this spring after the Broncos traded up in the first round to select Lynch at No. 26.
But now that the Broncos can hold practices, even if they are still only in helmets and not full pads, the competition can escalate. The only hindrance from making it a completely open battle now is Sanchez’s health as he recovers from surgery to repair a ligament in his left thumb.
Sanchez, who previously was not expected to participate in practices this week, is wearing a soft cast and a splint on his non-throwing hand and was able to throw during each phase of practice, though he was unable to handle snaps.
Sanchez threw an interception to linebacker Corey Nelson on his second snap of seven-on-seven work, but otherwise had a fairly clean practice.
“He came out and made some great decisions today. He got that ball out of his hands fast, and that’s important in the league,” Talib said. “A couple times Paxton held the ball a little bit. Mark definitely looked like a vet today.”
Sanchez, as the most experienced quarterback in the group after seven seasons with the New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles, was the first quarterback to line up with the first-team offense, but both Siemian and Lynch spent time with the projected starters.
“We’re repping them all right down the middle,” head coach Gary Kubiak said.