The Denver Broncos are coming off a bad 28-10 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers but will receive next-to-no respite with a short-week turnaround in Week 4. On Thursday Night Football, the 0-3 Broncos will travel to take on the 0-3 New York Jets at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
With starting quarterback Drew Lock still recovering from the shoulder injury suffered in Week 2's loss at Pittsburgh, the Broncos initially rolled with their backup plan — Jeff Driskel. Despite an admirable performance in relief of Lock vs. the Steelers, Driskel was pulled from Week 3's action in the fourth quarter after throwing an interception and surrendering five sacks — one of which was a safety (in consecutive weeks).
Brett Rypien entered the fray on the Broncos final possession of the game and went 8-of-9 for 53 yards, completing passes to six different receivers. His one and only incompletion was the interception he threw on the final attempt.
With Blake Bortles in the fold, the Broncos have an additional option for Week 4, but it sounds like head coach Vic Fangio has already ruled him out from starting vs. the Jets.
“Blake was here two days last week and to expect him to be able to play on a short week where practice is very limited would be unrealistic, I think,” Fangio said on Monday.
So it comes down to Rypien or Driskel. No decision has been made yet.
“No, we haven’t yet," Fangio said Monday. "We’ve been talking about it today and we’ll have a decision by tomorrow.”
The Broncos won't have much practice time this week and despite being a seventh-year veteran, Bortles has only been around for two practice sessions. Meanwhile, both Driskel and Rypien have been in the Pat Shurmur scheme all year.
If the Broncos err, it'll likely be on the side of the guy with at least a modicum of momentum. That certainly wouldn't be Driskel, who was atrocious in Week 3. Could the Broncos plan to play both QBs at New York?
“That’s always available but pulling quarterbacks in and out isn’t something you want to do a whole lot of unless you have a good reason to," Fangio said. "But in this situation, it could be a mix of the guys.”
The Broncos are very much in uncharted waters. In just their fourth game of the season, the team is faced with the prospect of playing its fourth QB.
Lock can't get healthy fast enough. Driskel simply lacks the processing speed to effectively manage an NFL game but Rypien, despite his inexperience, did well at making protection checks at the line of scrimmage pre-snap, trying to mitigate the Bucs interior rush and blitz packages. We saw nothing of the sort from Driskel.
Considering that the Broncos have seemingly ruled out Bortles, it'd be surprising to see the team start anyone but Rypien in Week 4, especially going against an opponent that is arguably worse than Denver.
Going into the game with the plan to play both QBs is unlikely. Benching a guy, like Fangio did last week, due to incompetence, is another matter entirely.
Rypien is a smart QB, though. Whatever he might lack in the measurables tool-chest, he makes up for between the ears.